BFI Film Academy: Sam’s Story

Sam is one of the participants on our BFI Film Academy. Here he shares his experience of the course so far…

A couple of months ago I got an email from Cornerhouse, a local independent cinema, saying that an opportunity had arisen to join with 16 other people from the Greater Manchester area for 3 months of intensive, creative learning and production in association with the British Film Institute. Optimistic but not too confident (a short film that I had just recently created had been rejected from 3 film festivals), I sent in my application hoping for a chance of a first step into the industry. When my mum shouted me down saying that a reply had come through from them, I ran down the stairs with feelings of anticipation and dread. Well anyway, the email said that I had got in – why would I be writing about a failed application?

To cut to the chase a little, it’s been fantastic. Every Wednesday and Saturday I leap on a 25 minute train to Cornerhouse, where creative intellectuals seem to congregate in some form of art house think-tank. As a 16 year-old, would I fit into the Film Academy or would I appear drastically under-experienced? Thankfully, I both felt immensely comfortable with the rest of the group and I wasn’t the youngest!

After the first creative session, which I thoroughly enjoyed (especially the free pizza), I became a little apprehensive that our film idea was barking up the wrong tree, not literally of course. I was relieved to learn that this was a shared feeling within the group and  the leaders, so fortunately the draft was tweaked, making  the short more stylised and not just a dialogue piece, which I feared it might have become. Without going into specifics, the film has the feel of ‘The Inbetweeners go Back to the Future’, and as our ideas man Mark said “who doesn’t want to watch that?” The week of the shoot looks to be one of the most exciting weeks of my life.

Documentary filmmaking was equally thrilling and especially fast paced, where we collectively turned around a four-minute piece about the art exhibition showing at Cornerhouse, ‘Four’. We were all split into four sub-teams who each had either a camcorder or SLR (our group had the latter) and covered one of the artists on show. The picture at the top shows me and Jorge trying to get all artistique with our shots (it felt cooler than it looks). Whilst I didn’t think that editing the footage as a group would practically work, it turned out to be really interesting as each person brought a new cut point or stylistic idea to the table – table being in both the physical and metaphorical sense.

After 8 sessions at the BFI Film Academy and a growing pile of train tickets sprawling on my desk, I can honestly say that I’ve loved every minute of it. Each evening/daytime has been of equal interest, varied without becoming irrelevant and quite simply huge fun. It’s one of the first times in my life that I’ve been around people who are as enthusiastic and, I suppose geeky, about film as I am.