Discovery Film Festival and GYFF

In the final part of our series reviewing education and young audience work delivered by our members towards the end of 2023, we report from two flagship events: the Discovery Film Festival at DCA and the Glasgow Youth Film Festival at GFT.

(This article forms part of our ongoing Education in Cinema project, supporting exhibitor-led film education across Scotland. The project is funded by Screen Scotland)

Discovery Film Festival 2023

This month we bid farewell to Discovery Film Festival Producer, Mike Tait, who was our first ever Education in Cinema interviewee back in October 2022. Mike took on the roles of Festival Producer and Cinema Youth Development Officer in 2012. During his tenure, he established and strengthened excellent relationships with numerous Tayside schools (and ones further afield) and shepherded Discovery through the challenges of Covid by delivering a hybrid programme.

October 2023 saw Mike finishing on a high with the 20th edition of the festival, which included ‘Greatest Hits’ packages of the ever-popular Shorts for Wee Ones and Shorts for Middle Ones. After three years of hybrid festivals, the emphasis was back firmly on in-venue screenings—though a number of short films were still made available in classrooms across the UK through DCA’s streaming platform. Continuing a model successfully introduced in recent years, the schools programme schedule was determined through a bidding process in which schools could nominate their favoured film choice and weekday morning slot. Once again, transport assistance was offered to schools, as were a range of learning resources and add-on activities.

In advance of the festival, Mike worked closely with a Teacher Advisory Group. You can watch a selection of vox pops with these consultants here, where they talk about the benefits of film in education, overcoming a fear of subtitles and the value of in-venue screenings. The input of this group each year helps ensure that schools have the best possible experience, as evidenced in this feedback from Forfar Academy:

“Thank you so much for the spotless organisation and kindness of all staff, we really appreciate all the time and effort that has been put into our visit. Looking forward to doing it again next year, pupils and staff loved every minute!”

Mike also worked with the Discovery Young Ambassadors, a group of 15-19 year old cinephiles, to handpick titles that would appeal to a 15+ audience. For the 20th festival, DYAs Dan, Findlay, Grace, Isabella and Poppy selected a Swedish crime thriller (Bullets), a French film industry exposé (The Worst Ones), a high school drama with a gritty edge (The Fantastic Three) and Taika Waititi’s 2010 comedy, Boy.

Speaking shortly after the festival, DCA Communications Officer Jennifer Phin told us about some of the festival highlights and the excellent audience responses they’d received:

Discovery Film Festival 2023 had a party atmosphere this year, celebrating its 20th edition with lots of creativity, cake, special guests, and of course the very best international films for young audiences.”

“While 2023 didn’t quite match 2019 pre-pandemic numbers, we were very happy to see an increase in visitors and school groups since 2022. The festival welcomed 60 classes totalling over 2300 attendees for school screenings alone. For the first time, we also saw some school classes make a full day of their visit to Discovery Film Festival, enjoying morning and afternoon screenings with Learning workshops in-between. As always there was great take-up of this year’s School Resource packs, which are still available to download for free at

“Weekend public screenings were joyfully busy and eclectic. Special guests included artist and musician Su Shaw (SHHE), who performed a specially-composed score at an interactive screening of the short film Pond, and experts from the historic ship RRS Discovery, who hosted a drop-in Life as a Polar Explorer workshop for families coming to see Norwegian animation Titina.”

“From the tiniest pre-schoolers to older teens, the engagement with discussion and creative responses was great to see and so inspiring.”

Congratulations to Mike, the DYAs and all the team involved in making the festival such a success. Here’s to the next twenty years!

Glasgow Youth Film Festival 2023

Also celebrating a significant milestone was the Glasgow Youth Film Festival, which had its 15th edition at the end of September. GYFF places young people front and centre of the festival, with a group of eighteen Young Programmers, aged 15–19, working closely with the GFT Education team to curate, promote and deliver three days of screenings and events.

GFT Youth Programme Coordinator, Callum Neeson told us:

“The young people did a fantastic job, not only arranging the festival, but by fully participating in events and screenings to ensure its success. It was great to see their progress over the months and see some of them overcoming fears of public speaking to deliver fun and interesting introductions and interviews.”

These young people did not have any film programming experience prior to GYFF. They planned the festival programme over a three-week summer school, then took part in facilitating the festival itself by hosting events and introducing film screenings. The festival was a great success with over 800 people taking part in GYFF events over the weekend. This included a sold out Friday Night Cult Film Slot screening of John Carpenter’s They Live. The young programmer who pitched this film said, “I was very proud of They Live selling out. I did the introduction to the screening and overcame my fears of talking on stage”. Another screening that did extremely well was the closing gala – The Matrix. The young programmer who suggested this film remarked, “My greatest achievement over the GYFF weekend was being able to introduce the film I pitched back in summer to a huge audience”.

The Behind the Scenes Events also went extremely well with the Young Programmers hosting panel discussions, interviews and Q + A’s. These events helped provide industry knowledge to young people interested in pursing film as a career. The guests attending the festival spoke very highly of the young programmers’ professionalism across the weekend. One young programmer said, “Doing the Behind the Scenes Events put me out of my comfort zone, but I had a really beneficial experience”. Another said, “Hosting a Q +A was a fantastic opportunity as I got to meet so many interesting people including industry experts and got to ask them about their time in the film industry.”

Over the past few years the team at GFT have worked hard to build coherent pathways for young people discovering independent cinema. One of the Young Programmers explained that their participation in the festival came about after having attended youth screenings at GFT, which are programmed by the GFT Youth Board:

“My experience with the GFT’s youth events has always been very enjoyable and informative. I frequently attended the youth screenings which were always fun and well organised by the Youth Board. I went on to be a Young Programmer at GYFF 2023, which was an amazing experience as we not only made many friends and saw great movies, but we got to gain an insight on the behind the scenes of the industry and were given opportunities to meet and interview directors and industry people.”

In a lovely coda to the festival, Callum tells us that thirteen of the Young Programmers have themselves gone on to join the GFT Youth Board. Two of these (who are 18+) are now helping organise a Youth Takeover screening of Riddle of Fire and community engagement events for the forthcoming Glasgow Film Festival.

And just this week, news has come through that fifteen of the Young Programmers have been awarded a Participative Democracy Certificate for their work on GYFF. The Certificate is worth 2 Credits at SCQF Level 5 (equivalent to National 5 or SVQ 2). Achieving the Certificate entailed the creation of portfolios alongside the participants’ engagement in the group. The award recognises their communication, decision-making and negotiation skills in the context of democratic engagement.

A huge amount of work was involved in this, so many congratulations to Callum, Olivia Learmonth and Rosa Cato at GFT who oversaw delivery of GYFF 2023 and—most especially—to all the Young Programmers themselves.