Young film writers’ competition

Ken Loach essay contest


» See the competition results

Ken Loach comp

Should British filmmakers be more independent?

To mark the BFI’s forthcoming major retrospective of Ken Loach’s contribution to British cinema, the BFI and Sight & Sound are launching a competition for young film critics to argue the future direction of British filmmaking. This is supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

What do you think about the state of British cinema? Ken Loach, one of Britain’s most forthright and accomplished contemporary filmmakers, has long been critical of the film industry for its failure to challenge the box-office domination of films from the US, and for its failure to keep a critical eye on the establishment.

The UK Government has recently announced a review of film policy. If you were asked for your considered opinion, what would you say?

The contest

We’re inviting young writers aged between 15 and 25 on 12 September 2011 and resident in the UK to submit an essay of no more than 1,500 words on the subject:

Should British filmmakers be more independent?

Your essay should also:

  • Be entirely your own work
  • Demonstrate knowledge of British film history and contemporary British film today (though you don’t need to be an expert!)
  • Recognise that there are various definitions of ‘independence’. We will expect you to have considered your interpretation of the term
  • Express a clear and considered point of view and presenting a coherent and persuasive argument rather than list a disconnected series of observations. Scenes and other instances should be cited to forward your argument rather than in an impressionistic way

Please see our full terms and conditions at the bottom of the page.

The prizes

The best entry will be published on our website and win up to one year’s mentoring with a Sight & Sound journalist, one pair of tickets to the S&S London Film Festival gala screening in October (applicants living outside the Greater London area can apply for a bursary of up to £250 to help with travel and accommodation costs) and a year’s subscription to Sight & Sound.

Two runners up will also win one pair of tickets to the S&S London Film Festival gala screening in October (applicants living outside the Greater London area can apply for a bursary of up to £250 to help with travel and accommodation costs) and a year’s subscription to Sight & Sound.

To enter, please email your entry to by 10am, 12 19 September. Please include your name, address, phone number, email address and birth date.

Judges: S&S Editor Nick James and two invited guests (to be confirmed).

See also

Listen to Britain: Philip Hoare on the vanishing world evoked by a new DVD collection of films documenting British folk culture (August 2011)

The end of prestige?: Nick James reads the entrails of ‘quality’ cinema in the Digital Age (August 2010)

Lost and forgotten: Mark Sinker revisits Britain’s late 1960s and 1970s watershed of shifting cultures and identities through a selection of ‘forgotten’ films (July 2010)

A royal rumpus: Nick James sees British films on exhilarating form at the Cannes Film Festival (July 2008)

Reasons to be cheerful: Ryan Gilbey on All or Nothing, Sweet Sixteen and a British cinema remembering its bad manners (October 2002)

Nul Britannia: Nick James on the dearth of British films in Sight & Sound’s Greatest Films poll (September 2002)

The Wind That Shakes the Barley reviewed by Edward Lawrenson (July 2006)

Tickets reviewed by Roger Clarke (December 2005)

In the mood for love: James Mottram on Ae Fond Kiss (March 2004)

11’09”01 September 11 reviewed by Peter Matthews (January 2003)

Ken Loach’s top ten films for our 2002 poll

Bread and Roses reviewed by Peter Matthews (May 2001)

S&S’s Women on Film competition for female film writers (July 2011)

S&S’s 2010 Young Journalism Competition results (October 2010)

Youth on the march: our 2009 Young Journalism Competition results (October 2009)

Further reading

The BFI’s Ken Loach retrospective (1 Sept–12 Oct 2011)

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s Film Policy Review (June–Sept 2011)

Time to rescue film: Ken Loach’s manifesto for reviving the art of cinema (, October 2010)

The BFI 100: a selection of the favourite British films of the 20th century

100 best British films polled by Time Out London from a selection of 150 film industry experts

Ken Loach comp

Terms and conditions

  1. Should British filmmakers be more independent? (“the competition”) is a UK-wide competition open to anyone resident in the UK (including the Channel Islands) and Eire, aged between 15 and 25 years old (“you”) on 12 September 2011, subject to paragraph 2 below.
  2. Employees or agencies of the BFI, its group organisations or their family members, or anyone else connected with the competition may not enter the competition.
  3. By entering the competition you are accepting these terms and conditions.
  4. To enter the competition, you must email your entry along with your name, age and phone number to If you have any questions about how to enter or in connection to the competition please email us at with ‘Question’ in the subject line.
  5. The closing date and time of the competition is 12 19 September 2011. Entries received after that date and time will not be considered.
  6. By submitting an entry to the competition, you give the BFI the right to use your name for the sole purpose of identifying you as the author of your entry and/or as winner of the competition and the right to publish free of charge the three winning entries on Sight & Sound’s website for two years from publication.
  7. Your entry must be your own work, must not be copied, and must not otherwise be obscene, defamatory or in breach of any applicable legislation or regulations. If we have reason to believe that your entry is not your own work or otherwise breaches this paragraph 7, then we may not consider it.
  8. Picking the winners

  9. A panel representing Sight & Sound will select the top three entries from all the competition entries.
  10. The judge’s decision of who the winner and runners up are will be made on or before 10 October 2011. The judge’s decision is final.
  11. The prizes

  12. The winner of the competition will receive a pair of tickets to the Sight & Sound London Film Festival gala* plus a year-long mentoring programme with one of Sight & Sound’s journalists and an annual subscription to Sight & Sound. Two runners up will win a pair of tickets to the Sight & Sound London Film Festival gala* and an annual subscription to Sight & Sound.
  13. The winners and runners up will be notified by the BFI by email or phone on 10 October 2011.
  14. Details of the winners, runners up and their entries will also be published on, on or before 13 October 2011 (at the BFI’s sole discretion) at a later date.
  15. Further rules

  16. Entries on behalf of another person will not be accepted and joint submissions are not allowed.
  17. We take no responsibility for entries that are lost, delayed, misdirected, or incomplete or cannot be delivered or entered for any technical or other reason. Proof of delivery of the entry is not proof of receipt.
  18. The winners may be required for promotional activity and photographs of the winner may appear online.
  19. The promoter of the competition is the BFI whose address is 21 Stephen Street, London, W1T 1LN. Any complaints regarding this competition should be sent to this address.
  20. Nothing in these terms and conditions shall exclude the liability of the BFI for death, personal injury fraud or fraudulent misrepresentation as a result of its negligence.
  21. The BFI accepts no responsibility for any damage, loss, liabilities or disappointment incurred or suffered by you as a result of entering the competition or accepting any prize. The BFI further disclaims liability for any injury or damage to you or any other person’s computer relating to or resulting from participation in or downloading any materials in connection with the competition.
  22. The BFI reserves the right at any time and from time to time to modify or discontinue, temporarily or permanently, this competition with or without prior notice due to reasons outside its control (including, without limitation, in the case of anticipated, suspected or actual fraud). The decision of the BFI in all matters under its control is final and binding.
  23. *LFF tickets prize: You can apply for a bursary of up to £250 for travel to and accommodation in London on the night of the Sight & Sound Gala at the London Film Festival, if you live outside the Greater London area. If necessary and where possible tickets to an alternative LFF gala event will be offered. If the prize cannot be taken up, no substitutes will be available. Anyone under the age of 18 travelling unaccompanied by an adult may be required to supply a signed letter from a parent or guardian.

Last Updated: 16 Dec 2011