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Film Education in Schools Will Support the Future of the Industry

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Who would have played Rose in Titanic if Kate Winslet hadn't been inspired in drama class to take up a career in acting? What might Danny Boyle be doing now if Film Studies hadn't helped him to become a world famous director? There's no doubt that film education in schools has set some of the UK film industry's best talent on their way to success - a fact well worth celebrating - but arguably its value extends far beyond just shaping the next generation of British talent. It can encourage debate about the value of creative content and the role of copyright in protecting it.

Today the average teenager's bedroom is more like a multi-media centre than a space to sleep. Televisions, game consoles, lap-tops, tablets and smart phones offer fantastic access to online entertainment - but unfortunately not always from official sources. Unauthorised 'free' content can be a big temptation for young people yet to make their own income. More than half of 17 year-olds currently access some of their entertainment from unofficial sources, compared to fewer than one in four 13 year-olds.

It's here that film education can play a pivotal role in educating future generations of consumers, helping to win hearts and minds on the right way to use copyright material issue of copyright infringement, as their appreciation of the value of content they enjoy plays a vital role in securing the future of entertainment, maybe even their own careers in film or television. My own organisation, the Industry Trust for IP Awareness, has been supporting extra-curricular initiatives for many years and has seen the benefits first-hand.

In 2011 our Screen Champions programme, in partnership with Cineclub and Filmclub, reached 2,000 students aged 10-19. Three quarters of participants said they were less likely to engage in copyright infringement as a result. Nine out of ten said the programme inspired them to be more original and to have their own creative ideas. Our BeCreative programme, in collaboration with film charity, Film Education, is about to enter its fifth year this month, following successive years of positive feedback from teachers and industry supporters. BeCreative participants are invited to create short films about copyright as part of a nationwide competition, an exercise that engages them with both film production and protection.

We see similarly positive results among the teenagers who get involved in the Trust's Facebook community, ScreenThing, now 36,000 members strong. ScreenThing celebrates great film and TV and shines a spotlight on the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to make it happen. Recent research to evaluate its impact shows that it improves young people's understanding of the commercial needs of the industry and reduces the likelihood of them accessing entertainment from unofficial sources in the future. There's no doubt that these sorts of online and after-schools initiatives are helpful and make a significant difference all over the UK. But if we want to realise the full potential of film-related education it will be vital to get copyright onto the curriculum.

For the first time ever that ambition looks set to become a reality. Earlier this year the Film Policy Review called for film education to be integrated into the National Curriculum, a recommendation broadly accepted by Government. Under the stewardship of the British Film Institute (BFI), it seems inevitable that the notion of copyright will play an integral part. It's a move that will provide a welcome boost to the industry's existing, self-funded programmes. It's also one likely to benefit young people as well as the industry, as previous studies have shown. Making the Case for Film Education, a report published by the lead organisations running film education projects across the UK, reveals that film education can help children improve their literacy skills and raise their educational attainment.

Nearly nine out of ten young people say they love going to the cinema. Seven out of ten love watching TV? There's no doubt that teenagers today feel extremely positive towards the film and TV industry and the content it creates. But without information about how the industry works and why their support for it is so important, can we expect them to make informed, constructive choices against the tempting face of 'free'? In a day and age when almost every type of entertainment has found its way online - from newspapers to books, to video games and music -copyright can no longer sit to the left. It needs to be front and centre in today's National Curriculum.

The BeCreative competition is once again open for entries. If you're interested in finding out how to enter your school, please visit www.filmeducation.org/becreative for more information. Competition closes January 21st 2013.