Charlie Studdy reports back from the Children's Film First festival

Posted 3 November 2015

Children's Film First

Charlie Studdy (Junction Goole, Arts and Leisure Manager) describes his experience from the Children's Film First Conference. Charlie recounts some of the discussion and topics included over the course of his trip.

The Children’s Film First Conference was held in Brussels on 24 September 2015, the final activity in a year long programme organised by the European Children’s Film Association (ECFA) and the Children’s Media Conference and funded by the EU’s Media programme.  It brought together over 150 delegates, mostly European but with representatives from further afield, such as Australia and America.

There was a wide-ranging programme of presentations throughout the day, covering topics from creative practice to audience research, examples of existing practice in the children’s film sector and reflections on its health and direction.

At a strategic level, MEP for North West England Julie Ward, who sits on the Cultural and Education Committee used her keynote to communicate her passion around culture and the importance of media literacy within this and delivered a strong message that our work in the cultural sector is hugely necessary. In her own role, she is taking the message to two other groups on which she sits, the children’s rights and disability inter groups.  She noted that the European Council is becoming much more interested in promoting cultural values via film and the arts and that this is driven by the need to encourage dialogue and communication between all sections of European populations.

The panel discussion on access to children’s films included Edward Fletcher from Soda Pictures, who highlighted that in the UK, cinema attendance by the under 35s is at a five year low, a situation he ascribed to VOD and that this is stimulating the distributor to take a new approach to working with exhibitors and festivals, supported by the BFI.  He said this might involve tailoring marketing to local demand and abandoning the minimum guarantee in favour of an emphasis on generating more income through DVD sales.  Approaches to marketing or supporting film education work included the Flemish film distributor Jekino, which specialises in children’s film.  The company is keen to enhance the experience of film for young people and always have study guides for their releases.  Matthieu Zeller of Octopolis is in the process of gathering top quality children’s film from around Europe for worldwide distribution – he was clear for the need to market this material as family film, not just for children: it is largely adults who make the decision to take children to see film so the marketing and the content of the film, must also work for them.  Cinema going seems to follow a pattern of high attendance when young, dropping off for 5 to10 years and then re-starting and it is in this gap that VOD is booming.

The Young Jurors and Curators panel discussed practice in the European Youth Film Festival and in the German Youth Film Juries.  An adult version of the Film Juries has been running in the country for 60 years, a well-known consumer kitemark of recommendation of new releases and this has recently been extended to include youth juries such as the Jugend Film jury http://www.jugend-filmjury.com/.  There was also the example from the European Film Festival which has a children’s jury for judging film – said to be a relatively time-consuming and complex process if it is to properly allow the children to consider and express their judgements.  Food is an important factor!

Part of the European funded work undertaken by ECFA and the CMC has been to collate a database with country by country contacts working in the children’s film and education sector http://www.ecfaweb.org/network.htm so if you need to find a Lithuanian producer, it’s the place to go.  It also lists those titles that have study guides available, in what language(s) and whether they are free or paid for.

The final session of the day offered delegates a choice of activities, either learning green screen techniques with workshoppers from the London Connected Learning Centre or on poetry with mobile phones.  At the former, the work of the LCLC was briefly described, working mostly on film making projects in schools but also projects for whole families.  It was followed by a group activity, making a short iPad film using a green screen app that was simple and very effective for its £2.30 price tag.

The debate around children’s vs family film is not a new one.  In the live arts world, the Family Arts Campaign has been emphasising the importance and complexity of family audiences for over two years, commissioning research and conferences into the area.  At Junction, a mixed programme venue and member of the Family Arts Campaign, we have been working for some time to make live events more family friendly and thinking about what this means for our marketing strategies, the words we use, the information we supply, the facilities we have, the pricing structure, the café offer etc.  Although this was not a focus of the conference, it is all highly relevant to the future of children’s/family film and worth anyone’s consideration if they are passionate about it.

Charlie Studdy,
Junction, Goole
October 2015

Sam Barnett

Film Hub North Coordinator Read more posts by Sam Barnett

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