Three-D Issue 29: Practice Network report

The BFI, Learning on Screen, Kingston School of Art and MeCCSA Practice Network recently supported a free workshop at BFI Southbank in London, exploring the creative reuse of archive material in higher education, in a morning session preceding the annual BFI Student Open Day. The event launched a new scheme providing student filmmakers at UK universities with access to archive material from the BFI National Archive for course-related film and media projects.

The new scheme follows a successful pilot at Kingston University earlier this year, where twelve films from the BFI National Archive were creatively reused to inspire student video essays and short documentaries under an educational licence. In response to a previous article on the pilot in Viewfinder magazine, academics from twenty-three universities expressed interest in using archive material from the BFI National Archive with students on course-related projects across several disciplines. The BFI has now responded to that demand by extending access to the films to other higher education institutions across the UK.

The aim of the workshop was to brief interested academics and students on the pilot scheme, screen clips from the films available for license and announce Phase Two of the scheme and how it will work in practice. Sixty students and educators registered for the event and BFI Education’s Christine James welcomed them to NFT3 before I gave the opening presentation on the BFI/Kingston pilot.

After discussing the pioneering work of the BFI’s former Director of Education, Paul Gerhardt, in this area, I screened a teaser reel of the 12 films available through the scheme to illustrate the rich scope of beautifully-restored material available.

Divide and Rule – Never! (1978), a “punk-infused” anti-racist film which invites “young working class Londoners to discuss their experiences of racism” (BFI Player) inspired three of the student films made during the Kingston pilot and we screened two of them on the day.

Professor Michael Witt (Roehampton University) then gave a fascinating presentation on “Archival footage and the audiovisual essay as a mode of assessment,” reflecting on his experience of twenty years working with students on video essay assessments.

This was followed by a panel discussion, chaired by Sergio Angelini (Learning on Screen), where the presenters, Christine James and Matthew Lee (Imperial War Museum Short Film Festival) discussed how the scheme will work and copyright law as if pertains to the educational use of “found footage” material in the UK.

The Imperial War Museum Short Film Festival grants applicants access to digitised copies of three films from its collection, offering another source of archive material to students. Its call for applications is expected to open at the end of the year.

Phase Two of the scheme works very simply. After signing up, interested parties at applicant institutions are sent an educational license agreement by the BFI Rights apartment, describing their intended use. Once the agreement is signed, file delivery of the 12 films discussed above will be arranged.

It’s hoped that academics and students involved in the scheme will form a network of practitioners from a variety of disciplines, sharing resources and exploring a variety of creative and pedagogic approaches to working with archive material and “found footage” in course-related moving image work.

If you’d like to sign up to the scheme or have a question, please contact:

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