It seems fitting that exactly 20 years after Film became an academic subject on the Bradfield curriculum in 2003, the first feature film directed by one of our A Level alumni, Taichi Kimura’s (A 00-06) Afterglows, was released in Japan. Bradfieldians had already made a mark in the film industry in the late 20th century – Luke Thornton (G 68- 72) at Believe Media, Phil Traill (B 86-91) as a film and TV director (both hosted Bradfield pupils on our regular trips to Los Angeles) and John Battsek (E 77-82), producer of documentaries such as the Oscar-winning One Day in September (1999), whose name is attached to the annual award given to our outstanding student film-maker.

In 2003 Film was taught in Bloods 2, with a state-of-the-art video cassette player and a 26-inch television set screening films such as The Third Man (1949) and La Haine (1995). Camcorders captured the action for the student films. Fast forward to 2024 and the department uses DLSR and GoPro cameras, drones, jibs and gimbals, as well as having an editing suite and big screen 4K projection facility in a new bespoke, multi-functional classroom space. Recent additions to the list of set film texts are Joker (2019) and Promising Young Woman (2020), although Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) has been a perennial favourite from the start.

Every year the pupils, whether at A Level or at IB (introduced ten years ago), rise to the challenge of developing their practical skills as filmmakers. Sometimes this has involved going off-site to shoot in places such as Oxford, Bournemouth and Manchester. More often, familiar features of the Bradfield ‘schoolscape’ (Chapel, Bloods corridor or Iron Bridge) and less familiar hidden corners of the campus (Budgeons’ Yard, the golf course underpass or the old B House trunk store) will pop up in each cohort’s short films, along with glimpses of family homes, London streets, grandma, a nice teacher cast as an angry teacher or fellow pupils surviving a zombie apocalypse.

The films compete not only for exam grades, but also for the coveted BRAFTAs and perhaps even for a place in a national film competition or at a film festival. Co-curricular film opportunities have included Q5 magazine, Cine Club and summer shoots. Chris Bailey’s thriller The Black Dot (2014) for the Film Production Club was an early success in a career that has recently seen him working on visual effects for Argylle (2024). We have also heard from a variety of guest speakers – Sarah Miles, star of Ryan’s Daughter (1970), Kirk Jones, director of Nanny McPhee (2005) and Destiny Ekaragha, director of episodes of Ted Lasso (2023) to name just three – whilst the generosity of Bradfield parents has facilitated visits to film companies such as Working Title, Ealing Studios, Rocket Productions and Warner Brothers.

Hundreds of Bradfield pupils have journeyed on Bradfield’s Film roller-coaster over the last 20 years, revelling in the danger and excitement of City of God (2002) and being dragged kicking and screaming out of their film comfort zone to emerge perplexed from a screening of the experimental gem of the Czech New Wave, Daisies (1966). We have all celebrated Film students’ triumphs including Jemima Wright’s Media Magazine Production Award (2019), Johan Stewart’s MIA Award (2022), Joey McGregor’s entry into the 2024 INDI Film Festival and many, many more. Here’s to our ruby anniversary in 2043!