Art beat

4th September 1998 at 01:00
You can tell it's the end of the summer: the air is sharper, Doc Marten lace-ups (suitable for school uniform) are walking out of the shoe shops and there's a rash of new plays, exhibitions and films. Not that the holidays have been a fallow period. Some young people were lucky enough to take part in arts festivals, like the Edinburgh Fringe and the Eisteddfod in Bridgend. Some teachers refreshed themselves on an ArvonTandem mixed arts course in Devon or attended a summer school like the Royal Shakespeare Company's Shakespeare School in Stratford.

One or two teachers will get a pleasant surprise when they encounter their pupils for the first time this term. The Jerwood Film Prize shortlist was announced after the beginning of the holidays and a number of very young contestants out of the 3,000 11 to 25-year-olds who had submitted scripts made it to the last 20. These met for a fascinating day at London's Museum of the Moving Image in July, where each finalist took part in a one-to-one tutorial with the judges, and all kinds of practical advice was dispensed by successful practitioners in the movie business.

Chris Rudd, from The Park School in Yeovil, is only 11, but he had produced a 12-minute script about the Black Death in the 14th century. He knows all about rats, fleas and human inability to cope with a crisis: "At the end, people who survived look at the heaped bodies." Fabrizia and Luciana Flynn, sisters aged 12 and 16, live near Cardiff and attend Cardinal Newman School. For their script, they had combined their Italian-Irish family history in a Welsh mining community with an interest in contemporary art, slag heaps and abstract expressionist Mark Rothko. But Ellen Jones is the sole competitor of school age to survive to the last 10.

Ellen is 14 and about to begin her GCSE courses at The Latymer School in Enfield, north London. She has been writing film scripts since she was 10 or 11, and her mother, Barbara Bennett, who teaches at Rams Episcopal School in north London, says she's given up trying to dissuade her from a career in cinema. She didn't even know that "Frankie and Johnny", a funny piece about a couple of bungling gangsters, was in the making until Ellen asked her to sign her entry form.

The script, type-written and Tipp-Exed, is sophisticated in its use of film techniques. Ellen says: "I listen to people on trains; men talk differently when they're on their own." She plans to have made a feature film by the time she is 25.

The winners of the Jerwood Awards will be announced on Tuesday. The first prize is production by Working Title and distribution in selected cinemas, and the runner-up gets production by Channel 5.

Among the professionals on the MOMI day were the hottest team in British cinema, Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn, respectively writer director and producer of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Both still in their twenties, they are not much of an advertisement for education and training, having learned the trade by taking menial jobs in the film business and hanging on until they felt they had the right material. They were rejected by backers for two years and then failed to find a distributor until PolyGram came to their rescue.

The film has an 18 certificate, but, despite its undoubted - if cartoon-like - violence, it actually has rather laudable intentions. Ritchie's first priority is to entertain, and this tale of East End gangsters is certainly funny, with cut-throat dialogue and numerous plot twists, but there is also an underplayed anti-drugs message. "It's difficult," he says, "to make drugs uncool; you have to belittle them."

While we're talking film, media and art teachers will certainly want to catch Love is the Devil (released on September 18, cert 18), a beautifully made picture about the painter Francis Bacon and his love affair with the ex-burglar George Dyer. This is a clever, bleak, sometimes squalid accountof a destructive relationship, revealing of the artist's psychology and period. Bacon is played by Derek Jacobi in award-winning form.

Don't worry too much if, like William Hague, you didn't get to the Notting Hill Carnival last weekend. The Museum of London, with the London Arts Board, is displaying its most exotic elements until September 27 in an exhibition called Carnival 98 Costumes. You do have to pay an entrance fee (adults Pounds 4, children Pounds 2) but it provides access to the whole of the museum's permanent collection as well.

If you feel ready to face the future, a one-day conference run by East Midlands Arts, "Moving On - where next for arts in education?" will take place on October 1 at the Derngate in Northampton. Vic Eccleston, Disney Teacher of the Year, and Pauline Tambling, director of education and training at the Arts Council, are among the speakers. They will explore how the artscan become a more integral part of Britain's educational structure. (Pounds 65 inc VAT, tel: 01509 218292)

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