Film Competition 2021 hints and advice from BBC’s Catherine McAllister

Posted on 13 April 2021

Catherine McAllister is Head of Editorial Standards for BBC Children’s & Education and one of the Childnet Film Competition 2021 judges.

As she explains, entries will be judged on the strength of message, creativity and delivery – and Film Competition is most definitely not about having the latest equipment or technology.

Catherine also recalls her first cinematic experience and gives her advice on how to separate fact from fiction online…

  1. Catherine, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what your role is at the BBC?
    I’m responsible for helping our TV and digital teams make sure that the content they make is appropriate for our audiences, and that it’s relevant to their lives without being unsuitable. I’ve worked in the Children’s department since 2007, and during that time I’ve made games and programmes for CBBC and CBeebies, before moving into my current role.
  2. What’s the best part about your job?
    Getting to watch all of our great content that we make! Watching telly for work, who could complain about that! I think people don’t realise just the huge range of programmes we make for children and teenagers at the BBC – we have comedies, animations, dramas, documentaries, on all sorts of different subjects. My current favourite is the cartoon We Bare Bares, I think it’s so funny.
  3. This year’s Film Competition theme is ‘Separating fact from fiction’. Do you sometimes find it difficult to separate fact from fiction online?
    Definitely! It can be really hard for everyone, especially when you read things on social media that you really want to believe, but it’s really important to be sure of the reliability of information before you share it. Often it is just silly stuff, but fake news and misinformation can be dangerous. There are a couple of things you can think about – ask yourself if it seems real or if any of it seems fake. What evidence, facts and data are included with the information – you can easily look these up to see if they are genuine. See if anyone else is covering the same story – are any well-known newspapers or broadcasters saying the same thing? If you’re not sure, don’t share. Actually, I think that it’s adults who are probably the worst culprits for sharing fake news on social media, and so if you see your mum, dad, aunty or uncle, grandparents or whoever sharing stuff on social that you know is just silly, call them out on it and help to educate them!
  4. What would be your top tip to a budding filmmaker reading this?
    Don’t let anything stand in your way – it’s easy to think that you need loads of really expensive equipment if you want to make a film, but more and more people are shooting and editing really amazing stuff just using their phones. But if you really want to get into it, speak to a teacher and see if the school can help you – they might have equipment you can borrow and can help you get started. There are loads of tutorials online but you can also look out for any local film groups as well that you can join – your local library is often a good place to start. Just make sure you get a parent or carer to check them out and make sure they are safe and legit! And the last tip is the easiest of all – watch all the films you can and think about what you’ve enjoyed and what you think didn’t work and why. A great thing to try is to see if you can recreate a favourite scene from a movie with your mates or using toys or action figures, paying attention to how the shots are planned, filmed and then edited into the final scene.
  5. Can you describe the first time you saw a film at the cinema?
    The first film I remember going to see at the cinema was E.T. It was such a massive film, everyone in school was talking about it constantly – you were a playground A-lister if you could do a good impression of E.T. saying ‘E.T. phone hoooome!’ (I couldn’t, sadly). I remember being so excited the night before going to see it that I couldn’t sleep, it was like waiting for Father Christmas! I’ve now seen it more times than I can count, and it sparked a lifelong love of films about space, aliens and sci-fi films generally.

Find out how your class, school or youth group can get involved in Film Competition 2021 here.

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