The Flux Film Festival was started four years ago by a film teacher and student at Beijing City International School (BCIS) who wanted to create a showcase for student films.
“They recognized that kids were making films, but there was no outlet for them to stage them, or show them to judges who knew what they were talking about,” says Alan Fleming, an English and Humanities teacher at BCIS who is helping a student committee organize the festival this year. “This year, we are trying to establish a framework for the festival to make it more maintainable and sustainable going forward. But our main focus is always giving kids a platform to show their films to the world.”
Fleming, who hails from Sydney, has been in Beijing for the past six years. He worked in dispute resolution at a bank until his now-wife got a job in China as an environmentalist for the Australian government. “As soon as I started teaching here, I realized this was what I wanted to be,” he says. The family went home for the birth of their daughter Ellie (now 16 months) before returning to Beijing.
Although Fleming insists he has no film-making skills, he’s passionate about the medium. This year, he got his Grade 8 students to make narrative short films for a unit on horror in English. “When you invite kids to take something they’ve written and turn it into a movie, it really motivates them,” he says. “Their level of enthusiasm shifts up a gear.”
The Flux Film Festival has six categories: narrative, animated, documentary, public service announcements and commercials, music videos, and “sweded” films. “A sweded film is a comedy remake of an established movie. The idea was inspired by the movie Be Kind Rewind,” says Fleming. “Kids can practice making films without having to come up with a plot. We have one film which is a remake of a famous scene from Jaws, with kids in the classroom pretending to be in the ocean, pretending to be a shark. It’s hilarious.”
The six categories are further broken down by age range: elementary school, middle school, high school, and adults. Last year the festival had hundreds of submissions. Some categories are more popular than others; Flux generally receives many animation submissions and fewer narrative films. “We break down the categories by age to encourage kids of all ages to submit,” Fleming says. “They know they’ll only be judged against their peers.”
This year, Flux is partnering with an Italian Film Festival called Quindici 19 run by a high school in Rome. The schools are cross-promoting their festivals and sharing finalists. Fleming and the BCIS student committee are enlisting judges from the film industry in China. “Making a film and showing it to your class is great, but showing it to professionals to receive critique and feedback makes for more learning, and more motivation,” he says.
Minghui Tai (age 16) is one of the committee members organizing the festival. Originally from Malaysia, she has been living in Beijing for two years. The committee formed in November 2014 and began calling for submissions in December by reaching out to schools in Beijing, China, and overseas through the Flux website, Facebook page, and personal contacts. Although she isn’t into film-making herself, Minghui is interested in film theory. “Volunteering has provided me with a great opportunity to work with others and take an active role in planning and managing an event,” she says.
Daisy Zheng (16) is a native Beijinger and the daughter of the writer Yuanjie Zheng. She runs the film club at BCIS and has made several movies this year alone. “This summer I joined the New York Film Academy and made two films at the summer camp. Back at school, I made another two films on inspiring teenagers through visual storytelling for my personal project,” she says. “I’m submitting movies to Flux because I want to study filmmaking at university and go into the film industry. This is a great way to get experience, network with film makers at other schools, and to potentially collaborate with them. It allows me to meet more people with the same passions.”
“The movies don’t have to be technically brilliant. It’s about finding a way to express yourself,” says Fleming. It’s a sentiment that Daisy echoes. “Film-making is a practice. The more films you make, the better you get. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, just give it a shot.”
Submissions are due by April 9, 2015 and the finalists’ films will be screened at BCIS’s Spring in the City event on May 9. To find out more and download the submission forms, visit the BCIS website at www.bcis.cn.
This article originally appeared on page 44-45 of the March 2015 issue of beijingkids. Click here for your free online copy. To find out how to obtain a hard copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org