Projectionist of a thinking cinema;People;Profile;Vanessa Paynton

29th March 1996 at 00:00
When her parents took Vanessa Paynton to see Grease, her brother, "who was a bit older, was cringing with embarrassment because I was singing along to all the songs". In her new post as education officer at Glasgow Film Theatre, she recognises that that feeling of enjoyment is the key to cinema.

A deeper interest was inspired by a film-loving teacher in A-level communications studies. When she left her Oxfordshire home for Glasgow University she decided to pursue the interest.

"Film and television studies looked tempting," she says. "I was tempted."

After a spell lecturing and teaching film studies in England, Ms Paynton was happy to return to Glasgow. GFT was the first regional film theatre to employ an education officer in 1989, and only about 20 such posts exist. She knows she is fortunate.

GFT is currently seeking suggestions from teachers in Strathclyde about how cinema can serve them, perhaps with a showing of Amadeus or for a French class Cyrano de Bergerac.

"Film enlivens an issue," she says, recalling how Land and Freedom, Ken Loach's epic about the Spanish Civil War, helped a group of history pupils. "Students will watch a film like that although they might not read a book."

She aims to form consultative groups of teachers from subjects such as English and media studies, to find out more about their needs. And she hopes GFT can provide special support for teachers of film studies, which can be taught within English or separately as a National Certificate.

"Many teachers have the best will in the world to teach film studies, but don't feel confident to do it," she says. "We hope to put on in-service courses for them."

Lectures by experts in particular fields are one idea. "When people think of media education, I want them to think of the GFT," she says.

The centenary of cinema has provided an opportunity to raise awareness of GFT's activities. The plan is to offer schools a day package, including a lecture, discussion, film showing and cinema tour. "I want to do more than just screenings," Vanessa Paynton says. "People have got videos these days. Teachers can't always justify taking children or students to the cinema just to see a film."

Recently a class of seven-year-olds explored the auditorium and projection room as part of a project on light. Other behind-the-scenes activities could include a close encounter with a make-up artist, and a chance for children to try making animated images. "It all helps to demystify the experience of going to the cinema," Ms Paynton says. "It makes children think about how things actually happen."

This in turn develops critical thinking, in keeping with the expressive arts content of 5-14. She believes this is a crucial area for the television generation. "What we are trying to do is get them to engage with it, rather than just soak it all up. Some people are put off the GFT. They think it's 'that place where they show these subtitle films'. If I can get school groups in, we can catch them young. They find out it is actually quite a fun place."

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