Anyone who knows me (Jude) knows that I am a massive film enthusiast. I have a film and media degree, have worked as a freelance film maker and I have taught film/animation classes to children aged 4-18. It will come as no surprise to learn that on my first placement I made a film with my Primary 2 class and in my next placement I have an animation sequence planned.
I truly believe that film making embodies the very principles of the Curriculum for Excellence, and if engaged with properly, can enable some radical and transformative learning. “A bold claim” I hear you say, but trust. me, I have worked with so many young people who have all got so much out of film-making.
so, I wanted to write a post to share some of my ‘expertise’ in case anybody else was wanting to teach a film-making class. I am going to write up a sequence of lessons that I recently taught so that any of my peers would have a place from which to start.
Obviously this sequence can be developed and made to fit your own class, but it is a nice structure to start if you want to do film making but don’t know where you would begin.
Before starting, you want to have a chat with your pupils to see how much they know about film-making and what their previous experience is. This will help you, and if you have a budding Spielberg in your class I would advise that you let them lead and help the other pupils.
Prepare a design brief that you will give to the children. I have found that if I limit the scope of the film making exercise, it can focus attention and lead to more creative projects than if I give the children free reign.
In making your design brief, think about audience, purpose, time limit and subject.
My brief was : You are going to make a film, to explain the 5 senses to a class of Primary ones. Your whole film has to be less than 1 minute.
The first lesson is to show the importance of planning in film making. I usually start with a group conversation with everyone contributing their ideas. Have someone record this and gradually bring the conversation towards a consensus. It is important they all agree as a big part of this will be teamwork.
Have some blank story boards prepared, and show them how to fill them in with the ideas they have. Get them to think about the way they are going to film, considering angles and shot lengths etc. Here is some information you can use to help you if you are unsure.
I would usually end lesson 1 here. I think it is important to have a planning session without jumping straight to the cameras. However, I have in some classes given the cameras at the planning stage to allow them to get used to the cameras and really think about shots and angles. You will know your class best so use your judgement here.
Go over the plans and what was learned in the first lesson. Have the children recall what they are working towards, go over the brief again and ask if they are on track.
This is the lesson where you would give out the cameras, and refer to the story boards to determine what you are going to be filming today.
Before filming, you want to stress the importance of planning again. Have the children act as producers, and go location scouting, get any props they need etc. This is vital and ill make the filming a lot more effective and enjoyable.
I would also, for every scene, split the group up and have roles for everyone. I would suggest the following roles and they have worked for me in the past:
Director – This person will direct the whole scene, will refer to the story board to see what it has to be like and will be in charge of making sure they get the shot right.
Camera operator – this person will be in charge of filming, they will take direction, but will be responsible for making sure things are filmed properly.
Assistant Director – This is the person who gets things for the director, who helps out in anyway possible, there main job, and the one they like best, is getting people to be “quiet on set”.
This is the day where you will be editing. I would suggest using either iMovie (mac) or Windows movie maker (PC) They are free, and easy to use plus the children will most probably have access to either one.
In the editing stage you have two options. Firstly you can help edit the film and let the children make the decisions, but you are the one working the computer. The second option (my favorite) is to actually build in an extra lesson so that they can play about and explore the software. Do not underestimate the children. My experience is that they will pick it up very quickly and learn what they want to do by trying. How great is that. However, for your sanity, you may want to familiarise yourself with the software before letting them run riot.
Another great aspect of this lesson sequence is that there is something to show, and assessment opportunities are built in all the way through (i.e. was the planning worthwhile and accurate enough, what were your filming techniques like with the camera, did the final film meet the brief?)
You need to build in time that you can screen the finished products, a crucial part of film-making is the audience.
That is a very quick run through, although I am aware this has been a long post. Any question please feel free to get in touch.