February 17th, 2012
My first year film classes are getting ready to start their movie projects. The biggest challenge for the students is coming up with interesting story ideas. I emailed my former student, Nic Weinfeld, to see if he would be available to Skype with us next week to offer some advice on coming up with original story ideas. In his reply e-mail, Nic offers some helpful tips that I’m sharing with his permission:
For coming up with stories it is always important to think about what you are trying to say.
For example, the message, “change is good” may be showcased through a political leader stepping down after some conflict, or a mother hiring a new baby sitter. Once you have a message, or how its more commonly referred to in film as a “Spine”, the next steps are easier.
Also, it’s important to remember to keep it simple. Make sure your story has minimal characters, minimal locations and is really honing in on one character, one event and one change that he/she undergoes.
Finally, you must plan it out, thoroughly, so you can see the gaps in your story. You need to make sure each scene is doing something and moving your story forward.
I can add more when we actually Skype.
The picture above is of the large 400-seat movie theatre at The American Film Institute. This is where we will be having our 4th annual film festival on May 31st.
September 18th, 2011
It’s hard to believe we’re already three weeks into the new school year. Iâ€™ve been meaning to update my blog since weâ€™ve started school but havenâ€™t had a chance until now. Back to school night is this Wednesday so I want to give an overview of what my 150 students and I have been up to the last three weeks.
In my Lights, Camera, Literacy classes, students are starting production this week on their door scenes. This is an engaging film assignment for beginning filmmakers borrowed from the American Film Institute. It’s a 60-second film that involves a character walking toward a door, hearing strange unknown sounds, then having a hard time opening the door.
My second year film class has been learning about the history of photography and early moving image devices. We looked at camera obscuras, zoetropes, praxinoscopes, and created sunprints (image above). Students also created flip books to conceptualize the persistence of vision theory. Next up: short 50-second films in the style of the early Lumiere Brothers and Edison Kinetoscope films.
My third year class just wrapped up their podcasts for our Slice of Summer series. Students created short podcasts about their experiences or memories from the past summer. The project was inspired by NPR’s Summer Sounds series. We’ll be sharing our podcasts this next week on our school website and uploading to iTunes with the help of our library media specialist, Ms. Hack. We’re also gearing up for a very cool children’s book project where we will be working with local artist Arturo Ho. We’re hoping to publish our children’s books as a binded collection via lulu.com.
We’ve had a very productive start of the new school year.
September 12th, 2010
Well, we’re already two weeks into the new school year and we’re off to a great start. The picture above is just one of many sunprints students made this week in my two film history classes as we learned about the history of early photography. By making their own sunprints, students better understand the process of how light can interact with chemicals to create photography.
The image below, View from the window at Le Gras (1825), is one of the earliest surviving photographs from Joseph Nicephore Niepce. Niepce called his process heliography, which means sun writing.This is my third year teaching these new middle school film literacy and film history classes. The classes are part of a program developed by a very creative instructional specialist for visual literacy in my district. This year, we’re offering another new class called Media Literacy.
It has been fascinating teaching these classes because I’m learning new things along with my students. I’m looking forward to another crazy year. We have a lot of very cool projects in the works!
April 16th, 2010
We’re in the middle of our big film project right now in my film literacy classes. Students have spent a good amount of time in pre-production brainstorming story and character ideas, writing scripts and creating storyboards for all their scenes. It appears all their hard work is paying off. They have been very focused, prepared and engaged all week filming their movies. Students used Google Docs again this year to collaboratively write their scripts. All of the individual scripts are linked in the sidebar of our homepage on our class website, Watch Out! I’m always amazed to see how efficiently students use Google Docs, and communicate with one another as their scripts evolve. We use a script writing structure I’ve written about a few times before called The Mythic Journey Map, developed by NYU professor Marilyn Horowitz. It’s very helpful for the students to have a basic structure to follow as they hammer out their scripts.
It’s exciting watching them enthusiastically bring their scripts to life. I can’t wait to see how they all turn out. (7 weeks until our 2nd annual film festival. YIKES!)
September 19th, 2009
I have a whole new cast of crazy 6th and 7th graders this year in my film literacy classes. This past week, one group asked if they could do the classic “pie in the face” scene for the ending of one of their film assignments. I said, “Sure, why not?” Next class, they show up with a pie crust and a can of whip cream. “Can we actually do it Mr. Mayo?”