Film and media blog

Interview with Birgit Vilgats, the new director of BFM

Birgit Vilgats will start as the Head of the Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School of Tallinn University in September.

Birgit Vilgats direktorikandidaatide debatil

You have worked at BFM for five years. What developments have you seen and experienced and what are your plans for the future of BFM?

The current BFM is the outcome of the merger of three institutes (BFM, the Arts School and the Communication School), where, in my view, audiovisual art could be a link between the fields. BFM is interdisciplinary by nature, and in order to innovate in teaching, research, development and creative activities, opportunities must be found to integrate the arts and media and communication. On one hand, greater integration of disciplines in education enables students to acquire unique knowledge and skills in the fields of dance films, film music, film artists and marketing audiovisual products. On the other hand, integration enables new innovative approaches in creative and research work.

"BFM must be a place where discussions on important topics begin"

What should be the BFM's status and role in the society?

BFM plays an important role as a promoter of national culture (related to film, television and dance (festival) culture) and a leader in media innovation in the digital era. The future quality of these areas depends on us, on our research and creative work, and this places a great responsibility on BFM. Creativity/ability to be creative is one of the most important skills of the 21st century and BFM should play a leading role here.

BFM must be a place where discussions on important topics begin and this requires systematic cooperation with professional associations and representative organisations, entrepreneurs, employers, alumni of the field and other partners. Through interdisciplinary projects, it is necessary to address important topics in society, to provide students with professional practice and the experience of success. BFM must make the results of its cooperation more visible by finding forms, tools and ways to introduce them to future learners, employers and partners, including foreign partners.

Tell us a little about your background. How did you find your way to BMF? What jobs and interests brought you here?

BFM came to me by coincidence; I have knowledge of quality assurance in higher education and experience in television work. Five years ago, I had the opportunity to take up the position of head of studies in BFM. I have gained a good insight into various fields, basic knowledge and skills of specialties and learned to notice development needs and opportunities for the integration of specialities through active participation in the development of BFM curricula. It is often easier for a non-professional to ask critical questions which also make specialists think about things from another angle.

As my educational background is related to pedagogy, my current interest lies in integrated learning and teaching of creative subjects as well as research in this area, which on one hand is something BFM needs, but on the other hand can also make a real difference in general education. One of the key questions is how to help ignite creativity and use its full potential. Equally important is improving media literacy. Inevitably, the role of media is becoming increasingly important today, which is why the role of BFM is to help educate critical consumers and (co-)creators of media content.

"Cooperation is the most important thing for me."

How would you describe yourself as a leader – what do you consider important?

Cooperation is the most important thing for me. This requires mutual respect, understanding and being open to ideas. BFM’s field of activity is broad and I realise that as a leader, I am not able to achieve expertise in all areas. This is why I value working with proficient people, professionals in the field. The head's job is to create the best possible conditions for them, a pleasant environment where they want to come and also invite other experts. It is the activities of our lecturers, alumni and students that increase the value of BFM, thus the role of the leader is to provide comprehensive opportunities for these activities.

What kind of place will BFM be for students in the future?

In addition to studying their speciality and acquiring experience in research and creative work, BFM is an important place for its students in terms of making contacts. Our lecturers understand well that they educate their future colleagues and thus directly contribute to the development of their profession. Therefore, mutual constructive feedback is a valued part of the learning process in many disciplines; however, it could be implemented in all curricula.

In the future, the projects carried out in cooperation with non-academic partners as part of studies will have an even greater role, enabling students to acquire work experience and make important contacts.

Certainly, in the future, students should have greater opportunities for international learning experiences. Even now, the opportunities for these experiences in BFM are quite good. However, it is important to find international strategic partners for all curricula, where student exchanges are mutually facilitated or joint modules are implemented.

BFM doctoral studies should be the first choice for creative people who want to realise themselves in the field of audiovisual arts.