BFI Film Tutor and Family Learning Programmer: Guest Blog

Posted on 23 May 2016

With 3 weeks to go until the Childnet Film Competition closes for entries, we catch-up with judge Joanna van der Meer from the BFI to find out why the BFI support the competition and what she's looking for in a winning film.

Hello, I’m Joanna van der Meer and I’m Film Tutor and Family Learning Programmer at BFI Southbank – which means I teach filmmaking skills to both children and adults – anything from animation to film editing and everything in-between. I also programme children and family activities. My background is very mixed – I’ve had many jobs including being a zoo keeper!  (I looked after the monkeys)…  I also worked for the animation company that created the Wombles and have worked as a film extra and film location caterer.

Childnet is a wonderful initiative which encourages a positive evaluation of how the internet is used by children – it’s a great medium for children to show this through the films they create.  It’s tremendously uplifting.  We all know there is a lot of negativity about the internet, especially social media but Childnet allows us to understand that children embrace the potential of the medium as a force for good – which of course it is!  I’ve always been impressed by the scope of the films presented that really do display this.    I’m very pleased to support the work that Childnet does.

Jo shares why film works so well in teaching important messages:

Film communicates – it is a multi-layered medium that children love – what parent hasn’t witnessed their two year old being able to operate the DVD player to put on their favourite film, or ask for their favourite TV programme (that they watch over and over)? – it’s amongst the first thing that small children communicate to their parent/carer!    Because it is multi-layered – including audio, sound effects, mise en scène, story, drama, art, craft – a whole raft of sensory  experiences – it is a fantastically inclusive visual medium which is capable of sending powerful, informative and even emotional messages in a format that children can relate to and enjoy.  

As a judge for the last few years, Jo shares what she enjoys about being judge and what she’s looking for this year:

I really enjoy seeing the scope of ideas and it never fails to impress how children convey these using video.  Whether they be drama or animation or mixed media, the quality of entries never fails to impress and to be honest, it always gives me ideas to bring into my work!  I also enjoy being part of something where children are rewarded for their hard work and commitment and this is always very satisfying.

What I look for is an original, strong story that conveys the message in an innovative, well thought through way.  Less important is technical competence although I always look for good audio quality which will definitely get more marks from me!    I know how tricky this aspect of filmmaking is so I appreciate care taken over this – and I respect attempts to address problems with this – using a recorded narrative and subtitles for example.


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