The Young Women’s Film Academy at Northern Power Futures

The Young Women’s Film Academy opened Northern Power Futures in Newcastle with a discussion about their appearance on ITV News.
We sat down with Clara Sheild, director of Little Big Butterfly CIC, Sarah Ralph, Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at Northumbria University, and Young Women’s Film Academy ambassador and member, Amelia, to discuss how the Academy has helped build the confidence of the young women from the North East and how Crowdfunding has helped raise money for their future projects.
Can you tell our Nothern Power Future readers about what The Young Women’s Film Academy does?

Clara: “The Young Women’s Film Academy is a charity with the aim to enable the opportunity for young women and girls from the North East to come along and make films. We do that through our two outreach programmes. We go into a community and work with a group of girls about an issue that is important to them, and make a film about that. Every other week we run an opportunity on Saturday for all girls, 12+, from the North East area to come together to make films under the expert guidance of female filmmakers that are also from the region.”

What sort of topics and issues do Young Women’s Film Academy cover in your films?

Amelia: “We’ve already covered period poverty but also different issues, like the gender pay gap. What I find interesting are things not a lot of people talk about, like mental health. It’s not talked about in school so it’s nice to have an opportunity to talk about it and make a film about it.”

It’s so refreshing to see someone so young talking about the pay gap! How do you want to encourage people to get involved with YWFA?

Sarah: “People can find us via our various social media outlets! We’ve got a website, we’ve got a Twitter account, and we’re also on Facebook. People can come and find us on there if you’re from the North East and want to get involved.

Perhaps if you’re a young woman from the North East or you know a young woman from the North East, who would like to come and join our film academy every Saturday.

Also, we have a Crowdfunder that we have launched which we were very kindly been invited along to Northern Power Futures to talk about today. We’re trying to raise money for our next film. We’ve achieved our main target of £5000 to make the film but we’re looking at a stretched target of up to £8000 to be able to make packs, take that film out into the community across the North East; to schools, to youth clubs, to community groups, so that the film that these amazing young women have made, they can actually play to other young women and talk about some of the issues raised by it.”

The Crowdfunder for The Young Women’s Film Academy reached its target a few days after their discussion at Northern Power Futures! Sarah shared with us about the film is about and why it is so important they raised the money to make and distribute it.

Sarah: “It is called, What Is Your Super Power? and it’s all about how sometimes superpowers are not as obvious as being able to fly, or being able to turn invisible. Sometimes a superpower is just to be a really good friend. Sometimes you might have an amazing superpower of being able to call out racism, or call out sexism, and say when things are unfair in your high school or your friendship groups. So that’s what the film is about and it’s come from the young women we work with.”

What would you say each other’s superpowers are?

Sarah: “So Clara’s superpower is just amazing passion and drive. She will do anything from the Young Women’s Film Academy, and she will just keep doing it. Her extreme drive to be able to keep on going, no matter what else is going on in her life, and she prioritises the Young Women’s Film Academy first before anything else. I think that is an amazing superpower.”

Clara: “Amelia, without doubt, bravery. The courage she has shown part of this campaign to raise money for the next film, Amelia has just put herself forward and shone as being the voice and the representative of the young women. There are many girls that are really passionate about the film academy but speaking in public, coming along to events like Northern Power Futures, being on the radio, are not things they’re keen on doing.

Amelia steps up and does that brave thing for the other girls, and she’s amazing at it. Like you said before, to be able to articulate, at the age of fifteen, the impact of certain industries on women, the importance of educating other girls, in a peer-mentor type of role, and raising awareness around really, really important and interesting subjects that affect young girls and women, now and for the future. The way that Amelia does that is just phenomenal for her age. We’re very proud of Amelia.”

Amelia: – (to Sarah) “You are so friendly and inviting. The first time I met you at a Saturday group, you were always so friendly. I was so scared to come but when you started talking about it, I thought I want to come. You always talk to people and make us feel like we’re talking to an adult, and not talking to a child.”

Clara: “This is what happens when you bring women together in women-only, safe spaces. That’s really important to us that the environment for being on-set, being a part of the crew, being in our Saturday clubs, is about feeling safe to be yourself, safe to talk about the things that are important to you. That runs right through, from the staff, volunteers and the young women that come along, it’s embedded in our organisation. It’s underpinning on well-being.”

Especially the things that have come to light recently, such as MeToo, and there being so much sexism in the film industry. It’s so refreshing to hear that there are young women who don’t want that and want to change things.

Clara: “I feel like to challenge gender inequality and the way that women are treated within this industry, and all other industries, it needs to start young. The young women need to have the assertive skills, knowledge of the law and know how to call things out. Have the courage and the vocabulary and the words to really be heard. That really needs to be embedded from a young age, that when they enter into an industry, say I know that’s not right and I know the law is on my side, and I know where to go to get the support to advocate for myself and my other female colleagues. I think that’s why we get a lot of support from other female filmmakers, who are older, and wish they had that courage in the early stages of their career. So if we embed that early on with our young filmmakers of the future, they might still be the minority gender in the crew, but they know they have just as equal right to be there.”

Read more blogs here
Northern Power Futures photographs taken by Thomas Jackson at TyneSight Photography
“This is what happens when you bring women together in women-only, safe spaces. That’s really important to us that the environment for being on-set, being a part of the crew, being in our Saturday clubs, is about feeling safe to be yourself, safe to talk about the things that are important to you. That runs right through, from the staff, volunteers and the young women that come along, it’s embedded in our organisation.”

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