Generation V Comes of Age

 Alexander Cole and Polly Roise, director and producer of  Animal , and Harry Taylor, producer of  Self Made Man . Image courtesy of Learning on Screen Awards.

Alexander Cole and Polly Roise, director and producer of Animal, and Harry Taylor, producer of Self Made Man. Image courtesy of Learning on Screen Awards.

The annual Learning on Screen Awards are Europe’s most prestigious forum for recognising the best in video for learning. They also act as a showcase for up and coming student talent in filmmaking. DLA co-founder Adam Salkeld attended the ceremony at the British Film Institute on London’s South Bank and was impressed by a range of student work on show.

Read about DLA’s 2018 Learning on Screen Award here.

Two days ago I was at lunch, sat next to a documentary maker from New York City. He was most definitely “old school” and was in Europe on the festival circuit with his latest work. He complained that the events he was touring were full of “dreadful” films made by students and other amateurs who had never learned the basic rules of filmmaking. He concluded that we are witnessing the death of the “proper” documentary as “everybody thinks they can make a film”.

He was clearly not at the Learning on Screen Awards last week. There I saw student work in genres including documentary, drama and promotional film that was ambitious, well-told and distinctive. It showed a mastery of craft filmmaking that can sometimes be lacking in professional work on TV or elsewhere. We saw a generation of video natives - 'Gen V', as I have called them in the past - maturing into innovative and sensitive filmmakers.

Learning on Screen’s Chief Executive, Virginia Haworth-Galt, opened the event by detailing the new awards categories - chosen to better reflect the emerging work and new genres in learning video. This was a really smart move.

The most exciting of the new categories - for me, at least - was the Audiovisual Essay Award. The nominations here demonstrated two things. First, some really top-notch filmmaking. But second, proof that video has moved beyond being a passive medium. For Gen V it is a primary mode of expression and discourse. The winner in this category - a brilliant essay from Greg Bevan and Glen Creeber at Aberystwyth University - interrogated 'selfie culture'. Choosing video for this topic, rather than say text, just seems so natural and right. Why write about a primarily visual cultural phenomenon when you can show it? The fusing of argument and example was seamless. I am already looking forward to next year’s nominations in this category, it is a great place for video natives.

Other work in the student categories was impressive. I was wowed by the ambition and execution of the drama Writing Home, winner of the Postgraduate Award and the overall LoS Award. This feature film was created by an international team from the University of the West of Scotland. The film’s articulate expression of its themes of identity in place and self seemed to me a direct result of having been created by a cross-border collaborative team. It was encouraging to see that the UK’s film schools - even in the midst of the assault on Higher Education from net migration madness - are still attracting the best talent from around the world.

In the Student Documentary Award, the winner was a moving film called Self Made Man. Yasmin Afifi and Harry Taylor told a story about gender transition. What made it stand out was the way Harry wove his own transition experience into the narrative. Adding a personal layer in documentary storytelling is not new but, as with other examples in the 2018 LoS Awards selection, it is very contemporary. For Harry’s generation of filmmakers, video is their natural voice so adding that first person perspective to documentary seems completely right.

So congratulations to Learning on Screen for showcasing such an inspiring selection of work. The winners earned their silverware and all the nominees deserved their places in the spotlight. Gen V has come of age. And for my lunch companion, the students whose work I saw not only think they can make a film but have proved it. Are they breaking the rules of filmmaking, or rewriting them?