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Calling all film buffs

If any of your students see themselves as budding cinema critics, why not put them in for an award?

In his review of the shoot 'em up sci-fi film Alien Vs Predator, Chris Nesbit dismissed the ending as clumsy and the plot as predictably thin. However, the 18-year-old student from Queen Mary's Grammar School, Walsall, who scooped the 2004 TES Young Film Critic of the Year award for the reviews, has had a change of heart: "I rented the film again a couple of weeks ago and decided I had been way too lenient with it," he says.

Since winning his year's free cinema pass for two, Chris has branched out and is shooting his own film featuring a love-struck vampire and other freakish Plasticine creations. Chris plans to use his summer holidays to finish A Grave Tale of a Macabre Midnight, the stop motion animation film, which is reminiscent of Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas: "It's about a boy who is fed up with being ordinary and then discovers he can raise the dead, a love-struck vampire and a werewolf with blood lust. I have a fan base of about five at the moment but it is growing."

This year's TES Young Film Critic competition is part of the wider Young Film Critic Awards 2005, which are also open to primary pupils.

Ian Wall, director of Film Education, which is running the competition with UGC Cinemas to celebrate the 10th National Schools Film Week in October, says: "Children are bored out of their skulls with the topics they usually have to write about. It's either capital punishment or school uniforms.

This offers them an opportunity to get out of the classroom and watch a film - something they will be interested in."

To enter the TES competition pupils in two age categories, 11 to 14 and 15 to 18, must submit an original 250-word review of any film before September 28. The winner and runner-up in each category will get a year's pass for two to a UGC cinema. The winners will also spend a day with Matt Mueller, editor of Total Film, and get a year's subscription to the magazine.

Mr Mueller offers these words to would-be reviewers: "We're having to rewrite reviews all of the time because they're so difficult to get right.

In terms of what you shouldn't do, number one is to avoid cliche at all cost. Make every word count - brevity is key. Too many writers deliver flowery writing with way too many unnecessary adjectives.

"You should read a review and feel you're in safe hands - it shouldn't be about someone showing off their knowledge. It should be written in a way that's accessible to the publication's target audience.

"There's nothing worse than a film reviewer who talks down to his or her audience. Don't just tick the obvious boxes like performance, direction and script. Try to go a bit deeper by identifying some of the key themes and messages - unless, of course, you're reviewing an Adam Sandler comedy or Alien Vs Predator."

* Entry forms can be downloaded at www.filmeducation.org. Full details on page 29. Stephen Lucas

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