A Professional Seminar on the Inclusion of Young People in Film Programming: Young Film Programmers for Young Audiences!

News 2023-06-08

The professional seminar on the inclusion of young people in film programming Young Film Programmers for Young Audiences!, which took place at Kinodvor on 13 and 14 March 2023, was attended by more than 70 film educators, film festival and cinema programmers, youth and cultural workers, policymakers in the fields of culture and education and film education teachers in primary and secondary schools. Over the course of two days, they listened to contributions by national and international experts and had the opportunity to hear the valuable reflections of young programmers, who confidently shared their experience and perspective on the subject.

The focus was on the original Moving Cinema methodology, which has been developed since 2014 by the team of the Catalan organisation A Bao A Qu, with the aim of developing active young audiences. The professional seminar programme involved experts from four foreign international festivals – Vilnius International Short Film Festival (Vilnius, Lithuania), Piccolo Grande Cinema (Milan, Italy), Motovun Film Festival (Motovun, Croatia), Beldocs International Documentary Film Festival (Belgrade, Serbia) – and two cultural organisations working in the field of film education: A Bao A Qu (Barcelona, Spain) and Meno Aviliys (Vilnius, Lithuania).

The experience of implementing participatory activities for young audiences was also presented by the staff of Kinodvor’s Kinotrip film programme, which is based on the principle by the youth for the youth, and by the staff of Kino Otok – Isola Cinema International Film Festival, which regularly involves young programmers in the creation of the programme.

The professional seminar was co-organised by Kino Otok – Isola Cinema International Film Festival, Otok, Institute for Cultural and Social Development and Kinodvor Public Institution. 

The professional seminar was part of the European project Young Programmers for Young Audiences! European Film Festival Network, coordinated by Kino Otok – Isola Cinema International Film Festival with the support of Creative Europe MEDIA. The seminar was co-funded by the European Commission. The content is the sole responsibility of the authors and in no way represents the views of the European Commission.


Moving Cinema: Discovering, Appreciating and Enjoying European Cinema
Núria Aidelman, A Bao A Qu (Spain)

Núria Aidelman of the Spanish organisation A Bao A Qu presented the Moving Cinema methodology, which was launched in 2014. It was inspired by the response of young people who were moved by the films they came into contact with at school screenings. This raised the question of how to enable young people who have discovered a love of cinema to stay in touch with films outside school. The result was Moving Cinema, a project developed not only for young people, but in active collaboration with them. It helps spread the love of European auteur cinema among young people and, through the activities of the Young Programmers programme, enables them to select films for a wide variety of film festivals and thus connect with the festivals and become their loyal audience.

The Moving Cinema project believes that young people are moved by auteur films. It particularly focuses on young people between 12 and 20 years of age as this is the period in which their independence is shaped. This is precisely when they start making their own decisions about their interests and their passions. It takes place both inside and outside school as school is the place that allows individuals to discover film, but it is important to ensure that this interest can also flourish outside the school environment. To this end, they enable young people to work with cinemas, festivals and even online VOD platforms. The aim of the project is to stimulate and nurture interest in film and create lasting ties between young people and films.

The main areas of work of the Moving Cinema project are developing young audiences (screenings, post-screening talks and collaborations with cinemas and festivals), connecting film watching and film making, providing the Inside Cinema online platform, which hosts materials on the filmmaking process, training teachers as important players in passing on an interest in film to young people and working with young film programmers.

Young Programmers is the main emphasis of the project as participation in such activities gives young people a voice, while changing the paradigm of film education work from projects for young people to projects with young people. Essentially, young programmers are young people who watch a few films in several meetings and select one (or more) to be screened in a cinema, at a festival or on a VOD platform. Such an experience teaches young people to become active members of culture. With the process of selection and preparation for the final screening, it allows them to tune into the films they are watching and enables them to become co-responsible for creating audiences at festivals or in cinemas. Films that are selected by young programmers appeal to other young people more than the films that are recommended to them by adults. Many young people visit a particular cinema or festival for the first time thanks to the recommendations of young programmers, tearing down the seeming wall that stands between them and the cinema or festival and also breaking down their prejudices against European cinema. By working as young programmers, young people build confidence and a special bond with the festivals or cinemas that they select films for. They often further participate at the festivals as volunteers, regular visitors or even festival collaborators. The bonds they forge as young programmers are therefore of exceptional importance.

There are various work models within the Young Programmers programme. It can be programming for festivals or cinemas, cinematheques or other venues. As part of the programming, a group of young people meets weekly over a period of time (from several months to a year) and watches 3–12 films, out of which they select one or more to be screened at a festival or cinema. But their work does not end there. They produce various promotional materials for the film (posters, a trailer, brochures, leaflets, promotional texts, social media announcements), present the film before the screening, and can even lead a Q&A session with the filmmaker after the screening. They thus provide an enhanced experience and motivation for the audience to attend the screening.

The project has also produced the Moving Cinema Young Programmers Catalogue, which showcases films that have been selected by young programmers from various countries since 2014 and includes both contemporary and classic films.

The selection of films to be watched by young programmers does not have to be specifically aimed at young people. We must have trust in the ability of young people to understand complex films. It is essential that they have enough time to reflect after watching the films. Before they start discussing the films with others, they are encouraged to take a few minutes to write down their feelings and observations. Only then can a dialogue be initiated. In this process, young people are encouraged to evaluate films beyond the simple “I like it” or “I don’t like it”. It is vital for them to have enough time to learn how to express themselves and talk about the film and to reflect on how the film spoke to them. The mentor also has an important role to play in this process; they have to create a safe environment in which each member of the group can speak up and share their observations and, at the same time, use their knowledge to draw attention to film language, such as light and colour, and not just the action. If possible, the group should meet a filmmaker as this creates a new relationship with film and provides an important experience for both the young people and the filmmaker. If meeting a filmmaker is not possible, young people should read a text written by a specific filmmaker or watch other films by that filmmaker to get to know them in a different way. The group ultimately selects the film to be screened at a festival or in a cinema by reaching a consensus through discussions and never by voting.

Moving Cinema: Connecting the Watching and the Making of Films

Núria Aidelman, A Bao A Qu (Spain)

The practical workshop presented three fundamental starting points of the methodology developed in the Moving Cinema project that can encourage young people to connect with cinema in a personal and active way: (1) the link between watching and making films, (2) the observation of our immediate environment and (3) reflective creation with the use of mobile phones that young people have at hand. 

A major part of the workshop was devoted to observing light as creation starts with observation. We first observed it in photographs that were prepared in advance and then on another person’s face. We reflected on what natural light is usually like in classrooms. How does it enter the classroom? Where do we see it? When? We realised that we had no answers to many of our questions. We seem to only pay attention to light when we have problems with it – for example, when we want to watch a film, but it is too bright. 

After that, we watched a film excerpt, paying attention to the light on the faces. The screening was followed by a discussion. What is the light like? How does it change? What is the relation between the face and the light? What are the contrasts like? Are the colours warm or cool? Do we also notice any lack of light? What does this evoke in the viewer? Where does the light come from? Where is the female character standing? Where is the light? How do they move? What about the camera and framing? The exercise was repeated in three groups, each commenting on a different excerpt.

We then split into four groups and started filming the scene of the light on the face. We did not create a story, but simply captured natural light on the face. We started by observing the light and the space and only then put a person in the frame and started filming. Then we watched the videos and each group also reported on their experience. We discovered that there are many things to pay attention to when filming: the position of the camera and the person, the shadows, the eyes… Even though the scene is short, the filming process is complex. The group has to make a lot of decisions, for example, who will be the director, who will be the cameraperson, who will act in the scene. The participants agreed that this kind of creation is a unique experience that also influences the way we watch films.

Instructions for the workshop with students can be found on the Moving Cinema website.

Practices of Including Young People in Film Programming 

Representatives of national and international festivals and cinemas shared their experience of actively including young film programmers in the creation of film programmes.

Núria Aidelman of the cultural organisation A Bao A Qu (Spain) worked with the first generation of Moving Cinema’s young programmers already back in 2015. The first groups of young programmers operated in Barcelona, Lisbon and Vilnius, with mentors collaborating and exchanging their experience. The first film festival they collaborated with was the Seville European Film Festival, while, last year, the young programmers from past generations teamed up to create the Young Programmers Festival. A particular challenge was the time of the pandemic and working with young people who selected films for a VOD platform at that time. After lockdowns, the young people made it their challenge to bring audiences back to the cinemas in the largest possible numbers, so they accompanied the screenings with supporting events. They continue to work with numerous young programmers of past generations, which shows that working in such a team forges strong bonds that extend beyond the duration of the project. You can follow young programmers from Spain on their Instagram profile @joves_programadors. 

Gintė Žulytė of the cultural organisation Meno Avilys (Lithuania) presented the work of young programmers in Lithuania. They prepare programmes for cinemas and all the main film festivals in the country. The way the cooperation works is that the programmers of individual festivals select ten films from the Moving Cinema catalogue, out of which the young programmers then choose one or two for their festival. She stressed the importance of young programmers being involved in the entire festival, not just in the screenings they have prepared themselves. For instance, it is also important for them to attend festival openings and closings, so that they can really start to feel part of the festival team and get the opportunity to network, which is often a good stepping stone to kick-start their careers. A camp for young programmers from different minority groups was also organised in Lithuania, which has proven to be a very positive experience. They were tasked with selecting films on the topic of freedom and chose three, which they then presented in schools. Such an event confirmed that film is indeed a powerful tool to open up a space for debate and bring people together.

Ana Cerar of the Kino Otok – Isola Cinema International Film Festival (Slovenia) presented the way they work with young film programmers in Slovenia. In the past two years, they have joined forces with the Slovenian Cinematheque in Ljubljana and gathered a group of young people who watched five films at weekly meetings and selected one to be screened at Kino Otok – Isola Cinema International Film Festival. Last year, a group of young programmers was formed in Slovenian Istria and they chose a film to be screened at Kino IstraCinema Istria, which screens films in various places in Istria that do not have art cinemas. The young programmers from Ljubljana had to consider a selectoion for a wide international audience, while the Istrian programmers had to think about how to attract the local audience. Ana Cerar particularly highlighted the differences between the two groups of young people: those from Ljubljana had already had a lot of access to various cultural activities, whereas those in Slovenian Istria were less exposed to it, therefore it took them longer to open up, but they proved their commitment and provided valuable experience for both the programme providers and the visitors of Kino IstraCinema Istria

Aleksandra Vušurović of the Beldocs International Documentary Film Festival (Serbia) presented the four-year experience of young programmers from Belgrade, whose distinction is that they select exclusively documentary films. Although the festival had already had a youth programme, it was upgraded in 2020 with the introduction of young programmers, who watch and discuss many documentaries over the course of a month and select several films to be screened in the festival’s youth section. It is particularly exciting that the films they select are then premiered in Serbia. As the festival is competition-based, there is also a teen jury, which chooses the winning film of the programme. Last year, the film chosen by the young programmers closed the festival, which was a special honour and responsibility for them. The young programmers from Serbia were also the first to make a TikTok video for promotional purposes.

Živa Jurančič, the head of the Kinotrip programme and festival (Slovenia), presented her work with young people who have been creating the Kinotrip international film festival for the past seven years, based on the by the youth for the youth principle. During the Kinotrip festival, young people take over Kinodvor and its screen for a few days. The way that Kinotrip differs from the young film programmers’ models described above is that it was initiated by Kinodvor, which recognises the importance of educating film lovers and cinema-goers and building strong ties with them. When they launched the programme, they asked themselves why young people go to the cinema and realised that it was not only about watching films, but especially about sharing the experience with others. 92 high school students aged between 15 and 19 have participated in the creation of Kinotrip over seven generations. Every year, a new group of very diverse young people is selected to meet throughout the year and learn about the entire process of creating a film festival, which they then organise it synergy with Kinodvor’s staff. When selecting films for the festival, they also adhere to the rule that films are not to be selected by voting and that they are to create a festival that can attract a diverse audience. They are also involved in the production of festival materials and are included in all operational as well as promotional activities. They are currently looking forward to the 8th edition of the festival, which will take place in autumn.

Valuable insights were also shared by the young programmers from three different groups: the Kino Otok – Isola Cinema International Film Festival, the Kino Istra – Cinema Istria project and the Kinotrip festival. They explained that through film they can build relationships with other generations as film allows them to share their understanding of the world with others. When selecting films, they find it essentials that they deal with important issues, are not clichéd and are thought-provoking. Participating in the group of young programmers provides them with a responsibility and an opportunity to broaden their horizons, to become part of a group and to establish new friendships. In the process, they give a lot of thought to ways of mobilising others. Although social networks are important, word-of-mouth is still the most effective way of promotion as personal invitations have the greatest impact. Also very relevant is the role of the school and specific teachers, who encourage extra-curricular activities and support young people in discovering their interests.

They stressed that the experience of participating in the young programmers project is not just about the films as it provides them with an enormous amount of new experience, which is important for their lives and their future careers. By working together, they also learned how to organise, take responsibility and conduct promotional activities (recording a podcast, creating leaflets, writing texts). When they tried to inspire others to attend a screening or take part in the project, they also learned how to approach people. Through conversations with guests and creators, they trained their public speaking skills and their ingenuity when it came to adapting their questions to the answers in front of a large audience. They also pointed out that the young programmers project really taught them how to work as a team – unlike school group projects, where they just divide up the work with their classmates, here, they had to think together and listen to each other. This experience has also allowed them to discover new interests as they have discovered many different aspects of working in a cinema or at a festival. They believe that they have made connections that could benefit them in their future careers, but, most importantly, they felt like they were doing something that mattered. That their film choice can make a difference in someone else’s life. They are therefore convinced that such an experience should be available to young people everywhere, not only in Ljubljana and Slovenian Istria.

They noted that they sensed a lack of encouragement in schools for cultural activities outside school. The role of the mentor was also discussed. They described the ideal mentor as someone who guides, motivates and sparks interest. There may not always be full understanding, but there has to be a perception of being equal. The mentor must be able to create a space where young people can express themselves. They concluded with the important observation that while mentors are the ones who provide the initial motivation, it is their responsibility to approach the task with initiative, respect and responsibility.

First Steps in Including Young People in Film Programming
Panel discussion

The panel discussion, which brought together representatives of film festivals and young film programmers, sought to answer the question of how to build on the established practice of programming for young audiences by including young film programmers. The speakers were Inja Korać (Motovun Film Festival, Croatia), Rimantė Daugėlaitė (Vilnius International Short Film Festival, Lithuania) and Simone Moraldi (Piccolo Grande Cinema, Italy), who are just starting to include young people in the creation of film programmes, and young programmers Maksim (Kino Istra – Cinema Istria) and Ajda (Kinotrip), who enriched the discussion with their valuable insights and experience. The discussion was moderated by Tanja Hladnik, Director of Kino Otok – Isola Cinema International Film Festival.

The festival representatives agreed that including young people in the creation of film programmes is of the utmost importance. Simone Moraldi is part of the Piccolo Grande Cinema, the only participant in the project specialising in young people and families. The festival’s staff therefore already have much experience with young audiences, but as they are continuously seeking innovative ways to attract new audiences, they consider the introduction of young programmers to be a very positive new feature. The Motovun Film Festival staff are also aware of the importance of educating the audience. Their representative Inja Korać stressed the importance of starting with small steps – if young people are used to American blockbusters, they will find experimental films overwhelming and so the desired effect will not be achieved. Rimantė Daugėlaitė of the Vilnius International Short Film Festival said they were delighted to revive the young programmers project, which they had integrated into the festival as early as 2015. As they believe that including young people in film programming has a great added value, they are reviving the practice. They are very much looking forward to giving young people the opportunity to experience the festival as part of the team and thus benefiting from their unique perspective on the festival.

The young programmers add that participating in the creation of film programmes gives them great power to select films they find important. They believe that films have the power to build intergenerational respect and understanding. As cinema audiences, young people often focus on the story, but, through their participation in the young programmers project, they have learned to notice other aspects of films, to appreciate them more and to be more critical at the same time. However, they also emphasised that young people are not a homogeneous group, but are very diverse and should be treated as such.

Are there any dilemmas in including young people in the creation of film programmes? Festival representatives do not see any. Rimantė Daugėlaitė pointed out that it is a mistake to think that young people will only choose films about young people, because they enjoy watching a wide variety of film forms and genres, including films about adults. As young people are very dedicated to the selection process, it is a great advantage for the festival to have such a carefully curated programme. She believes it is important to respect young people and to believe that they are capable and competent. Inja Korać added that many film festivals in Croatia increasingly more often include young people, especially students, who often only thereby experience the work at a festival. Simone Moraldi also expressed his trust in the methodology of young film programmers developed by the Moving Cinema project. He added, however, that the problem in Italy is that many places are remote, so the challenge is primarily related to the means of reaching young people.

Young programmers agree that there are no major dilemmas in including young people in the creation of film programmes. They stressed that they wanted to be part of something, but unfortunately did not get many opportunities to do so. The Young Programmers project offered them a way to be heard. For those who were hesitant about taking part, the young programmers assured that no in-depth knowledge of film was required, just motivation and a willingness to actively participate.

The festival representatives agreed that it is important to foster discussion among young people and to provide young programmers with good mentors who can create a space where everyone feels welcome. Inja Korać pointed out that school often lacked the time for young people to express their opinions, but, for young programmers, that is crucial. The only rule for expressing one’s opinion is to support it with arguments. As disagreement is part of programming, mentors need to keep this in mind at all times. Rimantė Daugėlaitė added that a mentor has great power, which should be expressed through asking questions, not through sharing opinions and advice. Simone Moraldi concluded that when it comes to young programmers, it is precisely this process of thinking about films that matters more than the end result.

Young programmers also agreed that a mentor has to be someone who guides them and points them in the right direction, not someone who simply hands them all the answers. While they have to create a safe space and provide the initial motivation, the responsibility then lies in the hands of the young programmers. “Give us responsibility. We will not let you down!” they concluded as they joined the festival representatives in their excitement about the expansion of the Young Film Programmers project, which they all eagerly talk about with anyone who is prepared to listen.