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netribution > features > interview with ian wall > page two
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Was the last film you had for the primary schools The Grinch?
Yes, but there didn't really seem to be a big Easter movie for them.

Is it not always easy to find a film to work with from a year's releases?
No, some years you can produce up to 30 study guides but last year we were down to 14. Not because the distributors wanted us to use them, there just wasn't the right sort of product about, relevant to what we wanted to do. Now it's suddenly picking up because we've got Corelli, Pandemonium, Pearl Harbour, we did something recently on Rug Rats.

What's the first step when choosing a film to work from?
You look at it from the point of view of what they need to cover at primary school and to throw in a little bit of film studies in like, how emotion works and different types of animation.

There's always something you can work from then?
Normally, you keep an eye on the national curriculum without forcing it in there. You take the stance of, ' this film lends itself to..'. We are already working on A Christmas Carol and we may well be working on a CD-ROM for that.

It looks quite promising.
We've been out to the animation studios to have a look around which, in one respect is a good thing because it's so close, the same with Chicken Run in that it was fairly easy to get hold of materials. What was great when we did something on The Prince of Egypt was what I got shipped over there to choose what we wanted, a lovely few days in LA which you can't complain about.

Do you work closely with the Film Council?
Not really but we let them know what we are doing but because the BFI give us a third of our core funding so I suppose we are linked to them indirectly. Whether we develop a stronger relationship with them, I don't know but we are quoted on their application forms for funding for production saying that we'll give companies advice about potential education of content. I'm reading a kids movie script that's come over from Pathé, presumably Lottery funded, so our role is to help the film company put together an education section to their lottery finance proposal.

We can always do with more money so if the Film Council wanted to give us some we wouldn't complain!

Were you a teacher before this began?
Yes, I taught film and English in Holland Park in London.

Was this then your initiative from the beginning?
It's one of those things. I was already writing study materials for the distributors and that came up purely by chance when someone called me at the school. Then British Film Year came along and they told me that they had this education program set up that consisted of a slide set and a wall chart - they asked me what I thought.
So I mosied over to a meeting and told them that they had to get kids back in the cinemas, that's the key thing. At that time when taking a group of 15 and 16 year olds to the cinema, you'd discover that half of them had never been before. Ever. They asked e what I would do about this and I told them to keep doing study material, teachers meeting and to link teachers up with their local cinemas. Film UK coincided with the biggest teachers action ever, national curriculum strikes, work to rule, the whole lot - great time to start organising after-school meetings.
To a certain extent it worked which is why Puttnam decided that it should carry on - it did and I had to learn an awful lot. I've now got five teachers working here, a TV department, a print department, a new media department and a special events department. Most of our activities tend to be outside London, last week we had people in Manchester and Southampton, next week we've people in Manchester again and people in Inverness, someone in Newcastle too so there's a lot of travelling about. Well, not so much by me now - I get the goodies like a trip to Berlin to work for the British council. We've got someone working in Thessaloniki at the moment and interest from teachers in Chile.

To whom do you publicise yourselves?
To the current teaching fraternity mainly, distribution and exhibition know all about us simply because they fund us. It's really a question of expanding and taking on as much as you can but not to the extent that what you are providing is shoddy.

It strikes me that you always have to have your eyes open to new developments in both the industry and in teaching methods. You've had to really embrace the internet for example.
I think one of the key things, as well as embracing it, is to pick up on what schools can do. We are an approved national grid for learning site but that brings restrictions with it, restrictions concerning what can be put on there. Resolution problems that mean you can't be as flash as perhaps you'd like to be. For example, I have an editing tutorial that would be best suited to DVD for the amount of space on there but how many schools have a player?

We are trying to drive people to our website but what you find is a lot of usage by secondary schools but little from primary schools - in a primary school there's probably one internet access and hat's in the head's office. I remember being approached about five years ago and told that we had to create an internet site, I said that we just wouldn't waste our time on that because the schools weren't equipped. Now schools have come along we are trying to drive them through the site, eventually we'll start thinking about making DVDs but there's no point at the moment.

Do you have to stay ahead of trends in cinema and attitude shifts within the education establishment or can you only try to keep up with the changes as they happen?
We try to innovate as much as we can, like doing 49 programs on film, two a month during term time, over three years. The teachers could record those later in the evening and use them the next day. It hadn't been done in that way before, putting moving images up on the web so that kids ca study them had never been done before. You have to be novel in a way that schools can use.

Can you tell us more about that Pearl Harbour project?
The idea is to always trying to come up with something new. The student will be able to go into the ROM where there will be a research section that will cover both the historical period and the film. There will be various cans of film there like historical British, historical American, historical Japanese - those will all be categorised into ships sinking, aircraft flying etc. Then they'll have the clips from the film and various interviews so they'll be able to edit together they're own documentaries, with a choice of four or five choices of music and they should be able to use their own voice over - that's why they need the research. At the end of it they'll have a little five minute documentary piece.
There is such a range of possibilities on offer through this and, undoubtedly, they will come up with some that we hadn't thought of. It's asking them to think about the editing process, how documentaries are made, it fits into history and into English because they have to study moving image and media and it obviously fits into media and film studies.

You can never be short of content can you? What else are you working on?
Well, the NFT are working on this Goddard retrospective. I've been talking to Colin McCabe, the curator, we suggested that we create the web site to go with it and which will work with film and media students. So we are thinking about that in terms of content but also appearance - try and make it a bit Goddardian!

What are you trying to expose these students toward in particular?
We are trying to drive them into the cinema but also toward a variety of product, we worked Titus recently and we've worked on a couple of French films in the past, try to get them to experience these films. Also, through things like the Pearl Harbour CD, we are making them look at the filmmaking progress.

We are targeting teachers to really make them aware that film is important, it's in the curriculum now and we'll help them do that as well as possible.

Do you have any opposition to what you are doing?
The only enemies we get are from people like the Campaign for Real English, children should only read books - they shouldn't watch movies. Someone at the education show came up to me saying, 'media, film - all you ever do is look at videos and go to the cinema.' In English literature all you ever do is read books, it's what you do with it afterwards that's important

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