We sat down for a chat with Audra Merrick, the new Head of Sparks Film School Glasgow South.
Glasgow South is the newest Sparks Film School to open up and will welcome young filmmakers to filmmaking courses, classes and camps from summer 2023.
As a lifelong creative, Audra is passionate about helping young filmmakers to flourish. Find out more about Audra’s journey and her ambitions for young filmmakers in Glasgow in our interview below.
Audra, what do you find inspirational about youth filmmaking?
I think young people are natural storytellers. They all have their own favourite stories, movies, shows and I love to see how they apply their own dreams, fears, ideas, and passions to their own stories. I love to see how children and young people of all different backgrounds can work together towards a common creative goal!
What can young filmmakers expect at Sparks Film School Glasgow South?
In short, fun! Whether they are coming in with some filmmaking knowledge or none at all, whether they have stories in their mind they want to tell, or even if want to try out something new and creative, I think it’s an exciting chance for young filmmakers to learn about all the different roles that happen on a set. They’ll get the chance to collaborate with other young people, create a film they can be proud of, and create something to show off to their family and their friends!
What skills do you think will be important for young people coming in who may be thinking about having a career in film in the future?
I don’t think anyone needs to have a particular skill to start with. For example, when a child first arrives into a filmmaking camp or class there is no prerequisite, we don’t require any existing knowledge. Some of the skills they will gain from taking part will be learning how to really communicate a story clearly, visual literacy, collaboration, perseverance and project planning. They will learn how you can have a vision for a project and to see it through from the beginning to the end. These are all really important skills for a career in film or media.
I love that idea of perseverance. I think that is something really important in today’s world…
Yes, and a hot topic right now is resilience. Working on projects where you don’t know exactly how everything is going to happen, I think is a great way to face challenges in a low stress environment and help the young people build up that resilience.
What are your dreams for Sparks Film School Glasgow South?
My dream is that any young person who wants to have a creative outlet, whether it’s something they want to try for a camp or a whole term or even a few years. My dream is that anyone in Glasgow who is creative, or who is interested in film can come along and create work they are really proud of and form lasting friendships with others who share the same passion.
What excites you about leading Sparks Film School in Glasgow?
There are a lot of really cool, exciting, creative things happening in Glasgow. There are lots of opportunities for young filmmakers to learn how to perform or develop sports skills already, so adding this opportunity to create and learn about filmmaking is a wonderful addition to the creative activity that is happening here.
A lot of folks know Glasgow as a filmmaking city with lots of productions made here, and for young people who are interested in that to have that local inspiration and the opportunity to grow into the industry is a fantastic opportunity.
Glasgow is a very creative city. What do you love about living in Glasgow?
Glasgow has got so many amazing opportunities to see and participate in art and creativity. There is great film happening here and being shown at places like the Glasgow Film Theatre. There’s great art being created at the art school and the different galleries. There’s amazing food happening from people all around the world! It’s so friendly and I love that it is so vibrant in so many ways. If it’s anything from music to sport, there is a community here waiting to welcome you in! It’s just wonderful.
Why do you think young people should learn how to make films?
Young people have stories to tell and really valuable points of view about the world around them. Aside from it being a creative outlet it supports crucial life skills like communication, critical thinking and perseverance as we spoke about, the ability to work with others and see something through from beginning to end.
What is it that drew you into youth filmmaking?
It was actually my 8 year old son. He was interested in filmmaking and visual stories. We were looking for film classes for him and when I found Sparks I thought “this is it!”. I was wanting to get back into working with young people, I’m already involved in the creative community in Glasgow so the chance to be able to build up something that really brought together my passions was a great opportunity.
What is your favourite film? What can young filmmakers learn from it?
I have lots of favourite films! One I keep coming back to however is O Brother Where Art Thou, by the Coen brothers. It’s a retelling of a Greek myth but set in the American South and it’s just amazing storytelling and really funny, really memorable. It’s also got George Clooney in it. I see something new in it each time I watch it.
One thing that a young filmmaker could learn from it is the idea of taking a story that already exists and putting your own twist on it. You can take advantage of some of the really interesting parts of an original story but put your own spin on it. That’s a way to create art and a great entry point for people who want to create!
Filmmaking courses open up at Sparks in Glasgow South from Summer 2023.