Top tips for Film Competition 2021 from BBFC chief executive David Austin

Posted on 29 March 2021

The Childnet Film Competition is back for 2021 – and so too is British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) Chief Executive David Austin as one of the expert panel of judges.

For the last 12 years, Film Competition has challenged young filmmakers to create a short film or a storyboard in response to a given theme. All entries must contain a positive message and be able to educate other young people.

This year’s theme is: Separating fact from fiction. Finding trustworthy information online. 

Here, David outlines his role, explains what he will be looking for in Film Competition entries, and gives his advice to budding filmmakers…


  1. Hi David, please can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role at BBFC? 
    I'm the Chief Executive of the BBFC, and I think I have the best job in the world as I get to lead this brilliant organisation. I'm responsible for its day to day running, ensuring our standards and policies are in line with what families want and need, and for looking after relationships with industry, children's charities such as Childnet, and Government and Parliament. Most importantly, I also get to watch films that need my decision on the classification.
  2. Thinking about this year’s Film Competition theme, why can it be tricky to separate fact from fiction online? 
    This past year we’ve all spent more time than ever before online - for learning, entertainment and socialising. We’ve seen a big rise in ‘fake news’ and misinformation, and it’s very important for everyone to make sure that what they are reading, and sharing, is correct. At the BBFC we want to help young people develop the tools and skills they need to be resilient online. Our education team talks to hundreds of children every year about online content, and we’re so pleased to be involved once again in this vital initiative.
  3. What will you be looking for in the entries this year
    I’ll be looking for creative films that hit all the key messages of this very important competition. The standard of entry to the Childnet Film Competition is always incredibly high, and the competition is fierce - I’m so looking forward to seeing all the brilliant entries this year. Although picking the winners is always a challenging job!
  4. What advice do you have for someone making a short film? 
    I would encourage all the budding filmmakers to think about their audience. Audience, context and tone are all key things that we look at when classifying content - we’re all about helping families choose content well, so they can view what’s right for them. I’d encourage all the entrants to really think about how they want their audience to feel when watching their film, and to think carefully about all the messages that they would like to get across. This could be with a great script, slick editing techniques, or some brilliant acting - the options are endless.
  5. Can you describe the first time you experienced seeing a film at the cinema? 
    When I was six I saw what I consider to be one of the best musical adventure films of all time - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. This was at the Plaza Cinema in Dudley and I recall the overwhelming size of the screen and the visceral excitement of being in a huge, dark room with loads of other people. I recall the tension as Chitty drives off a cliff - at which point the film stopped for an intermission! The terror I felt as the children try to escape the Childcatcher - probably still cinema’s scariest villain. And the exhilaration as the children turn the tables on the evil Baron and Baroness and their terrifying servant, the Childcatcher.

Keep an eye out for more blogs with the Childnet Film Competition judges blogs over the coming weeks, and find out how your school, class or youth group can get involved by clicking on the relevant category below:

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