Interview with Zoe Naylor, Reel Solutions

Zoe Naylor is from Reel Solutions, who work in partnership with Storyhouse to deliver the BFI Film Academy every October.

Please can you tell us a bit about reel solutions and your partnership with Storyhouse?

Reel Solutions is a small dedicated team of film professionals passionate about film and passing on our many years of experience to others to help train the next generation of filmmakers as well as helping to solve problems, big or small to support a range of local and national organisations in the UK’s independent film sector including cinemas, event organisers, education providers and rural cinema operators. We have delivered BFI Film Academies since the scheme started over 10 years ago in several different locations around the North of England. It’s a real privilege to have been able to support so many talented young people during that time and see their careers in film flourish. This will be our 6th year helping deliver an Academy in partnership with Storyhouse and it’s always our favourite – the team are fantastic, the building is an amazing space to work in and we focus on immersive filmmaking using 360° cameras. To see participants year after year getting to grips so creatively with this new format of filmmaking is so rewarding. We were the first Academy in the UK to focus on this new area of film and have had some really strong partnerships with the University of Chester and Cheshire College in developing the course structure and seen them pioneer and use 360° filmmaking within their own courses.


As part of the academy, the young filmmakers make their own film. Do they work to a theme or brief or do they come up with their own film concepts?

The BFI Film Academy Chester is structured as close to the industry model of filmmaking as we could make it in a week – everything happens so much quicker though and it always blows us away that participants create several amazing short films in the space of only 2 weeks. They are supported by film professionals, Executive Producers or Script Editors to develop a story idea for a short film and pitch these ideas to the group who then choose two or three films to make over the next 2 weeks. Participants do everything themselves, learning from industry specialists who pass on their knowledge and experience, so they will write a script, complete all the pre-production stages which includes everything from casting and developing shot lists to learning how to use the kit and risk assessing their film shoots. All the films are shot in 1 day followed by 2 days of editing. Participants also organise their own showcase screenings at the Storyhouse using VR headsets to premiere their films and work towards gaining a Silver Arts Award qualification.


Can you tell us a bit more about the VR aspect of the filmmaking?

VR stands for Virtual Reality and as mentioned, all the films made during the Academy are shot on 360° cameras which means you can see everything around you, as if you’d been dropped right into the middle of the action and not just what the filmmakers have chosen to show us on a flat cinema screen as is the case in more traditional filmmaking. Because we have captured a 360° moving image, the films need to be viewed in a VR headset – once on, it’s like you have been transported into a scene – you can see in front of you, behind you, above you, everywhere in fact. VR is relatively new in filmmaking – when we started the Academy back in 2017 it was a really new technology but it is becoming much more commonplace now and is used a lot in gaming, training and in filmmaking it’s developing all the time – shooting a film with a virtual 360° filmed backdrop, or ‘virtual production’ is now a big thing in film production so the experience participants gain at the Academy will really help them with careers in these new exciting areas of industry growth.

What’s your favourite part of working on the BFI Film Academy?

Knowing you have played even a tiny part in igniting someone’s interest in a career in film, or supporting them with helping build their confidence, getting to grips with technical aspects of filmmaking or making important contacts and all the many different things that young people gain from attending our courses is always the most rewarding part of working on the Academy. Young brains are so creative and so digitally adept, I never ceased to be amazed by the talent of these future generations of filmmakers and I know that the future of the film industry is safe in their hands.


Who can apply? Do you need to have any previous experience or equipment?

Anyone aged 16-19 can apply for the BFI Film Academy so long as they aren’t currently enrolled on a university course (that’s the only restriction imposed by our funder). No previous experience in filmmaking is needed – loads of people attend never having picked up a film camera before, an interest in film or being creative is all that’s required. We have just finished our Academy in Chester for 2022 but we hope to run another at the Storyhouse in the October half term in 2023. If you can’t wait that long, we are about to run an Academy in Bradford and applications are open now here