Joanna van der Meer - BFI

Film Tutor and Family Learning Programmer, British Film Institute (BFI)

Jo has been a judge of the Film Competition for the last 8 years, we spoke to her about her experiences of being a judge and what she looks for in a winning film.

Jo, can you tell us about your role at the BFI?

I have a great job as it’s very creative – one minute I’m planning a save the planet animation day for children and the next I’m delivering a session on how to make SFX wounds for a zombie horror film.   I’m called a ‘programmer’ at BFI Southbank and create all the filmmaking activities that go on here for children aged up to 16 years old.


What do you love most about the job you do?   

The best thing about my job is that it is always changing and I’m always having to learn to keep up with trends in filmmaking and also changing technology. So it’s never boring!   Also the wonderful children I meet during it – they are always so passionate and love what they get to do at my activities - many have gone on to attend the Brit School Broadcast and Film course so it’s very rewarding. 


Why do you think film is such a great way of getting important messages across?

Film is the best way to get important messages across because it’s an art form that reaches across all cultural and educational divides and it can appeal to all ages and abilities.  There are so many imaginative ways to interpret messages through film and which can’t be replicated easily through other approaches.   Film is the best!


What will you be looking for in the films this year?

Films presented at judging stage never fail to surprise, delight and amaze me – and also make me think.  I’ll be looking for messages that are clearly and strongly delivered through imaginative film formats and approaches and I’m confident I will be seeing these!


What would be your number one top filmmaking tip?

My number one tip if making a live action film is... make sure the audio is clear across the whole film – check it before you get too far into your film, and keep checking.  And ensure at post production stage that the audio levels are right.  And keep on top of continuity!  Avoid an actor wearing a blue jumper in one shot, a red one in the next.  With a stop-motion animation, make sure you film in bright light but with no tripod shadow!  And keep the movements very tiny and fluid. 


Favourite children’s film of all time?

This is hard!  My current favourite is an old one... Baby’s Day Out.  I can’t watch it without cringing, laughing out loud or hiding behind my hands (plot spoiler – when the baby is up very, very, very high – I have vertigo badly).    All-time favourite is probably Hue and Cry – an Ealing classic with children getting involved with everything from crooks, police chases, hiding in sewers and comic book subterfuge.  Although in black and white it’s a real treat!