Teenage kicks right through the night

19th June 2009 at 01:00
A varied programme at the Edinburgh Film Festival gives young people a real insight into the industry

Who was the film star waiting in the wings? The young audience was holding its breath. The organisers were biting their nails - how many people born after 1990 would have heard of this 1960s icon?

Then in strode Sean Connery.

"They couldn't believe it, you could have heard a pin drop," recalls Nicola Kettlewood, special projects manager at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Evidently, the organisers of the 2006 event had under- estimated teenagers' knowledge of cinema history.

This year's festival, which started on Wednesday and runs until June 28, promises to be just as much of an eye-opener. Not every event for schools and young people can promise a global star (who was there for a Qamp;A about a documentary he made in the 1960s), but a varied programme is united by a determination to show young people the cogs and wheels behind the glitz of the industry.

Media days for English or media studies pupils might include a UK premiere in the morning, followed by three 45-minute sessions with big names from either side of the camera.

On Monday, pupils can see Kicks, an edgy British psycho-sexual drama about two girls who idolise a footballer to the point of obsession, and will do anything to stop him joining a team in Europe. It will be followed by a Qamp;A with director Lindy Heymann and the two stars. The afternoon will include advice on careers in film, while confirmation is being awaited of two "exciting professionals" who will also take part.

The calibre of previous participants is promising. Political film-maker Ken Loach, presenting his Glasgow-set film Ae Fond Kiss, was delighted by the idealism and passion displayed by the young audience. "It was heart- warming for him to see young people asking engaged, political questions," Mrs Kettlewood says.

No one had heard of Anne Coates when she attended, but the editor of Lawrence of Arabia "captivated" her audience with wisdom gleaned from several decades in the industry. "It opened their eyes to how much control an editor has," says Mrs Kettlewood says. "Even if they're cine-literate, young people think of film-makers as directors and stars."

Sessions with young people tend to be lively because, she explains, they have fewer inhibitions than adult audiences and are not afraid to ask searching questions. Often, it is the film-maker who is most nervous, having never sat before a teenage audience, but they frequently report back that they have never taken part in a better Qamp;A. "The young people are really engaged with the film, and quite often are really moved," she says. "Their reaction is really from the heart, and the film-makers respond to that."

Two free screenings for primary pupils stand out from other festivals, where the films tend to be older and not part of the main programme: in Edinburgh, primary pupils see UK premieres. The Secret of Kells (today, 10am) is an animated adventure about a 12-year-old boy's race to save the Book of Kells from Viking invaders. The Crimson Wing (June 26, 10am) is the first documentary screened at the festival for primary schools. It shows the life cycle of flamingos, and the film-makers will answer questions afterwards.

Primary pupils are just as taken aback as their older peers by what they learn about film-making, as previous events have shown. After a showing of Pixar's Ratatouille, one of the animators explained the pain-staking work involved in producing the dozens of frames required for a mere second of film. Pupils could not believe that it took five years to make the film.

Perhaps the best way to appreciate the film-making process is to be immersed in it, which is the aim of weekend workshops for young people with industry professionals. Sound sessions (June 27, age seven-plus) will ask children, who should attend with an adult, to provide noises to be recorded and manipulated into atmospheric, funny and frightening effects.

Gory Horror Things (June 27, ages 13-18) will do exactly what it says on the tin. The models will be those taking part, and things will get a "wee bit gruesome". But organisers insist that the blood-spattered creations which emerge en masse into the Edinburgh afternoon will be able to remove their make-up easily.

Whether the young people are sparring intellectually with Ken Loach or ambling down Princes Street looking like an extra from a "hammer horror", Mrs Kettlewood points out that there is a thread that links each of these events. "We are," she says, "trying to take advantage of some of the best talent being gathered in Edinburgh, to demystify the film-making process."

l www.edfilmfest.org.uklearning

Events for the young

An introduction to animation (ages 13 to 17), Lyceum Theatre, 10am-1pm, June 21, Pounds 10 per person

French film Stella, about an 11-year-old girl growing up in the 1970s, for secondary pupils, 10.30am, June 26, Filmhouse. Teachers' tickets are free and pupils pay Pounds 3 each

A slapstick workshop (13-17) at St John's Church, June 27, 11am-1pm, Pounds 10 per person

Special Effects Beginnings (eight-12), Lyceum Theatre, June 27, 10am- 11.30am. Tickets Pounds 10.

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