It's been a year devoted to celebrating all things British. The summer of the Olympics and Paralympics instilled a renewed sense of British pride in the public. A central tenant of the original Olympics is the celebration of competition between amateur athletes; some sports still retain elements of this restriction. There is something captivating about watching young hopefuls compete in a public forum.
Think about the young gymnasts catapulting themselves across the floor - years of work for a two minute demonstration. It's the same to watch the work of some of our young filmmakers. They've devoted years to developing their craft - often without professional guidance - to produce an inspiring piece of short film. However, there is no arena filled with spectators to give them the recognition that they deserve. Unlike athletes - who have a relatively short period of time at their peak - these directors, editors, cinematographers and animators are only just starting: they will hone and perfect their craft for decades to come.
The prospect of watching student film tends to fill audiences (even some film buffs) with panic, as if you've asked them to sit and watch the home video of your wife giving birth. Why is the exhibition of student film treated like you'll be coming into contact with a leper? Why is more credit given to up-and-coming bands, than up-and-coming filmmakers? Why is there this sense of added risk when sitting down to an hour of shorts made by students?
I've met lots of teachers, artists and industry professionals who whole-heartedly look to the next generation and savour their potential. However, you don't need to commission a research study to very quickly tell that attitudes in British arts encourage you to get your head down, be grateful for your lot and storm on. Hell, I've seen a more engaged audience at the most offensive assault-on-your-senses performance poetry evenings than I have when presented with quality student film. When one in six people in the UK struggle with literacy (Literacy Trust) but 24,963,799 TV licenses were held in the year 2009/10 (TV Licensing) surely the visual language of film appeals on a wider scale?
Unless you've been living in a cave, you may be aware that things are looking a little tough for the generation just coming out of school and university. We need to invest in the cultural output of the next generation, challenge common perceptions and screen student film to wider audiences. We need to extend our renewed British pride and support young British filmmakers.