BFI Film Academy: Megan’s Story

Megan is one of the participants on our BFI Film Academy. Here she shares her experience of the course so far…

I have the privilege of being one of the 16 young, determined film lovers to take part in the BFI Film Academy delivered by Cornerhouse. The BFI Film Academy is a programme taking place between January and March 2013 where 16 young adults aged 16-19 meet up two days a week (one weekday evening, one Saturday daytime) along with the motivating and talented team leaders Dean, Alison and Marisa. So far, one session has been dedicated to widening our knowledge of film history and another has been committed to learning the process of fiction film and documentary filmmaking; eventually leading up to us making a documentary about Cornerhouse’s art exhibition Four and a short fiction film that we have written together.

We have had the privilege of meeting Maggie Hoffgen who is a freelance lecturer, Heidi Renton from the BBFC certification board, Dana Bruce who works for ITV, Louise Wallwein who is a professional scriptwriter and Mark Haig and John Grey who are both filmmakers. We have also had the chance to meet four inspiring artists; Kate Sully, Liz West, Nicola Ellis and Tristram Aver. I personally had the opportunity to sit down and interview artist Nicola Ellis, who I found truly motivating. The way she works and the way her mind processes things is different to anyone I have ever met. I found out that she doesn’t plan her art but lets it come freely to her through imagination – this is exactly why I think she is so unique and talented.

Maggie Hoffgen has well and truly taught me a lot. In the course of two hours, she covered as many topics as one of my secondary school teachers did in four lessons but in detailed, interesting and enticing ways that made me go home and research. It’s impossible for me to run over EVERYTHING she taught us so far as it would take up too many pages, but two things which I’ve found specifically interesting is the history of Georges Melius and Dogme 95. I remember watching Hugo a couple of months ago and seeing Geoges Melius thinking he was a fictional character, but he still remained as one of my true sources of inspirations, so Maggie telling me more about the brilliant works of Georges made my imagination manifest.

Moving onto Dogme 95 styled films, I had honestly never heard of it. If you haven’t I recommend that you go on YouTube and search ‘The Celebration’ – a pristine example of Dogme 95. As soon as Maggie showed us this, I loved it immediately. I don’t know what I loveed more though, the style of film or the way it’s been done. Dogme 95 is a Danish movement of young filmmakers who have imposed rule after rule upon themselves. So rules such as ‘must only use handheld cameras’ and ‘must never use professional actors’, apparently attempting to create a Dogme 95 style film is impossible nowadays but I might give it a go.

I remember meeting Louise Wallwein on our first Saturday of the BFI Film Academy, uncertain of what was coming my way that day. Louise was a breath of fresh air who successfully managed to engage with and interest an audience of 16 young teenagers – and everyone knows teenagers can be quite intimidating. Louise explained how every morning when she wakes up, she listens to a song and lets her imagination run free, leaving a couple of minutes afterwards to write down her ideas. She does this to boost her imagination and creativity every morning so she is prepared for a full day of work. Similarly I do this at night before I go to bed, mainly because it helps me relax, but also because it helps my imagination let loose. Louise was a very inspiring figure as she’s managed to travel the world doing what she loves, which is exactly what I want to do someday. I guess you could say that I now look to her as an example. If she started at 17 and has managed to get where she is today then why can’t I?

Two other important people who joined us on that Saturday were Mark Haig and John Grey. John Grey is a freelance filmmaker who lives in Manchester; he’s more of a fun leader who directs things in the right path, whereas Mark Haig (who is also a brilliant filmmaker) is more of a stern character who is honest and realistic. Mark seems to be the one who picks out the problems and John seems to be the one who comes up with the solutions, both are just as important and encouraging as the other. They’ve helped our team of filmmakers in creating, developing and planning and will soon be assisting us with the filming of our short film, which (just to let you know) is going to be slightly brilliant, but no spoilers or hints are going to be released here.

I’d also like to mention Dana Bruce who works for ITV. Dana works on documentaries, music videos, TV and education projects. Dana shared many things with us, some sticking like glue in my head – if you want to be a filmmaker then be a filmmaker, try to make a film every weekend, enter them into competitions, get your name out there, learn, develop and achieve. I remember talking to her on the lunch break whilst eating pizza when she told me that the best way to get experience or to get somewhere is to get a name from inside a company and to harass, pester and nag them until they have to turn around and give you a chance just to shut you up. It’s all about making contacts.

As you can tell, we’ve met a lot of different but equally inspiring people. I keep using that word inspiring though, what is inspiring? I’m not just repeating the word inspiration; I’m using it for a reason. The technical definition is to fill someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something. So with the BFI Film Academy, I personally have met at least eight people; Marisa, Dean, Alison, Maggie, Louise, Dana, Mark and John who have all managed to inspire me. But the other people who have managed to do this are the people on the course with me. Each one is dedicated, enthusiastic and ambitious, which does cause competition as we all want similar things, but ultimately it’s great to be in a room of people who are just equally as enthusiastic as yourself because you don’t really get much of that in this era; pure ambition for something. The BFI Film Academy is an amazing opportunity as it allows us to expand our knowledge and interest in something we love; it’s truly brilliant to have a team of experienced and talented people who take their own time to share their talents with us. Ultimately, the BFI Film Academy provides the young generations with a chance of a future in the film industry.

Written by Megan Al-Ghailani (February ’13)