INTERVIEW: YOUNG WOMEN’S FILM ACADEMY | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It’s been a real challenge to adapt,” Clara Shield, the operations and development manager of the Young Women’s Film Academy (YWFA) says of the COVID-19 crisis. Founded in 2010, the YWFA is a registered charity whose mission is to work with young women across the North East to develop their filmmaking skills. “We work with girls who have never done anything like this before, and help them to express their lived experiences as women through film,” says Clara, who has been involved with the charity since its conception. The brainchild of actor Charlie Hardwick and filmmaker Emily Barber, the YWFA is the only all-female academy in the UK. The charity’s volunteers and members are also all female, a fact which Clara notes has helped the charity in the face of the current crisis. “I’m struck by the strength and resilience women have in adjusting to different scenarios,” she notes.

Indeed, the YWFA has been adept at adjusting to the new challenges they face. “We’d been working on this film for a while,” reflects Clara, who helps the Academy produce a film every year. “We filmed in February and got it edited in time for March. The premiere was supposed to fit around International Women’s Day.” 

The film Clara refers to is the YWFA’s latest offering: Ms Venture’s School for Super Lasses, which was made by the Academy’s Saturday Club alongside writer Fiona Evans. Whilst the premiere had to be cancelled, the YWFA has risen to the challenge, and the film will now premiere on 29th May on online platforms. Ms Venture’s School For Super Lasses is about a group of young women with extraordinary superpowers. The short film captures friendship, self-confidence and self-growth through the wacky guidance of their head mistress and is full of excitement and curiosity.

We just need to think about how to use technology in different ways. If we can’t find a way then we’ll make a way

Clara emphasises that the Academy’s members are keen to keep producing films, despite the circumstances. A key challenge for the Academy is that due to lockdown they are unable to access the equipment they would normally use. Instead, the YWFA has offered the girls online training which has resulted in their #LifeinLockdown Transatlantic Connections Project. “We think it’s really important for the girls to chronicle their experience of lockdown,” says Clara, who came up with the project after seeing blogs from Italy and Spain. Working in tandem with girls living in California, the YWFA has taught the girls how to utilise their smartphones for filmmaking. “Our girls are used to using really nice kit,” Clara says, “so instead, we’ve taught them how to film from smartphones, use voice recordings and how to edit with apps. I know the girls will look back and be really pleased that they’ve been able to record their experiences in this way.” Already the project is generating considerable interest, with the potential for it to expand to include participants from different countries. 

The enthusiasm of the girls involved is something which impresses Clara. “They’re already keen to develop next year’s film,” Clara says. “They want it to be an intergenerational film project working with older people, with older women sharing their experience of being a teenager.” Considering the circumstances, this project seems like a challenge, but Clara insists the girls are up to it. “We just need to think about how to use technology in different ways. If we can’t find a way then we’ll make a way.”

Watch Ms Venture’s School for Super Lasses via the YWFA website from 29th May, alongside other work produced by the Academy

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