A student’s perspective: 3 surprising things I learned about the BFI during my placement

Durham University student Isabella French shares some of her placement revelations.

BFI Southbank Photograph by Luke Hayes

I’m Isabella, a student at Durham University studying for a Masters in Visual Culture. My research interests include female gender and sexuality, the representation of women’s bodies in visual media and the concept of the female gaze. I am also interested in how arts organisations use their physical and virtual spaces to generate thoughtful engagement with different audiences. Here’s three surprising things I learned about the BFI during my placement:

BFI Player can help my academic research

Through my university’s partnership with the BFI – which is how I landed this placement – I have access to BFI Player, where I can view hundreds of cinema titles on demand.

I’ve found that foreign-language titles have helped me to develop my research, with films such as Céline Sciamma’s drama Tomboy depicting topics such as gender and sexuality with genuine care and consideration. With its far-reaching and distinctive collections, I can see how BFI Player would be appealing to students studying various disciplines, as well as those like me who enjoy diving into films and collections that help convey the female gaze.

BFI Southbank is more than a cinema

I discovered there’s actually a wide variety of physical spaces that serve different roles in engaging with audiences.

The Mezzanine Gallery display featured material from the BFI National Archive spotlighting the career of Jill Craigie – one of the first women in the UK to direct documentaries. Interest piqued, I visited the Mediatheque (where you can see over 95,000 titles from the BFI National Archive) and ended up in a rabbit hole of anime materials, which in themselves tie into a major Southbank season. I also checked out The BFI Reuben Library’s huge collection of books, journals and other materials and, sitting in on a talk, was surprised to learn it’s not just a place of research and study but an events space too.

I’m interested in a career in curation, and this got me thinking about how different spaces can be used to spark curiosity while linking to the BFI’s programme and other work.

There’s so many different jobs

Meeting with staff across the BFI, I’ve learnt about what roles entail and discovered jobs that I didn’t know existed. Having always been interested in collaborative and creative projects, events and programming could definitely be an area I explore further. The role of philanthropy, fundraising and enterprise teams to communicate the positive impacts of charitable giving and develop additional income streams to support the BFI’s funding has also opened my eyes to other possible career paths.

To enquire about our university partnerships and BFI Player access please email enterprise@bfi.org.uk.

Find out about our BFI Player: Educational access and subscriptions and read about our ambitious partnership with Durham University.