Free Film School provides free alternative learning experience for emerging filmmakers

7 June 2022

Every Saturday Bertha House in Mowbray is abuzz with young creatives who are refining their craft at the Free Film School.

They are usually huddled around a table or paying close attention to the facilitator.

A majority of the aspiring creatives are from disadvantaged communities who cannot afford to pay their way into traditional film schools while others are looking for an alternative way of improving their filmmaking skills.

This is at the core of the Free Film School’s philosophy.

“It’s based on the idea that it’s community building and on-going education. You can join at any point and you do not need qualifications,” says Free Film School co-founder Jenna Bass.

Bass adds Free Film School does not provide a formal course with grading but do encourage participants sticking with the programme until phases are completed.

“We do our best to be informed by what the industry’s current needs are. We feed that back into our teaching and link up our participants with opportunities in the industry.”

What is the Free Film School?

Free Film School is the brainchild of filmmakers Bass and Qondiswa James.

It started out as an initiate to host film-screening events and workshops around Cape Town in 2019.
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, out of necessity it morphed into virtual filmmaking lessons on YouTube during lockdown.

Thanks to funding from the Goethe-institut, Free Film School started a pilot project in January holding classes every Saturday.

UCT, through the Centre for Film and Media studies, has also provided some funding but the school is also looking for long-term partners.

Free Film School provides training – through guest mentors – in scriptwriting, pitching, pre-production, shooting and editing.

It welcomes at least 40 participants for classes on Saturdays.

The organisation invites different guest facilitators to guide participants through each phase.

“We both realised that between us we have an amazing network of film and professionals around the city and if everyone could just volunteer one Saturday a year, we would have this incredible diverse programme of people with different expertise,” Bass adds.

Winter programme

Bass and James are currently preparing for a busy five-week winter programme from 2 June until 4 July 2022.

Some of the city’s top film professionals will lead the five-hour sessions on scriptwriting, pitching, pre-production, shooting and editing.

Over the five weeks, the participants will be covering all phases with the programme culminating in them producing their own two-minute silent film.

The school also provides transport stipends for participants who cannot afford funds for long distance travel to get to Mowbray on public transport.