December 4th, 2011
Filmmaking is an art form that is all about executing a plan. Nic Weinfeld
One of my former students, Nic Weinfeld, Skyped in to one of my film classes recently to talk about the importance of storyboarding. Nic is finishing his senior year in high school studying film at the acclaimed Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. I’ve been in contact with Nic since the end of last year when he volunteered to come in to work with a group of my students on one of their films. He also attended our film festival and produced the very cool Film Festival Recap Video for us.
I love the emphasis Nic puts on planning during our conversation. Too often, students don’t take full advantage of the time they get during pre-production to carefully plan out their films. Hopefully, this Skype conversation will help reinforce the importance of storyboarding during the pre-production process.
Nic was great with the students. We hope to have him back in, either via Skype or in person, many times throughout the rest of the school year.
October 31st, 2011
My 7th period film class had the chance to talk with writer and director Doug Atchison recently via Skype. He wrote and directed Akeelah & the Bee, a film we watch and study in class. Many of my students from other periods also managed to get out of their classes to come and be a part of the conversation. We probably had well over sixty students in the room during the Skype call. I edited our forty minute conversation down into this fifteen minute video I posted here.
The students came up with some great questions for Mr. Atchison. They asked about the challenges of being a director, the costs of making Akeelah & the Bee, and how music is selected for particular scenes. They also asked Mr. Atchison where he gets his story ideas from and how he goes about structuring his films. He said that story structure is the most important thing about a movie. He also explained how many script writers start to write before they know where they are going. He said this is a common mistake.
He told students anything they encounter in life can be a movie. He urged them to try to make movies that they would want to see themselves. This is great advice: Create films about things that genuinely interest you, upset you, or excite you. Lastly, he said the most important thing is your story, and why you want to tell it.
(P.S. Check out our new door scenes. We posted them over a week ago on our website and I haven’t had a chance to write about them here.)
February 9th, 2011
My students and I were interviewed recently by some middle school students in Dover, New Jersey, about the process of making films. They had watched some of our films on our class weblog, Watch Out!, and decided to contact us. One of the cool things about sharing our classroom work online is that sometimes others find it useful.
These students, taught by Mr. Zangerle, an 8th grade English teacher, are working on a year-long project looking into important topics in their community. As part of the project they are creating films, so they wanted to interview us about how we make our films.
I edited our 30-minute Skype conversation into the 10-minute video I posted here. My students and I really enjoyed talking with Mr. Zangerle and his students. They may contact us again in the future for feedback as their project develops. We’re looking forward to seeing what they create and I’m glad we could help out in some way.
January 16th, 2011
It’s been a very busy two weeks in our classroom as my students completed some twenty interviews for their various documentaries. I created the short 30-second photo montage above using some of the pictures I’ve taken during this process. The one phrase I heard over and over again from the people being interviewed was: “That’s a great question.” I was very impressed with how the students handled themselves during their interviews. They were knowledgable, confident and prepared with well-thought out questions.
We’ve embedded most of the interviews into the group wiki pages so students can watch them from home, as well as from school. This is helpful because each group will have to carefully go through their interviews and decide which parts to use in their documentaries.
Scheduling twenty interviews for students in three separate classes over a two-week period was a real challenge. We were doing the interviews during class, after school, during lunch, and we even had one group do their interview on a Saturday morning in the snow. It wasn’t easy, but we got it done.
December 30th, 2009
“If you are not interested in your story, I guarantee you no one else will be.”
The quote above is from Marilyn Horowitz, NYU film professor, writing coach, and author of the book we use in my middle school film class, How to Write a Screenplay in Ten Weeks (The Middle School Edition). Ms. Horowitz was kind enough to take the time recently to skype into our classroom and give my 6th and 7th graders a 40-minute lesson on storytelling and character development.
We’ve skyped many times in the past, but this was the first time that someone has Skyped into our classroom and literally taught a lesson. Ms. Horowitz had my 6th and 7th graders taking notes, and she did a great job connecting with the students. I’ve edited the 42-minute Skype lesson into this 10-minute video. I tried to capture some of the main points of the lesson.