Image of Mark Reid and the front cover of  the Framework for Film Education

ON THE BLOG: The BFI's Mark Reid on film education and European partnerships

The British Film Institute have led or partnered on four Creative Europe-funded film education projects over the past four years, relating to issues from youth engagement to refugee integration. With one month left to apply to this year's funding call, we caught up with Mark Reid, Head of Education at the BFI, to pick his brains about the state of film education and value of European partnerships.

Can you give us an introduction to the different Creative Europe-funded projects the BFI has been involved in?

The first was a tender we won to lead a survey of film education practice in Europe called Screening Literacy. The work was carried out in 2012 and led to a whole set of projects and partnerships. We’ve got a profile of every EU country’s film education practices, including 150 case studies.

In Screening Literacy we found a wide range of practice and understanding about film education, and its outcome, film literacy. We recommended a model that made sense of everything that film education might be, and to see if we could put it on a page. We applied to Creative Europe with around 25 partners in 2014 to carry out the work. The Framework for Film Education was published in Paris in June 2015.

Following that, colleagues in Denmark and Germany approached the BFI to join a project to explore how cinemas might be spaces for conversation between refugee or migrant children and their peers in schools - despite the UK having relatively low numbers of refugee children in schools (in 2015/16 Germany took 365,000 refugee children into its school system). We were awarded funding last year for a project that’s running until December this year. We’re in it to learn from our European colleagues but we’ll have some examples of interesting activity in the UK too. There are inspirational film and arts education groups working with refugee children in Glasgow, Cardiff, Canterbury and Middlesbrough for example.

Why was a project like “A Framework for Film Education in Europe” necessary?

Whenever and wherever people gather together to talk about film education you hear them say ‘but what do we actually mean by ‘film literacy’? What counts as good practice? Where are the interesting projects? What principles should we be following to have most impact?’ We found this when we surveyed film education systems in 2012, and the Framework was a response to that. It is definitely not the final answer but a framework that people can engage and argue with, as well as apply, test or revise.

How is the approach to film education changing across Europe? Have you observed any trends over the years?

Very responsive film educators are always conscious of going where young people consume media, so of course programmes have to follow too. But we also have a responsibility to introduce young people to the things that haven’t changed in film – and some aspects of film language haven’t changed in 80 years. European film is also hugely responsive to social change – especially inward migration -so film education should be too. 

Why is working with European partners important?

On the morning of the European Union referendum result a number of European partners emailed to say ‘remember, in or out of the EU, you’re still a European partner’. We can’t avoid being European – it’s a fact of geography, history and culture. I note we haven’t opted out of the Champions League!

How has the learning from previous projects influenced your approach in developing ‘Film: Language Without Borders’?

On the refugee project, we’re hoping more than anything to learn about ways of working with young people who have had lived through exceptional experiences.  What can film offer them?

How does leading a project differ from being a partner?

First of all, you get invited to present the project at conferences and festivals which is always a privilege because you’re just the front person. Behind the scenes, of course, there’s a lot of administration and accounting. And counting!  But I guess you’re also the one who has to get people to agree. I think being the English speaker helps – it’s the lingua franca for most of our meetings.

Creative Europe’s Film Education scheme is currently accepting applications. Any advice to those considering applying?

First, it’s not something you can put together in a few weeks. The best projects come out of existing partnerships and ideas that those partnerships genuinely want to see happen. We’re applying for the next round, and we’ve been working on it since October. Second, no one goes into EU funding to make money - the spend genuinely goes on making the difference. Third, take the view that you’re in it to learn – from trying out new ideas, from working with partners, from seeing a different point of view. It’s really exciting to learn from colleagues outside one’s neighbourhood!

Visit our funding opportunity page to find out more about Creative Europe's Film Education scheme. Applications are open until 1 March.

Explore the BFI's education projects by visiting their website.