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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 12:25 GMT
Teenage kicks
The Magazine's Public Information Film festival

Every day in February, the Magazine is featuring a classic public information film from the past 60 years, concluding with a vote to find the nation's favourite.

Teenagers who don't take the plunge and learn how to swim risk flopping with the opposite sex, warns this cautionary tale from 1972.

Being taken seriously while not patronising teenage sensibilities and coming over as very uncool is - and always has been - a tricky business for those execs whose bike shed days are long behind them.

As you might expect, the film-makers plumped for the threat of social embarrassment or failure to "hang on to my bird", as the most effective way to make swimming lessons "cool" to the day's yoof.

Stop Look Listen is the Magazine's festival of Public Information Films, with the National Archives and the COI
So far, so what's new?

But this ad underlines one very striking difference between now and then. While early 70s gender stereotyping jars in 2006, it is the film's depiction of teens as being rather harmless and quite sweet that stands out.

Try out word association with the term "teenager" today, and it wouldn't take long to get to "hoodie", "ASBO", "happy slapping" or perhaps "Kevin" for those of a more indulgent bent.

But in 1972, times - and teens themselves - seemed far gentler and certainly more naive.

It is almost impossible to imagine an ad aimed at modern teenagers featuring a fairy godmother and a young woman wishing for the day at the seaside with her beau. But that's exactly the scene for Keep in the Swim.

Image from the 1972 Keep in the Swim film
Dream genie

    (The scene: Teenage girl in park daydreaming about boy called Dave)

    TEENAGE GIRL: "This is me, thinking as usual about Dave. Dave is super, Dave can do anything, ohh, he's great, he really is. When - POW - up pops my fairy godmother with her 'I'll give you three wishes' routine. Wish number one is easy.

    (Dave is made flesh beside her)

    TEENAGE GIRL: "Next I wish we were both at the seaside. Come on Dave, let's swim, I say. 'It's just not my scene, man,' says Dave. What he really meant was he couldn't swim. I've still got one wish left, remember.

    (She whistles for her fairy godmother, whispers in her ear, and another hunk appears)

    TEENAGE GIRL: "Meet Mike."

    MIKE: "Hello."

    TEENAGE GIRL: "He swims like a fish."

    (Mike and the girl swim off together, leaving Dave on the beach - he whistles for the fairy godmother)

    DAVE: "I wish... I wish I didn't keep losing me birds."

    FAIRY GODMOTHER: "Well, learn to swim young man, learn to swim."

NARRATOR: "If you can't swim, ask about lessons at your local swimming baths. Do learn to swim - it could save your life."

Enter our competition

Could you do better yourself? Here's your chance to try. The Magazine is inviting readers to make your own 60-second films.

Your brief is to celebrate the art of the public information film. This means you can make a film which warns of modern danger in a contemporary style, or you can produce one in the style of films of old. It's up to you.

You've got until the end of the month to make the film and get it to us. Instructions for sending them to us are at the bottom of the page.

For those of you looking for tips on how to make your film work, BBC Video Nation editor Rosemary Richards says the key thing to consider is what the audience would like to see.

Ms Richards says it's always best to get out to different locations and take lots of pictures so you can illustrate your film well - but don't overdo it.

"Keep it simple," she says. "For example, you might want to use actors but perhaps your friends and family are not great actors. It might be best to just speak straight into the camera yourself. "You should also make sure you don't film your subjects next to windows and that you use the microphone(s) appropriately. And while hand-held camera can be used to good effect, it's usually best to make sure you have a good supply of steady shots.

"However great your creative idea is, the film can't be used unless we can see and hear what's on it," she says.

Also, if you want to get your film on the web or on TV, you must make sure all the work - including the music - is your own or copyright cleared.

So keep it simple, make sure the images and sounds are clear and, of course, get a good story.

Instructions for sending films

Films should be 60 seconds maximum. Please submit your films to us via e-mail or by post.

E-mail attachments should be sent to the.magazine@bbc.co.uk, subject line STOP LOOK LISTEN COMPETITION. Attachments should be no bigger than 10Mb - you may be able to compress the file by zipping it.

If your film is above 10Mb, you can either upload it to your own personal webspace or free online storage sites (such as www.ourmedia.org) and send us an e-mail telling us its address.

Alternatively you could use free online file transfer services - see this Creative Guy blog posting for a list of 50 such services). Again, please address these to the.magazine@bbc.co.uk, subject line STOP LOOK LISTEN COMPETITION.

If you want to post the file to us, please burn them on to a DVD or put them on MiniDV, and send them to:

The Magazine
BBC News Interactive
Room 7540
Television Centre
W12 7RJ

Here's some small print.

Terms and conditions If you submit an image, you do so in accordance with the BBC's Terms and Conditions.

In contributing to BBC News you agree to grant us a royalty-free, non-exclusive licence to publish and otherwise use the material in any way that we want, and in any media worldwide. This may include the transmission of the material by our overseas partners; these are all reputable foreign news broadcasters who are prohibited from altering the material in any way or making it available to other UK broadcasters or to the print media. (See the Terms and Conditions for the full terms of our rights.)

It's important to note, however, that you still own the copyright to everything you contribute to BBC News and that if your image and/or video is accepted, we will endeavour to publish your name alongside it on the BBC News website. The BBC cannot guarantee that all pictures and/or video will be used and we reserve the right to edit your comments.

At no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws.

Stop Look Listen is compiled by Giles Wilson

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