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From behind camera into the bright lights

Twenty two young filmmakers from Edinburgh and the Lothians have just won best documentary in the Film Council's First Light film awards at a star-studded ceremony in London.

The 13-to 18-year-olds are part of the Edinburgh-based production company Scottish Kids Are Making Movies, where children can learn about film from script to screen. Sabrina's Bollywood is part drama, part video diary, part fly-on-the-wall documentary about a South Asian girl's obsession with Indian musicals.

Poppy Gibson, aged 16, from Boroughmuir High, says India's film industry influenced the settings they chose in Edinburgh. "We did a lot of research into Bollywood films and discovered we needed colourful locations. That's why we used the fountain in Princes Street Gardens and featured the trees and flowers."

The documentary includes a camp scene in which the star, Sabrina Ahmed, now at Telford College, plays hide and seek among the shrubbery with a male co-star.

During filming, Sabrina met Bollywood heart-throb Shah Rukh Khan and her interviewing skills give way to awe.

Each SKAMM project is a collaboration and each member gets a chance in front of and behind the camera. Nadia Valkanova, aged 17, also from Boroughmuir, is a Higher media studies student and says the project has put her streets ahead of her contemporaries in the film-making part of the course. "Our schools are supportive of any time out as they see it as a bonus on our CVs," she says.

BBC documentary maker Brian English often advises them. Lee Duncan, aged 16, from Currie High, says Mr English's input has made a big difference.

"He has taught us a lot of the technical stuff, such as how to piece a documentary together."

Most of the editing was done at Edinburgh's Mediabase, where there is an industry standard editing suite. "I'm pretty much hands-off," says Brian, who tends to sit back and relay instructions.

The same applies on location. "I'll teach them about shots and framing and about set protocol, perhaps edging them towards what might make a better shot, but they do everything themselves."

This group has worked together for about three years now and there is little debate between them when deciding on the final cut. "Our time in the editing suite is limited," says Poppy. "By the time we get in there, our shots are logged and the best ones are marked," explains Lee.

As well as practical experience, they are offered workshops on film theory.

"We get them to watch films with no narrative, no sound or even no pictures to nurture their imagination," says Shiona Wood of the Filmhouse in Edinburgh, who runs SKAMM. They also analyse avant-garde films and are encouraged to find different ways of using the camera.

Sabrina's Bollywood was one of three films made with National Lottery funding through the Film Council's First Light initiative and Edinburgh City Council.

In July the group will begin shooting a pop promotion film using Edinburgh International Film Festival funding.

Several attempts to expand SKAMM across Scotland have met with funding problems but the next step is to set a documentary in Aberdeenshire and let young travellers make their own film with SKAMM putting in the expertise.

SKAMM, contact Shiona Wood, tel 0131 623 8023, e-mail

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