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A lesson in film-making

School-wide effort sees gripping film with anti-bullying message come to fruition. Jean McLeish reports

School-wide effort sees gripping film with anti-bullying message come to fruition. Jean McLeish reports

It is a red carpet occasion at Fraserburgh Academy for the staff and pupil cast of a new feature-length movie made at the Aberdeenshire school.

The film stars more than 20 pupils from across the school, with cameo roles played by the headteacher and senior colleagues.

Born to Perform tells the story of a talented schoolgirl performer, Anna, who is the victim of a dirty tricks campaign by menacing school bullies who want her out of the school show.

It has been filmed, directed and produced by one of the school's support for learning teachers, John-William Noble, along with his younger brother, Graeme. They are both experienced young film-makers and former pupils of this school where their father, John, is now head.

This is an exciting time for the cast, when they see the hour-long film for the first time with a small invited audience. There is nervous laughter as they view their performances.

It is a gripping story with a strong anti-bullying message and entertaining performances from the main characters. There are stunning fight sequences and a lot of hugging - far more hugging than you would see in an average day at Fraserburgh Academy, one of the leading characters insists.

"There is definitely not as much as there was in the film," says 15-year- old Mark Buchan, who plays the role of Peter. His mum, Pauline, is one of the depute heads here and thinks the film will get the message across to pupils that bullying is unacceptable.

"I really think they will remember this and remember the messages that come from it, because it has been done by their peers," she says. No doubt they will also remember headteacher John Noble's performance as on-screen head Mr Shepherd. You wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of Mr Shepherd.

Mr Noble is naturally proud of his sons' achievement in producing the film and of his pupils' performance skills, but self- effacing about his own role: "When they said they needed someone to play the role of headteacher, I thought: `Well I suppose I will have to do it'. It didn't involve a lot of acting."

His co-stars are of a similar mind. Depute head Rhoda McDonald is not flattering herself that she was singled out for a role as a teacher in the hour-long feature because of her acting talent. "I think it was because we tended to be in school quite late at night when they were filming, so they could get hold of us," she laughs.

The senior management team here believes the film's bullying theme is an important one for schools.

"I think it is important and one of the things we try to get across to pupils is if you are bullied, tell us - we are very, very successful in dealing with it," says Mr Noble.

"What I'm hoping is that when pupils watch it, they will be watching and saying: `Why didn't the girl tell earlier?'"

The scary girls who wage a vendetta against Anna are played by sixth-year Andrea Carter, 18, and fifth-year Samantha Reid, 16. They are a formidable duo on film, but apparently model pupils in real life.

"We never actually hit each other - it was just like reacting," says Samantha, who is studying Higher drama.

"It was a lot of work but it was very enjoyable," says Andrea, who leaves school this year to pursue her dream of working as a psychologist with celebrities in America.

Fifteen-year-old Elly Jamieson, who played Anna, says she is pleased how the film has turned out. "I expected it to be really embarrassing, but I think it was really good to watch when it was all put together."

It's show time .

Filming at Fraserburgh Academy has given pupils an insight into the world of film and the exciting range of careers on offer.

They worked for six months on this film after school and some, like first- year Danny Hutcheson, developed particular aptitude on the technical side.

"He helped with the boom microphone and we discussed a few shots as well," says John-William Noble, who filmed, directed and co-produced the film with brother Graeme, who is studying film and has developed expertise in fight choreography.

Working with their father added a different dimension to filming. "He wasn't so accustomed to being directed, because he is normally the one directing people," says John-William, 24, who had a grant from Aberdeen City Youth Council towards equipment costs and financed the bulk of the project himself.

Noble Brothers Productions works on films with Christian themes and its first film, The Hope Within, qualified for an International Christian Film Festival in America. John-William says they would be happy for this film to be used by Aberdeenshire Council to support the authority's anti- bullying strategy if there is interest in showing it to wider audiences.

Pupils from S1-6 took part in the production. "The ideas for the film were based on discussions I had with pupils," says John-William.

As well as encouraging teamwork, he believes filming encourages those with musical and technical skills. "It not only meets many outcomes for Curriculum for Excellence, but it also gives pupils more opportunities for acting and performing."

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