The history of film education is peculiar. It has always been undervalued within aesthetic education in schools, and has usually found a more secure place within the various European nation’s home language education – if it has found a place at all. In Scotland, for example, film is explicitly articulated within the definition of literacy, both within the curriculum and in the biennial survey of literacy – and this is an excellent starting point. However, full-on aesthetic education in most places has tended to prioritise music and visual art, with some theatre and dance. My experience in the UK is that film education as it has developed in schools has concentrated very much on watching, analysing, discussing; at more advanced levels, the ‘film studies’ approach has often taken its cue from established approaches to the study of literature: read, discuss, write essay; watch film, discuss, write essay.
Meanwhile, outside the school environment, filmmaking projects with groups of children and young people (and occasionally older people) have been going on in all kinds of contexts, for all kinds of reasons, led by all kinds of different people, filmmakers, youthworkers, arts workers, and others. Usually, such work is project funded, one-off and insecure; recursive and long-term development is rare. Consequently, extended viewing, analysis and discussion of films has not been part of the filmmaking pedagogies that have developed in these contexts. This is in contrast to the developed curricula in schools for visual arts, music (etc), which include studying examples of visual art, music (etc), discussion and critical response, as an integral and essential component of a primarily creative programme.
There are a few examples of this in creative filmmaking education: for one, the Cent Ans de Jeunesse programme, led by the Cinematheque Francaise, has been very influential. Rather than starting filmmaking projects with ‘make a film about X’, it starts with a formal aspect of film language: camera movement or mise en scene or cacher/montrer (shown/hidden: what’s on-screen/off-screen?). Watch various examples of these formal aspects, taken from a wide range of films, then start exploring what you can do with them yourself. The BFI Film Academy programme also mandates watching films as part of the filmmaking curriculum. Northern Ireland’s Moving Image Arts takes an ‘expressive arts’ approach, and includes watching and analysis as well as making.
The cultural and critical aspects of film education have a huge contribution to make to creative filmmaking; these areas of work have been lonely and courting for too long, it is time they got married. Nathalie Bourgeois from the Cinematheque is right to insist upon it. It will be interesting to see how we are able to express this in the framework, through the combination of the 3 ‘C’s.