Anthony Chalmers: working with young people

Anthony Chalmers, Project Coordinator here at GMAC Film, has had an interest in filmmaking from an early age, as well as a rich background in youth work. However, he did not always know he would end up combining the two. 

Since September 2019, Anthony has been at the forefront of one of our most recent youth projects – this year’s “BFI Film Academy”. Run all over the country by film and youth organisations, the BFI-funded project is a fourteen-week learning programme, introducing young people to technical aspects of filmmaking, as well as the development of a story into a short film. I had a lovely chat with Anthony, in which he told me more about the programme, revealed how he arrived at GMAC Film and reflected on his experience of working with young people.

What is it that you do on a regular basis within the organisation?

Lisa Doherty, the Project Manager, and I make up the Projects Team. My job is assisting her in the development of the projects in any way that I can. Lisa is the one at the top, managing all the projects, while I am the one delivering them. Lisa doesn’t come from a film background, but I do, so I’m the one leading the participants.

Since September you’ve been delivering the “BFI Film Academy” project, working with 20 young people. Can you tell me about the structure of the programme?

The BFI is run slightly differently from our Summer School: it runs weekly on a Saturday and all the young people get training in most of the different fields. Everybody gets technical training on camera, sound and lights; this year they’ve also been receiving editing training at the RCS (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), our partners for the project. The first few weeks were very much a general introduction to film, based around training and development; then the participants started coming up with ideas for a script, followed by the actual making of a short film. Finally, we have the editing, evaluation and then… we screen it.

Who has been around for the delivery of the programme?

I am the one who’s been running it week to week. I’ve got a colleague, Douglas King, who’s been coming in as a freelancer to assist me; he worked with us on the Summer School as well. We also have an intern, Kacie, who’s actually a former student from our Summer School. We really enjoyed working with her at the time and she’s been looking for some work experience, so we asked her to intern for us. 

So, you’ve been stepping into the teacher’s shoes… 

Yeah, I do the general teaching of the process. For the more technical side of things we have industry guests. For example, we have a sound mentor and a cinematography tutor teaching us the creative side of cinematography. It’s really learning by doing.

As a filmmaker myself it’s nice to teach, because you’re only going to learn more by teaching; you keep cementing ideas in your head…

I know this is not your first time delivering a youth filmmaking programme. Is youth engagement an interest of yours?

I fell into youth work by accident. When I was younger, I used to go to a lot of clubs. After I left university, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to make films, but I never studied film. I’m from Irvine; Lindsey, the youth worker, back there approached me to do some sessional work; I started with some general youth work and I really enjoyed it. From that, because of my interest in filmmaking, she and I came up with a five-month filmmaking pilot programme for the young people in Irvine. It was at that time I reached out to GMAC for advice; I ended up being asked to do freelancing for them and eventually I got this full-time job at GMAC.

Youth engagement is something I really enjoy. It’s very refreshing to work with young people – many fresh ideas. It’s nice to get out of the filmmaking bubble as well.

So, it’s been benefiting you both personally and professionally…

Definitely. It’s a rewarding thing to do. I enjoy helping the young people in any small way. Sometimes in youth work, you know… young people are not necessarily the ones to say ‘thanks’ or to specify how things have changed them; but there are these small moments that you notice that make it all worth it. So, it’s rewarding…

Since you were involved in similar youth activities while you were growing up, what do you think are the main benefits for a young person in signing up for such programmes? 

On the one hand, for someone with a genuine interest in film, I think the main benefits are learning and the opportunity to build a network. You’re going to meet people in the industry, who could remember you and get in touch with you to collaborate in the future. 

On the other hand, from a general youth work perspective, it’s a great way for young people to develop personal skills and confidence; they are exposed to teamwork – I think film in particular is a great way to that, due to its collaborative nature. 

Do you think that film is becoming a more popular interest to pursue nowadays?

It definitely seems popular. There’s the idea of people now getting to do things easily online and on their phones – that’s quite a clichéd thing to say. But people are indeed pursuing it more. A lot of young people that I have worked with… they want to be YouTubers. They don’t really think of it as filmmaking, they just want to be on YouTube and make money through that. But I’m glad there’s an interest among young people. People could easily grow up thinking that it’s a pipe dream getting into in the arts, but there are lots of jobs in the industry. I’m not saying that it is an easy industry to get into, it certainly isn’t, but it’s really not all about the writers and the directors. For example, you could end up being in charge of locations; there are so many different departments…

What is next for you professionally? Any particular plans or projects?

The “BFI” is the biggest thing on the list for now. I’m also one of the organisers of the Glasgow Film Crew, which is a weekly meeting for independent filmmakers of any experience level. I still do filmmaking myself; I hope to continue developing as a filmmaker and make short films.