Resources: Film clips across the curriculum

The first article in this two-part series explored Alain Bergala's suggestion that educators can use film's extraordinary powers of engagement to help learners create a personal and emotional link to all curriculum content.

Bergala, a film and education theorist based in France, argues that a liberal sprinkling of short, powerful film clips, used throughout the year and across all content areas, can help increase student engagement and ownership of what they learn.

This follow-up article aims to assist teachers with that most difficult of challenges, when it comes to hosting film clips in the classroom – that of clip selection.

Ratings and the law

Australian classrooms fall under the umbrella of various licencing and copyright laws. Together, the laws state that, as long as film or television programs are being used for educational purposes, individual teachers and schools do not have to pay a licence fee for screening them in the classroom. Essentially, teachers can play films and recordings of television programs in class, provided it is:

  • in the course of education and is not for profit; and,
  • the people in the audience or class are giving or receiving instruction, or are directly connected with the place where instruction is given.

This includes use in virtual classes and for distance education students.

It is worth reiterating that this is only the case for educational exhibition and that copyright ownership for film still lies in the hands of the copyright owner, which is usually the film production company.

If you have any more questions, the Smartcopying website has been set up by the National Copyright Unit to answer school and TAFE educator's copyright questions.

Note that showing a PG-rated film clip in your class will usually require written parental permission, but your school may have its own policies on how this permission is requested and received.

If it moves you …

The most basic rule when selecting film clips for generating personal interest and engagement in your students, and one that often gets lost in the scramble to find a film clip is, ‘if it moves you, it will move your students'. Naturally, this ‘rule' is conditional on the use of age-appropriate content, but the aim of using film clips in the classroom, (according to Alain Bergala) is to emotionally engage your students, not simply to instruct them. So, the first litmus test for any film clip should be your own emotional engagement.

Help from curated sites

For those with the time to explore, there are a remarkable number of quality film clip curating websites, both paid and unpaid, for teachers to utilise. For this article, I've tried to select a variety of the best options for teachers in Australia.

Free sites

The National Film and Sound Archive

This site has an extraordinary array of largely historic but also contemporary film clips, organised by expert curators across a vast range of topics. All clips are from a distinctly Australian perspective.

Australian Screen

This is a National Film and Sound Archive website, focused on curating the archive's Australian film content into bite-sized clips for use in classrooms. Perfect! Find film clips by topic area or alphabetic listing. Each clip comes with extensive descriptions and curator notes to help teachers select the best clip for their purpose.


Excellently curated variety of short films, searchable by mood and time available. Generally suitable for high school, but younger students also catered for.

Short of the Week

Inspiring and emotive short films from around the world, searchable by genre, topic, country of origin and style.


Largely Asian short film collection that is constantly updating. Searchable content by genre or topics, that is generally for older students.

Brain Pump

Interesting science-based short expository films. Teachers need to create an account, but it is free to do so.

Paid sites

SIMA Classroom

An extensive collection of short documentaries and news stories from around the world. The site includes teacher resources, virtual reality tools and the ability to conduct cross-classroom collaboration. Single user access is from around AU$10 per month. Offers a seven day free trial period.

Clip Shout

A site specifically designed to curate short clips from Hollywood films for the purpose of character education. Its aim is to facilitate social and emotional learning, critical thinking, and ethics and morals education. A fee applies, but there is a two week free trial period.

Other sites

YouTube, Vimeo and other video streaming platforms often have ‘staff pick' pages, which curate quality short films and clips for a broad audience. Keep in mind, however, that these sites usually aim at an older audience and do not consider the age appropriateness of content in their selections, so teachers will have to spend some time vetting the material.

Beyond film

Alain Bergala's argument focused on the power of film to engage an audience in a topic. But in our own classrooms, we should not forget that other forms of artistic expression may prove to be just as viable a conduit of emotional connection.

Imagine students entering a classroom to find a carefully placed sculpture or painting in the middle of the room, or sitting at their desks to inspiring music or, perhaps, surrounded by a series of telling photographs.

When it comes to creating an emotional and intellectual connection between content and student, a variety of stimuli may be an option worth considering. And film may be just the beginning …

Think about a lesson or unit of work you’re going to teach this year.

How could you incorporate short film clips into your planning? What about other forms of artistic expression? What will you need to consider when selecting these clips or artistic stimuli?