... And cue the celluloid curriculum

Film should be a compulsory subject, BFI chairman says

Of all the artists whose works appear in the curriculum, one ranks more highly than any other: William Shakespeare. But if the British Film Institute (BFI) has its way, he will be joined at the head of the hierarchy by another creative giant: Alfred Hitchcock.

According to Greg Dyke, chairman of the BFI and former director general of the BBC, it is "ridiculous" that schools do not do more to foster an understanding of film and television.

"People at the BFI argued all the time, and I think they're right: isn't it weird that we learn Shakespeare but we don't learn Hitchcock?" Mr Dyke said. "It seems ridiculous to us that in a world where the moving image is the major means of communication, schools seem to be a long way behind."

The BFI is rebooting its film education programme with #163;26 million over four years. Its aim is to reach every child in every school. The institute also intends to help train new teachers in the use of film in education, and has launched a boot camp for teenagers who hope to become the next Danny Boyle. Called Film Academy, it includes masterclasses from experts such as Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright.

The education programme, run by a new organisation called Film Nation, chaired by Notting Hill producer Eric Fellner and James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, consists of voluntary after-school clubs. They will build on the existing Filmclub and First Light initiatives, which offer thousands of free films and resources to spark debate.

But Mr Dyke believes that in the long term, film should be a national curriculum subject. "We want film education to be in the national curriculum. But I find it hard to believe it's going to happen with this government. I think it's possible if there was another government," he said in a webchat with TES. "When you've got things like YouTube, in the past 20 years or so there's been this explosion in the use of video as a means of communication and information. That's what we're about.

"I just think it would be a mistake not to understand how important this medium will be in the 21st century. It's a sexy medium - it has always been - but now it's so much more accessible.

"Anyone who has an iPhone or its equivalent can shoot a film. When I first came into TV, it was still at the stage where you turned up with 19 people and upset everybody."

But while the institute argues for the benefits of film education, it freely admits its self-interest, saying that it aims to create the next generation of filmgoers and citing research that found that people exposed to films when they were young were much more likely to be adult cinemagoers. But Mr Dyke said it was about creating an appreciation for more than just "Hollywood blockbusters".

As well as fostering film appreciation, the BFI aims to support teenage film-makers with its residential two-week Film Academy boot camps. More than 50 students were chosen from regional competitions, and this month they worked with leading professionals such as cinematographer Brian Tufano, who worked on Trainspotting.

Mr Dyke said the academy was striking a blow for diversity in film-making at a time when it was expanding and jobs were opening up. "If you look at the film industry, it's disproportionately male, white and in London. We are about trying to change that," he said. "Thirty per cent of people on our Film Academy course were not Anglo-Saxon whites."

And his advice to young people trying to break into the industry? "Hassle people."


You can listen to the full conversation with Greg Dyke at www.tesconnect.comgregdyke, which has links to TES resources on film education.

Find out what happened when TES readers questioned Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, and TV presenter Tony Robinson. Or revisit the webchat earlier this month when Anjna Chouhan from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust talked about our greatest writer's language and poetry.

The full archive of webchats is available at www.tesconnect.comwebchat.

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