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BISC students’ films go global

Students at the Bader International Study Centre submit 10 short films to the Crossing the Screen International Film Festival.

Students at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC), Queen's campus in the UK, screened short films as part of the Crossing the Screen International Film Festival in Eastbourne, Sussex on Sunday, Dec. 2. 

[BISC students at film festival]
BISC students Claude Sun, left, and Gabrielle Oei, right, pose for a photo with volunteers at the Crossing the Screen International Film Festival. (Supplied photo)

Among the 90 features, shorts, and documentaries from over 30 countries, were 10 three-minute films made by students at the BISC, located in Herstmonceux Castle, as part of the Sussex 24 hours Panel, shown at Eastbourne’s Towner Art Gallery.

“The Castle has experiential learning opportunities as part of its focus,” explains Professor Robert Hyland who teaches Film 104 at the BISC. “There’s also been a recent push to create workplace simulations, so I thought this could be an avenue of creating volunteer positions for film students.”

Festival organizer Domenico Della Valle said part of the purpose of the festival is to promote emerging and local talent. He had been talking with local colleges looking for film submissions, and the Castle seemed an appropriate fit. 

“We don’t teach practical film at the Castle, so the students have no access to equipment or facilities, but I thought I’d give it a go, and set the students to the task,” Dr. Hyland says. “They were only three-minute films after all, so what harm could it do?”

Students immediately began writing scripts and creating storyboards for their short films. The class also worked closely with the festival, with Della Valle holding a workshop at the Castle to give tips on how to finalise their work. 

Dr. Hyland was amazed by how seriously the BISC students took to the challenge. In the end, there were 12 films made, with 10 being screened at the festival.

“It was quite surreal for me, to see the student work being viewed in an art gallery by industry professionals, filmmakers and distributors.” he says.

Not only were these Canadian shorts shown at this UK film festival, but Dragoon, a film that details one students’ fears about standing apart from a crowd, won the prize for best local student short. Filmed on location at the BISC and made by a team comprising Queen’s students Harriet Wright, Amelia Cockerham, Daisy Boyle, Cassie McMeekan, and Gabrielle Oei, Dragoon tells the story of a student (Nicholas Isaacs) struggling to rationalize his gender identity with the pressure to conform to social norms. The film explodes into colour when Nick decides to put on the drag persona Harlotte Webbs. The film was inspired by Nick’s own personal journey of self-discovery. 

“Attending and volunteering at the festival was a very rewarding experience,” says Amelia Cockerham, a first-year Arts and Science student who edited Dragoon. “It was fulfilling to see our film on the big screen and be recognized for our efforts.”

Other films by the BISC team included a film on the pressures of social media, a piece on the psychological effects of bullying, and a personal essay film recreating a day in the life of a student living with a mental health issue. 

“I didn’t know our films were in competition, let alone getting an award,” says Dr. Hyland. “The other winners were big budget films from Romania, Mexico, South Africa and Finland, and there was our Gabrielle on the stage receiving an award for a film shot on a telephone.”    

[Dragoon film by BISC students]
BISC student Nicholas Isaacs performs as alter-ego Harlotte Webbs in Dragoon, created by BISC students Harriet Wright, Amelia Cockerham, Daisy Boyle, Cassie McMeekan, and Gabrielle Oei. The three-minute film won for best local student short at the Crossing the Screen International Film Festival in Eastbourne, Sussex. (Supplied photo)