They've seen it in the movies...

25th July 2003 at 01:00
...now let's see if it's true. Karen Shead on an imaginative bid to bring Aberdeen to the silver screen

On one side of the city, at Aberdeen Grammar School, youngsters practise their lines, attempt back-flips and animatedly discuss the roles they will audition for later that day. Then another group comes in to film them - footage which they will later edit and turn into a video diary.

Across the city at the Aberdeen Art Gallery costumes and sets are being made - the foam outfits look like giant potatoes and the parts of the set drying in one corner resemble the lunar surface. Nearby, in two separate locations, lots of film editing is going on.

Elsewhere, children are being taught stage make-up or attend writing workshops to polish off a script, and dance and music workshops are set to take place.

This may all sound like the work of many summer schools, but is in fact one big and busy activity called "That Big Film Project". All the different workshops are working towards one final product, a short film to be shown in mid-August at the city's Belmont Cinema. It's not going to be a small screening either, but a fully blown premiere, with red carpet and limousines, posters and life-size cardboard cut-outs of the film's main characters.

At least that's the vision of Hannah Robinson, the Glasgow-based film director, who is helping to run the six-week summer school, organised by the council's arts education department and involving seven arts organisations and almost 1,000 young people.

It is an ambitious programme but, as Ms Robinson points out, an ideal one for a summer school.

"Film is perfect for a summer school as it is a collaborative medium and it combines all of the arts," she says.

"Children have the chance to find their own skill while all working towards the same end unit. And it is a good example of what can be achieved when a big group of people come together." Although each group happily gets on with their own chosen activity, every Friday they all meet to watch a video diary of the week, to see what the others have achieved - something the youngsters welcome.

Jonathon Tyler, aged 12, who goes to school at Aberlour House, says: "The film idea is a good one, as it gets children started off on different things. And it's good to see what other people have been doing each week."

He is taking part in the acting workshops. "I love to act. I've never done it in front of a camera before, though, but it's new and it's cool," he says enthusiastically. The project is open to anyone from the ages of three to 18, although most activities are split up into smaller age groups. The acting workshops are for eight to 18-year-olds, allowing different ages to work together and learn from one another.

"The different age groups mean there are different levels of interest and performance skills," says Kirsten Young, aged 13, from Robert Gordon's College. "And if you mix them all together you should get a really good performance."

As well as being open to a wide age range, the project aims to include children from all areas.

Lesley Thomson, the community arts manager, says: "We try to involve as many folk as we can. We try to get out to those children who are particularly hard to reach for whatever reason, and we want to enable kids who wouldn't normally do this kind of thing to get involved.

"We go out to areas within the social inclusion partnership and go to the most convenient places like churches or community halls, so all of the kids in the area can have access to the programme."

Louise Baxter, the arts education co-ordinator, says this is an important element of the project. "This is the second year of a three-year New Opportunities-funded summer school programme, but it's the first year we have done the film project. The project is very exciting and is working well.

"It's for kids to move into creative areas. It's a fun project but it does have a serious undercurrent to it,"she added.

MAGNIFICENT SEVEN

The organisations involved in the project are: Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Youth Theatre; Citymoves (the regional dance agency for the north of Scotland); Whitespace (arts development team); Peacock Visual Arts (the main contemporary visual arts organisation in Aberdeen and the north-east); the Lemon Tree (multi-disciplinary arts centre); Aberdeen Art Gallery and the Belmont Cinema.

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