The final project that I ran with year 7 in 2014 was really fun – I loved writing the project and loved running it with students. Better than that, the students loved it too. I had two year 7 classes last year, so that meant almost 60 students working individually, in pairs or in small teams to create a short film to enter our inaugural ‘SEVEN’ film festival. I know that many people have run film festivals in their schools before, but this one was just for year 7. That’s why it’s called ‘SEVEN’. I hope that it continues to run each year, even though I won’t be at Davidson to organise it.
Here is the flyer for the film festival that also served as our project outline:
The main focus for me for this project was to help students understand and appreciate the process of film-making, and also to get them to understand and appreciate the concept of ‘inventiveness’. It’s a difficult concept, but one that I feel passionately about in regards to art and literature. So how did we do it? Well, in typical PBL style, we started with the ‘need to know’ questions. You can see them at the end of this post. The students had heaps of great questions! The first thing we did was learn about film techniques – students worked in small teams to create a PPT with all of the film essentials. This was a hard task for them – many haven’t studied film before – but they certainly learnt a lot! Next we watched five of the finalists from the 2013 TropFest Jnr competition, as well as a range of other short videos. As you can see from the flyer above, I specified what film style the students could choose – animation, claymation, stop-motion animation, machinima or silent film. I did this for two reasons: I wanted them to understand style and the conventions of a style, and I didn’t want to watch any films with awful live acting, haha. Most students ended up going for claymation, perhaps that’s because the winning film for TropFest Jnr was a claymation. It was cool to see that students could appreciate why some films were better in terms of the camera work, narrative, etc.
After students selected their style, they spent time researching the conventions of that style. This only took a couple of lessons and required the students to share their findings via edmodo. This concluded the ‘research’ part of the project – we then moved on the the ‘create’ part, where students spent a lot of time ‘ideating’. Basically they had to come up with five different ideas for their film, share these with the class and get feedback on which was the most popular. We spent time reading through the BIE rubric for creativity, which helped them appreciate the importance of reworking an idea, not just sticking with one thing without making modifications. Finally, once students were happy with their narrative, they moved on the script-writing. I spent a lesson showing them the conventions of script-writing for film and looking at model scripts for short film. I did the same thing for story-boarding once students had completed their scripts. Many of the teams found this stage of the project really boring and time-consuming, but in the end they all appreciated how important it is. I loved seeing their surprise when I told them how much time goes into pre and post production when making a major film!
Once students had completed the pre-production stage, they were very excited to move on the production. The students who chose silent film managed to get their filming done very quickly in comparison to those doing the other styles. Regardless, students had a great time shooting, and my classroom was abuzz with activity for about two weeks – actually, if I am honest it seemed like utter chaos, haha. The final stage of film-making is editing and that is always THE most stressful part. It’s also where students learn the most. Unfortunately many students rushed into filming with a range of devices – iPads, phones, cameras – before they worked out how to get the footage off that device and into some editing software. We don’t have anything at school that students can specifically use for editing- just the Lenovo PCs and laptops that have editing programs that are too powerful for the slow machines. Very frustrating! Most students ended up using the iMovie or Lego app on iPads or phones, and then I used the hotspot on my phone to upload them to YouTube. Many films failed to make it that far, because students simply didn’t think ahead, I wonder how many short films end up in the bin because of this? I do know that students will do things differently next time they make a movie!
Those films that did make it to YouTube were entered into the competition. Two of my ex-students are currently studying film, and were happy to be judges for ‘SEVEN’. They watched them via YouTube, chose the 10 finalists and then sent me the list via Facebook messenger. The 10 finalists were invited to the film festival at 5pm on a school night, where all 10 films were watched and then we watched a video where Jake and Todd (the judges) announced the winner. It was so cool. The guys are hilarious and inspiring. The night was a success, and all students appreciated why the winner got the trophy. Phew! Here is the video Jake and Todd made, I love it!
Here is a link to the 10 finalists: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYrEX0iYtIItLD2ZcA45VEEd_pmXbptPJ
Here’s the winning short film:
At the end of the project, I had students go back to the original ‘need to know’ questions that they had come up with, and then answer them. It was cool to see so many students able to answer all questions confidently! I don’t care what anyone says, PBL worked for these kids, and they loved learning! Here’s the list of questions and the answers from one of my students: