Film Club: Things are rollin’!

Michael, Melissa, Reggie, Brittany and Karl share a laugh during snack break.

One of the best feelings in the world comes when your students are able to explain a concept that you taught them a week ago, in their own words. There I sat, glowing like a proud mama, as I listened to Brittany and Reggie explain to the entire group why they made the decision to fade off the audio while allowing the video to play on in the final edit.

It’s difficult to tell when your students fully comprehend what you’re trying to teach. They don’t always ask questions if they’re unsure of something, and they often get distracted by their cellphones or each other. That’s why I’m so glad things went the way they did at tonight’s session with the Cabrini Connections Video and Filmmakers Club. We screened the different edits each of the 3 groups did with the same footage we shot a month ago and followed up with discussion and critique of each one. They had intelligent insights on why certain editing decisions were made and asked each other great questions. You can tell the students feel a sense of achievement when they have their work screened for others to watch.

Well, they’ve got something even bigger to look forward to. Come April, the Art Club’s gonna have a showcase of their work in a gallery and they’ve invited us at the Film Club to show some of our work there too. The showcase has traditionally been a crowd pleaser and a successful fundraising event for Cabrini Connections. A brainstorming session had all our film club kids throwing out all sorts of exciting ideas.

A comedy act! A cartoon of ourselves! A news report! A documentary of the prep work leading up to the event! The energy they had in the discussion showed just how eager they were to do this.

Young minds with big ambitions. It’ll be up to Michael, Karl and I to help them get there. It’s going to be an exciting road ahead!

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Film Club: Mini Assignment 1

So the last time I talked about the Cabrini Connections Video and Filmmakers Club, it was when Karl and I guest taught a lesson when Michael was away. 2 months later, Karl and I, along with another volunteer Mae, were asked to co-lead the club with Michael permanently. I’ve since learned to understand that changing lives takes time, and that I don’t have to strive to do it within 90 minutes. Baby steps, baby steps.

The first few sessions with all 4 of us leading brought some interesting dynamics. Good that there were more resources between the 4 of us to deliver a better lesson. Thanks to Mae’s projector and screen, we were able to show the students great video examples. But now that Mae’s left Chicago to further her studies in Texas, we’ve had to get creative. More people in the equation also means a bigger variety of mindsets. Each of us has very different styles of doing things. I’m a planner and a big fan of being well-prepared and well-researched before the time comes to teach. Some others are just better at doing things on the fly. We’re still working to find a middle ground, but at least we all know we’ve got one goal in common… to give the students the best.

This week, we kicked off our first lesson of 2010 with something different. I wanted to put the big horror movie on the backburner for now, and have them focus on mini assignments instead. The plan is to teach a different aspect of filmmaking each week and have them do an in-class activity related to what they’ve been taught.

Since we spent a number of weeks going through storyboarding, we asked the students to come up with a short story on the spot and tell that story within 6 shots. To add some challenge, we said they had to include 1 pan and 1 tilt.

In previous weeks, we sat at the table with the students to walk them through the creative process. Progress was slow. We constantly had to poke and prod for creative input from them. It seemed to me that because we were there hand-holding so much, the students didn’t feel as involved or challenged in the process. Many ended up texting on their phones, sleeping, or watching videos on the nearby computers.

This time, we experimented with a more hands-off approach. We gave them 25 minutes to complete the storyboards for the 6 shots and left the table.  A few peeks across the room revealed that the group was engaged in discussion together. 15 minutes later, they came over to tell us they were done. Brilliant! So lesson learned. Students sometimes just wanna do things on their own. Since we had time to spare, we decided to teach them how to do up some overhead diagrams to match their storyboards and explained why overheads are so useful.

By the end of the 90 minutes, we’d finished our 6 shots. Still kinda rough, but it’s good progress. We’ll let them do an exercise on editing next week with the footage that they shot. :)

Check out the video below to see how things went! Read the official Cabrini Connections Video and Filmmakers Club blog to see previous entries too!


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