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BA (Hons) Film and Screen Studies student curates screening for Open City Documentary Festival

A red graphic which reads 'Open City Documentary Festival'.
A red graphic which reads 'Open City Documentary Festival'.
Image credit: Open City Documentary Festival 2021.
Written by
Chloe Murphy
Published date
07 October 2021

The world of the evolving and emerging screen industries stretches far beyond film production. From commissioning and curation to exhibition and distribution, being able to explore a broad range of areas in the sharing, promotion and analysis of film is key to developing the discipline.

At London College of Communication (LCC), our BA (Hons) Film and Screen Studies course supports students to explore the rich, global history of the moving image. Expert tutors and industry insight helps them to build their knowledge and experience through a combination of contextual units and practical workshops, and they graduate as insightful, analytical creatives who are both commercially minded and ethically aware.

Earlier this year, Year 1 students were given the opportunity to explore the practice of curation through their ‘Creative technologies for storytelling’ unit. After being invited to develop concepts for their own theoretical community screenings, one student was then given the opportunity to showcase their resulting work at the Open City Documentary Festival, which provides an open space to cultivate and champion the art of creative documentary and non-fiction filmmaking. Situated in UCL’s Department of Anthropology, it offers a platform to both emerging talent and established masters working across the form.

This year’s chosen screening from Victoria Gogolinski, A Story, a Battle and An Excuse, was organised in partnership with the London Community Video Archive (LCVA) and showcased 3 films from the 1970s that shared stories of local communities campaigning for better play spaces. With a focus on determination, empowerment and collective action, the event was complimented by a live panel with Founder and Director of Red Roots Incubator Agnieszka Rolkiewicz; filmmaker and researcher Ed Webb-Ingall; and artist and urban researcher Henrietta Williams, who together discussed the continued resonance of such themes in contemporary society.

We caught up with Victoria to discuss her journey towards the field of film and screen studies, the process of curating a Festival screening, and her experience of studying remotely over the past year.

A still of a street sign.
Image credit: The Amazing History of Talacre (1974), courtesy of the London Community Video Archive.

Have you always been interested in film, or is this an area you’ve moved towards over time?

I’ve always loved and been intrigued by film.

When I was younger, the filmmaking process was shrouded in mystery for me as I didn’t really research the moving image or different creative processes, but in secondary school, I took a semester in film where my classes were taught by a director. During this time, I learned about filmmaking techniques, genres and the basics of directing, and with time, I realised that this was a possible area I could study or even work in one day.

At the same time, I also started getting interested in stage performance, which led to me undertaking theatre and acting courses. I believe these gave me some insight into other aspects of the moving image. Then, when I was in high school, I took a train across the country to be an extra in a World War II film in order to be on a working film set and to observe the process up close, which was a great opportunity.

Why did you apply to BA (Hons) Film and Screen Studies at LCC?

During my last year of high school, I decided that I wanted to study film, so I began researching potential universities and degrees which offered the subject. In 2019, I attended a great acting course at Central St Martins (CSM), which helped me to learn more about and experience the environment of UAL. I then looked at the university’s film-related BA degree courses, and came across BA (Hons) Film and Screen Studies.

Overall, there’s a wide range of film courses available in London; however, this course caught my interest as it was truly refreshing to read about the wide range of topics that we would cover. This wasn't only in terms of film history, but also the involvement and impact of politics, culture and theory. It seemed more rounded.

As it stands, I would like to move into film production, and so I thought that a course where I could learn about distribution, curation and film exhibition would provide me with fundamental knowledge for the future. The course overview stated that we would research new and growing screen industries, view a wide programme of films and work on our investigative analysis skills, so I came to the conclusion that this BA offered the perfect starting point for me.

A still of a woman answering the telephone.
Image credit: London Community Video Archive.

Where did you first find out about the opportunity to work with the Open City Documentary Festival, and why did you decide to take part?

I heard about the Festival from my Senior Lecturer, Ed Webb-Ingall, during one of our lectures. Each class member was asked to create a theoretical screening event by choosing films relating to a specific topic from the London Community Video Archive (LCVA). We were asked to give our screenings a title and summary before presenting the full proposal during our next lecture.

We then learned that one of our screenings would be chosen for the Festival, and it happened to be mine which was so thrilling! It would be presented at the Genesis Cinema in east London, and in the months leading up to the event, I emailed Ed to discuss things like who could appear on the panel as a guest speaker.

What inspired your initial ideas for your screening, and how did you develop them further?

Based on our task, I knew that the screening had to involve a specific theme and last no more than 1 and a half hours. I started by reading summaries of the films on the LCVA website before watching them, and quickly came across documentaries made by action groups and organisations like Inter-Action and Liberation Films. Their productions focused on the struggles between local communities and councils around their immediate environment and community facilities: for example, I discovered a story where a neighbourhood asked for investment into play sites so that children and adults could interact in a safe, pleasant environment. I thought that a screening on this topic would bring attention to such matters which still occur today.

The Amazing Story of Talacre was one of the first films I watched, and what captured my attention was the way the community expressed itself, and how vital it was to listen and understand their point of view. You could feel their raw anger and disappointment; however, their determination to create a safe place was strong and inspiring. Inter-Action played a key role in pressuring the Council as their creative engagement with children and the community allowed for an even bigger impact. I also came across All You Need's an Excuse and The Battle for Powis Square, which together developed the full screening by sharing the theme of community and the importance of advocating for everyone’s needs.

From there, I created the title, which was a process of trial and error. I’d write down film titles and quotes and play around with them, and eventually linked the words ‘story’, ‘battle’ and ‘excuse’ as they are synonymous to the message of the films.

What were the highlights of the experience for you?

I think that each stage of the process had its highlights.

Choosing the films was really eye-opening, as I came across other films from the LCVA that I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

I also learned a little about how screenings can be used to educate viewers and inspire them to reflect on key issues.

Still of a newspaper headline.
Image credit: The Battle for Powis Square (1973), courtesy of the London Community Video Archive.

What have you most enjoyed about your time as an LCC student so far?

My first year of study was fully online due to Covid, so I couldn’t fully experience the College and meet people as I would have liked. In the beginning, I was a little anxious about that – however, soon after attending my first online lectures, I realised that there were many other students in a similar position, and I simply had to make the best of the situation.

I think having significant resources available online such as UAL’s Library Services has made the experience much easier. Moreover, everyone has been truly supportive and engaged, which has meant that I’ve felt more relaxed about not being onsite.

I’m a little nervous about starting my second year, but happy that I’ll be able to appreciate the College much more. Even though the mode of learning will still be blended, I'll have the opportunity to be there!

Who would you recommend BA (Hons) Film and Screen Studies to?

I think Film and Screen Studies is a great course for anyone who is passionate about moving image and the deeper aspects of film. We learn the practical aspects of exhibition and distribution - such as organising screening events and festivals - as well as theory, so I’d say that this is the right choice for anyone who aims to pursue a career in this industry.

Even if you’re not sure exactly which direction you want to head towards in future, this course might help you to identify it!

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