News / The Network


The Network - 08/07/2010


Ian Wall, Founder and Managing Director of Film Education, UK



Film.Education, Royaume-Uni

In the average year, Film Education’s activities reach an estimated, impressive 2.4 million school children across the UK, or just over 25% of the entire population in that age range. We interviewed Ian Wall, founder and managing director of Film Education and asked him to tell us more.
Film Education is a charity you set up in 1984. Film Education is very well known in the UK, but could you explain what you do at Film Education to our European colleagues, and give us an overview of your different projects?

          Our aim has always been to encourage the use of film in teaching and using the cinema as an extension of the classroom. We want teachers to teach about film and also through film, and to look at film as an art form as well as using it as a stimulus for writing and discussion. Being literate in the 21st century is not simply about reading words but also about reading screens, be they cinema or computer screens.
          In a nutshell, what we do is an interlinked programme of training, resources and cinema visits. Probably our biggest screening event of the year is National Schools Film Week. Last year over 400,000 students attended screenings in over 500 locations. Our aim is to introduce very young children to the exciting experience of seeing a film at the cinema, and to introduce older students to a wider range of films than they would normally see – European, world and American independent films.
          We also produce pedagogic materials on individual film titles to set films in an educational context. During the year we will produce materials on anything up to 20 new films. These materials can be either downloadable teaching materials from our website or interactive CD and DVD roms.  We only work on films that are currently on release in cinemas and thus actively encourage teachers to use films which have a common currency with their students whilst also extending their cinema going experience.  So far this year we have produced an interactive CD ROM on How to Train Your Dragon, which was very well received by primary school teachers. We are in the process of completing resources on Metropolis (which is being re released in a brand new print) and on some new British films, such as Made in Dagenham, as well as creating a guide on The White Ribbon since this film will feature heavily in this year’s National Schools Film Week.
          In addition to this, we also produce more generic teaching materials relating to film and the curriculum. For example, in the past year we have produced an interactive resource on the film industry, another which deals with film and Shakespeare. We are currently looking at developing resources on History and Citizenship, and a project has just begun which looks at using film in the teaching of European languages. With over 55,000 teachers having contacted us to request these materials we feel that we have got the education content right as well as the delivery method.
          Finally, we train teachers in the use of film in the curriculum. These courses range from a day course to four-day residential courses, and also free conferences.  We are just about to start work with half a dozen education authorities, training teachers from schools within that authority about using film to raise standards of literacy. We’ll get local cinemas in all the locations to participate in this project, which will last for a year.

What role does the film theatre play in your work?

          The cinema is central to everything we do. We are encouraging schools to think of the cinema as an extension of the clasroom, THE place to see a film. Wherever possible we attempt to put cinema managers in touch with their local schools so that they can create bespoke programming which will attract schools to bring their students to specially organised screenings. We’re looking at ways in which we can extend our screening programmes so that they happen on a regular basis all year round, not just in October.
We also encourage schools to take their students to see films on current release.

You also contribute to film education projects outside of the UK, such as the BritFilms schools film festival in Germany, organised by the association of German arthouse cinemas. Are you involved in any other projects abroad?

          In the first year of the German project we ran some training sessions for teachers related to the films in the programme. We hope that in the future we will be able to repeat this exercise, although cost is always an issue. In the past we have also carried out teacher training sessions in Finland, Denmark, Lithuania, Norway, Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Israel, and U.S.A. amongst others.
          We have also worked with Vision Kino ( ) in Germany, exchanging resources and discussing ways of using film in the curriculum.

How do you think the UK compares to other European countries in terms of national film education programmes?

          I think that those of us in the UK involved in film education look enviously on countries such as France and Sweden where film education is well funded and has developed highly-organised programmes of study and activity. I’m thinking of things like Colleges au Cinema in France and the Film in Schools initiative in Sweden. 
Currently in the UK, four organisations – the British film Institute, Film Club, First Light and Film Education – are developing a national film education strategy/initiative. We have financed nine pilot projects across England and Wales and are now looking at ways in which we can develop national blueprints for activities which involve both formal and informal education. We are going to run wide ranging educational programmes in six regions in the UK which will look at ways in which both film watching and film making can be introduced into schools.
          I’d love to see European countries working together to develop programmes of both film selections and teaching methods – ways in which we can share experiences and take these and adapt them to our own national requirements. The work that Europa Cinemas has enabled some of us to do has been of great help. But we now need to be moving from talk to action!  We can do more than simply say “Look, here is my project, why don’t you take it to your country”. We should be looking at a new project, perhaps emerging from some of the conclusions from last year’s seminars at Erfurt (organised by Kids Regio) and at Essen (organised by the European Film Academy), as well as the conclusions from our London conference.
          Our conference, held in London last March in association with the BFI, looked at the use of European film in education and was a sold out event!
( ). There is definitely the enthusiasm here to use film and encourage young people to extend their experience of film and cinema.  We just need to think of ways of delivering this. I’m sure that there are experiences that colleagues in Europe have had which in general terms would help us to achieve our aims.  But for the moment there is no forum for this.

In terms of funding, the charity has the support of the UK film industry and receives private corporate donations. Do you receive any funding from the UK Film Council? Could you give us an idea about the type of private companies that support you? Do you think Film Education going to feel the impact of the current government cuts aimed at reducing national deficit?

          All of our funding comes from the UK film industry – distribution and exhibition. We receive no direct grants from the UK Film Council. Other money that we raise tends to come through sponsorship of specific projects. In the past companies such as Shell, Diet Coke and Pizza Hut have all sponsored specific projects. Given the current economic climate it is getting more and more difficult to secure sponsorship on a meaningful level. And with the Olympics in 2012 on the horizon, lots of potential sponsors are looking to support sports orientated events.
          As we are fully funded by the Film Industry then we will not be directly affected by proposed Governmental cuts. However, we are currently part of a group which is developing a UK wide strategy for film education and all other partners in this initiative are Government funded. It remains to be seen what the impact will be on these organisations.
          I suppose you could say that the whole cultural sector in the UK is in a state of flux at the moment, waiting on what is announced in October. All we can do is to continue with what we have and hope that something positive comes out of the Government spending review. I think it will be a case of all organisations reviewing their current activities and then having to make decisions as to what to keep and what to cut. The current buzz words are “value for money” and we are all having to think along these lines. Do we simply dilute everything that we are doing if faced by a 25% cut in funding or do we instead focus on what delivers the best, both in terms of educational value and reach as well as the best in monetary terms?

Interview led by Emily Boldy,
July 2010


- Ian Wall
- National Schools Film Week
- How to train your dragon by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, 2010
- Le Ruban Blanc by Michael Haneke, 2009
- Métropolis by Fritz Lang, 1927