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!


Subscribe in a reader

Bookmark and Share

Teaching at Cabrini Connections Video Club

If you’re given the opportunity to spend time in a classroom with a handful of 14-17 year olds as a guest teacher, what would you do with that time? I’d want to grab the golden opportunity to touch and inspire young lives, to be that spark in helping them dream big. But what if you only had all of just 90 minutes to do it?

Film Club Oct 05 2009 002My colleague Karl and I were asked to guest teach video editing at the Cabrini Connections Video Club. And even though i’ve taught people editing previously at Mediaworks, it was usually one-on-one, and they were college students. As first-timers teaching in front of an actual class of students, we were naturally nervous.

There were also a couple of challenges we had to overcome. You see, Karl and I were fortunate enough to learn to use editing software in big computer labs and fancy projectors that allowed us to follow our instructors step by step. However, with the limited resources of a nonprofit organization like Cabrini Connections, where they only had 1 ancient mac that (barely) ran Final Cut Express, it was clear that we would not be able to teach the kids in the same way we were taught.

Another challenge we faced was overcoming what is known as The Curse of Knowledge. Often, we become so used to the things that come to us naturally, that we forget what it was like to not know. How do we put across these complicated editing concepts in a simple manner? Stories. Stories and examples always help. After a week of prep and a lot of thought, we came up with our lesson plan and handouts.

We got through concepts of the individual frame and how meaning can change drastically when you splice together different images. We got a little technical with continuity editing techniques too. Getting to use YouTube videos and clips from movies really helped to illustrate our points better. Film Club Oct 05 2009 001

I think they really enjoyed getting some hands-on editing practice and making their own editorial decisions the most. I remember enjoying hands-on sessions the most too, back in the day. Karl and I decided that the best workaround was for us both to bring our laptops to class and split the students into 2 groups. We’d then individually guide the students and ask them to take turns deciding the arrangement of 4 shots taken from one of Karl’s old college projects.

You should have heard how excited they were. Even though the plan was for Karl and I to be the ones actually using Final Cut to execute their editorial decisions, one of my boys rushed to take the hot seat in front of my laptop and started clicking away happily. “Ah, you’ve used this before, haven’t you?” I asked. He replied with confidence, “yeah, my school has macs.” Another one of my girls, after peeking over to see how Karl’s group was doing, said with such pride, “theirs looks good, but ours is gonna be better!” Ah, the spirit of competition. :)

At least 1 of the girls, Melissa, has expressed interest in going to film school in future. I would love to help her gain some awesome set experience before college sometime by inviting her to a Northwestern student film set. I can imagine how thrilled she’d be!

Those 90 minutes whizzed on by all too quickly. And while I don’t think we managed to get across anything that was particularly as life-changing as i had hoped, I still think we all enjoyed the session. I think it would take a little more time to be able to instill in them how they can use their video-making skills to do something positive. It blows my mind how teachers do this on a daily basis. Respect!

Thanks Michael and Brad for asking us to come teach. Thanks Karl for tag-teaming it with me. It was such a great experience!

To read more about the Cabrini Connections Video Club and the great work they’re doing, check out their blog here.

Bookmark and Share