Starting a School Film Club
Age Range: 5 to 11
I recently starting running an after-school Film Club! This is linked to the national FilmClub scheme which offers support for schools to set up their own clubs.
The FilmClub site explains that the project "gives pupils and teachers the chance to explore the world of film through after school film clubs. With free weekly screenings, online reviewing, industry events and hands on support, FILMCLUB inspires, excites and opens up new avenues for learning."
When I first heard about the club, I was really keen to get started. Personally, I really enjoy watching films at home and at the cinema, and I've also used film successfully in the classroom for many years. When I taught Year Six in the past, we ran lots of film projects where the children set up their own production companies, planning / scripting / storyboarding / filming / editing their own films. We then had a prestigious award ceremony (open to friends and families) where awards and prizes were given to the children based on a range of categories. This was one of the most rewarding things that I have been involved in at school, so I was extremely keen to begin our first FilmClub.
By joining the scheme, schools can receive:
- Free training, to give you ideas and help in setting up and running your own club.
A free licence allowing us to watch films in the classroom (as part of the club and during lessons times).
- Free DVDs, posted to school, which are simply posted back when they have been watched.
- Access to an interactive site where staff and pupils can find out about films, add ratings, write reviews and add films to their wishlists.
- The possibility of visits from members of the film industry.
- Funding to support FilmClubs when they are up and running successfully.
The training session was really interesting and it gave me lots of ideas for our club. So much so, that I came home full of enthusiasm and I created a mind map with the things that I wanted to think about before starting our club:
As you can see from the Mind Map, I had a lot of ideas! I decided to start the club with a small group initially and then open it up to larger groups of children in the future. So, our first club took the following format:
- Location - My classroom... this was the most sensible place to run the club as it is easy for me to move around furniture without affecting other members of staff and their own clubs / activities.
- Seating - The children were allowed to use our normal classroom furniture. I'd like to buy some bean bags as time goes by, but these can be expensive. FilmClub have a budget which schools can use in order to buy items for their club, but I think that schools have to be seen to be running the club regularly (with children writing reviews on their site) before they can make requests. I set up the adult chairs in the classroom as 'VIP seating' which children will be allowed to use as a reward each week.
- Age group - Year 6 (aged 10/11) initially... I'd like to open this up to younger year groups in the future. However, doing this could then affect two things... a) the types / age ratings of films that we watch and b) the location of the club... if more members join, there won't be room for them all!
- Timings - One of my concerns about having an after school Film Club was the ability to show an entire film during each session. Many modern films are around two hours, which would mean that our club would finish at around 5.30 each week. This was out of the question as the school gates are shut at that time so we would all need to be out of the building by then. So, I decided to end each session at 4.45. The FilmClub site lets you sort films by duration so it is easy to order films which will fit into the length of time available. However, we can also watch longer films in more than one session. This isn't ideal but it should allow us to watch the film in two parts with a bit of spare time to write the reviews online.
- Food / Drink - I wanted to try and set up a 'cinema atmosphere' in the classroom. This was easy enough to do as we could use my class Smartboard and sound system and also use the blinds to make the room dark. I bought some popcorn and squash which the children could enjoy during the film. I had written letters to local and national companies asking for sponsorship / donations to help us buy some more food and drink, but unfortunately the replies so far have all declined to support our club.
Activities - During our first session, we carried out three main activities...
- After explaining a little about the club, I showed a two minute trailer for FilmClub. This was found on the DVD that was given as part of the training session and it showed short clips from a number of films. The children were challenged to identify the films shown and the ones who scored the most were allowed to sit in the VIP seating! Thanks to lots of teachers on Twitter who helped me to work out the answers beforehand!
- The children then chose which short film they wanted to watch. They chose 'Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death', which is also one of my favourites!
- Finally, and most importantly, the children registered themselves on the FilmClub website. This was quite easy, although one or two initially had trouble setting up usernames and passwords which met the requirements of the site (no spaces, minimum numbers of characters etc).
Once registered, the children found it incredibly easy to use the site. Within 15 minutes, they had rated and reviewed lots of different films. They had also added a number of movies to their 'Wishlist'. As the club leader, it is really easy for me to look at the children's reviews. All of the wishlist results are also collated so that I can see (and then order) the most popular films. Ordering is simply a case of pressing the 'order' button next to each film. These are then posted to us (via Lovefilm). We are allowed to keep three DVDs at a time and we simply put them back in the post when we have finished with them.
So far, I have been extremely impressed with the FilmClub service. They provide lots of free resources as well as template letters to give to parents and pupils. The site is very easy to use and has lots of other options that we haven't explored yet. I think that I will need to dedicate some time in future sessions to show children these other areas. It will be useful to show them how to find new films... as I want give the children the opportunity to watch films that they haven't seen before, as well as the ones that everyone knows and loves. The site also has sections which list films according to particular themes (e.g. 'The Victorians', 'Ice and Snow', 'Dreams' etc.), and each film has an 'Adventurer Rating' which highlights some of the hidden gems that they might not know already.
In the future, I would like to try some of the following:
- Bid for some money to buy a popcorn maker, some beanbags and some other items to use during the club.
- Request a 'Close Encounter' - FilmClub have access to lots of members of the film industry who are able to come into schools to talk to the pupils. This would be a wonderful opportunity for children to find out more about films and how they are made.
- Discuss the role of the BBFC - when I taught the film projects that I mentioned earlier, a member of the British Board of Film Classification always came into school to discuss the organisation and their role in the film industry. I've been in touch with them asking if they might be able to help with our Film Club, but I haven't had a response yet.
- Request a visit from the FilmClub van - The FilmClub team have a van which they can take to schools, with bean bags and black out blinds, helping to improve the cinema atmosphere and joining in with the club.
- Have screenings for friends and families - It would be really nice to be able to invite the children to watch a film with their friends and families in our school hall. I'm not sure if this fits within the terms of our film screening licence though, so I'll need to check first.
- Plan a trip to the cinema - It would also be good for the children to go to the cinema together to watch one of the latest releases.
If you run a FilmClub at your school, I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. If you haven't signed up yet, but you're thinking about it, visit the website and find out more!
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