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Young Film Critic Awards

Event Audio Transcript

Clip 1 - Andy Akinwolere

Andy: Hello thank you all for coming, I hope you’re all seated comfortably and you’ve had a nice little chitchat downstairs. Welcome to the Film Education Awards for 2011, featuring the Young Film Critic Awards and Be Creative awards as well.

Now before we get going, just a brief little background on the charity that organizes these awards. Film Education was established as a registered charity in 1985. Film Education seeks to encourage an understanding and appreciation of film in all its forms, and a cinema going experience amongst schoolchildren and pupils of all ages. The organization ensures that successive generations of young people have, through their formal schooling, an understanding, appreciation and broad experience of film, and enjoy engaging with the medium in cinemas. This is coupled with an awareness and respect for the output of the creative sector and a recognition of its worth to both the economy and the culture in the UK. Over the last 26 years it has provided teachers with over 700 film-related teaching resources, providing thousands of teachers with training in the use of film in the classroom, and enabling over 4 million young people in school groups to attend the cinema free of charge during Film Education’s National Schools Film Week and other screenings as well.

For me personally, I am actually delight to be here. I hosted this a little while ago and I also studied film and documentary at university, so film is something that has been part of my life from the beginning, and it's constantly part of my life now. And I guess if we’re talking about film critics, many people here in the industry realise how important having a good critic on your side for your film is. Now the thing is a good critic can often help us to decide if a film is good or bad naturally, but I think really, great critics are the ones we read and watch week in week out, and they become our guide in a much more profound way. They help us to know what we want to see, how we want to expand our own choices of film, and they also push our experiences into new and vibrant styles.

Now to give us a quick overview of what it is to be a critic and also to give us an insight into the world of film appreciation please Ladies and Gentlemen put your hands together for Quentin Falk, film critic and one of the judges of the Young Film Critic Competition.

Clip 2 – Quentin Falk

Quentin: Thank you Andy. I have just finished reading a tremendous book about the film industry called Bambi vs Godzilla. Now there’s a intriguing idea for a new 3D blockbuster and the author, one of Hollywood’s best writer/directors as well as a prolific screenwriter for hire, naturally has a go at film critics. “Artists loath film critics” he writes, “and critics know it and artists know that they know but as with ants a picnic critics will not go away.” Nor of course should they, but then again I am a bit biased having written film reviews for one and off more than 40 years.

For the past few years I have also had the tremendous privilege of being one of the judges of this annual competition. A bit weird though having to read other people’s reviews with the purpose of having to try and find the best from such an excellent array of fine writing and firm opinion. Not unlike the opening of an envelope at the BAFTAs or Oscars, when one single name is singled out from a quintet of the years most excellent. I have some sympathy for the winner regularly says, usually with deep insincerity, clutching the statuette ‘I think we are all winners’.

The best of this Young Film Critic competition have all, I found, fulfilled my own 3 main criteria of what constitutes the best kind of review. That it should inform, illuminate and if possible also entertain and that goes whether you are reviewing Bambi or Godzilla, let alone that possible future clash of those particular screen titans. Inform, illuminate and entertain. You could say that’s what the best kind of film should also do. Now, in this age of 24 hour media, never has the critic been more vital in order to cut a swath through the mediocrity of what mostly makes up the film and TV schedules. And of course you don’t have to be a conventional outlet anymore for film criticism. No longer is it just the reserve of newspaper, magazine, TV and radio. With the so called democratisation of the internet, we’re all critic whether we’re writing a conventional review, Facebook-ing or Tweet-ing. And despite the millions spent on film advertising, the powers that be will still admit that word of mouth is the most powerful advertising of all.

In the face of the sheer weight of all the products from big screen to video game (not to mention all the hype) never was the responsibility of the critic, be he or she a conventional critic or online blogger, greater. Which is why I so admire what many of you achieved in your competition entries. Yes there have been some who merely, if you pardon the expression, slagged off a film often albeit entertainingly. However the majority in the long list I was asked to help shorten, tried first of all to understand the film, in some cases films that I had considerable difficulty comprehending when I first saw them, before trying to come to some kind of readable conclusion as well as firm opinion.

To try and understand cinema, which some of you demonstrated so ably, is perhaps all the filmmaker can ask when as an audience member, a critic or both you confronting their work. Whether the film cost $200 million or just $1 million, the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into producing them are the same, possibly more so with the cheaper film some might argue because shoestrings often snap more easily.

No one ever sets out to make a bad film but a glance around your typical week at the multiplex would seem to give a lie to that cliché. However, one man’s Transformers 3 might be another man’s Made in Dagenham or Attack the Block. Both those films, all those films in fact, are fighting for your ticket money, and it is the critic’s duty to be as true to one as to the others.

But at the end of the day, your opinion, pro or con, and however well argued, is just that – one person’s opinion. Film making and reviewing will always remain uneasy bed fellows but thanks to something like the Young Film Critics competition at least one half of that odd double act is looking and sounding extremely healthy. Thank you.

Clip 3 - Leah Thomas, First Light and Justin Skinner, VP of Marketing at Cineworld

Leah: It’s really great to get young people involved in this form of creative expression. First Light supports young people to make films but this is equally valid and great to be able to go to the cinema and watch a film, and have a voice and an opinion about it. So I’m really pleased to be presenting today…

Justin: I’m also delighted to be presenting this award. I have three children of my own who are six, four and one, so the six and the four year-old also belong in this category. When I take them to the cinema and ask them what they think of the film, they invariably go “uhhh”. [audience laughter] So it’s fantastic to present an award to someone who is clearly a lot more articulate then my kids. So I’m delight to say the award goes to… Caleb Pollitt!

Clip 4 – Roger Harris, Chief Operating Officer of Odeon & UCI Cinema Group and Amanda Nevil, Chief Executive of British Film Institute

Roger: Good afternoon everybody, I’d like to echo the thoughts that have already been expressed by everybody to welcome all of the winners today, because I think each of you have contributed so much to reach this stage. I’ve been involved in the cinema business for far too long, and I’ve always enjoyed the experience but obviously we rely on the critic’s view of the films that we put on the screen. So I look forward to reading your reviews in the future, and hopefully you’ll still persuade people for whatever reason to share two hours in a dark room with two hundred strangers. Thank you.

Amanda: Well I’m beyond jealous, what can I say to all you lovely, clever people out there. When I was at school, which was a very long time ago, yes we had “cars” to reassure you, but we didn't have the internet, and we didn’t have this great organization, Film Education, to suggest we write about films. We had to sit there, and write essays like “write a really interesting essay about your favourite gardening implement” or something like, “write about an exciting day in the life of your favourite pet”. But if you only had a hamster as I did, it was really, really difficult. Hooray for Film Education, and well done for you guys who are responding, so let’s get on with the nominees…

Clip 5 – Stephen Woolley, Producer & Director

Stephen: Thank you so much. I’m actually editing at the moment, so if I run off afterwards please excuse me. We’re creating Great Expectations which I hope gets great reviews when we release it, towards the end of the year. This has been such an impressive afternoon, and I really can’t say more about Film Education, I think it’s such an important thing, in not just your lives but for all of us who are making films at the moment. We need the excitement and the energy. I began as a film critic, and I’ve produced and worked on many, many films since. But it’s your excitement about cinema, your enthusiasm about cinema that keeps us going. So I’m actually in awe of what you’ve achieved and I’m very honoured to be here.

Clip 6 – Katie Snow, winner of Young Film Critic 2010

Katie: I’m actually really sad to relinquish my reign as current Young Film Critic because I’ve had a really fantastic and fun year doing some wonderful things for Film Education. I’ve gained a true insight into the inner workings of the industry, which I wouldn’t have got otherwise.

So last year I attended the First Light movie awards, which is another glitzy ceremony just like this, and I reviewed a short featured produced by young, amateur filmmakers. This was actually a new experience for me, and I think its really important to review and watch films cross the genre spectrum and not just the big blockbusters, [but] foreign language films, documentary films, in order to fully appreciate the art of film-making and reception in its entirety.

In September I took part in a radio day with Gary Oldman and Nick Walker from Film Education, and we spent the day promoting the work Film Education does, connecting young people with cinema. Those interviews were conducted with stations across the country, and broadcast to thousands of people, so it was a little bit scary. But I think it was important I engaged with another media platform, not just print. Of course it was exciting to meet Gary Oldman, and listen to his thoughts on film, which was another perspective I’ve been exposed to – film from the viewpoint of an actor, rather then a receiver. Recently I was lucky enough to go to the star-studded world premiere of Daniel Radcliffe’s new film the Woman in Black which some of you might have seen. I spent most of the film scribbling notes in the dark, because I was too scared to look at the screen. So good luck to the nominees who haven’t found out their fate yet, and hopefully this year’s winner will seize all the opportunities that Film Education present you with, because it’s only a year so do whatever you can. It is a unique chance to work with industry professionals and hopefully you will glean some confidence from the credibility the title gives you.

Clip 7 – James Kyne, winner of Young Film Critic 2011

James: Thanks, it was honestly a prize enough just to be nominated, but to win as well is fantastic. We really are all winners. I’d like to congratulate everyone else that was nominated, I’d like to thank my school, Film Education and my English teacher for giving everyone the opportunity to enter a fantastic competition, expressing what is a very important part of film culture. So thank you.