"If it can be written or thought, it can be filmed." - Stanley Kubrick
It's that time again! Making Media That Matters session three has come and gone! It seems as if the weeks are flying by. The students filed in noisily and perched on chairs or on the floor. As I've mentioned in previous blogs, I love this time of the workshop, before we officially start the session. It's fun to see the students getting more and more comfortable with one another and with the staff, while also making themselves at home in our new filmmaking space in Kaimuki, courtesy of the Hawai'i Filmmakers Collective. The students joked and chatted with one another while nibbling on the snacks provided while the staff set up. Eventually, Vera called us together in a big group circle for the official start of session three.
We played a short game to ensure that we know everyone's names now that we are three weeks in,
passing a ball back and forth in the circle to call out one another's names. Then we played our usual ice breaker game, using the question: If you could be anyone's eyes for a day, whose eyes would you be? Some fun answers were a wild horse, Taylor Swift, Bernie Sanders, Kurt Cobain, a dollar bill "to see where all it gets to go" and "My Mom - So I can just...understand that." The last one made me giggle pretty hard. No one can claim these kids aren't creative!
Vera reminded the students to stay mindful of what they say in our sacred space, to make certain it is not hurtful or harmful to others. Our staff strongly desires to construct a place of refuge for kids that may have endured bullying, abuse, or challenges not yet revealed. We hope to keep our time together as safe and as nurturing as possible.
Our resident film instructor, Lisette, began the lesson for the evening. She started by discussing why we watch movies...because it evokes emotions within us. "We feel first and think second," she stated. Lisette wanted to get the students thinking about how to make their stories personal. My mind wanders to films that move me and so many come to mind. Simply hearing the opening notes of the score to the movie Little Women (the 1994 version) fills my eyes with tears. I grew up with 3 sisters and my late Mother read this book to me as a child, often referring to her 4 daughters as her own "little women." Now that she's passed away, I can hardly sit through those first 5 minutes of the film without crying like a baby, as those familiar notes make me think of her reading to me, of excitedly going to see the film together in the theater, and how many times since I've watched the movie just to feel close to her. Movies, like other art forms, are highly personal and highly emotional; whether tied to memories or life lessons or to our deepest passions, they move us. We are trying to create media that matters, so this lesson was especially important.
Lisette went on to ask the students questions about how to make a character unique or relatable, and the students eagerly answered with things like, "How they dress!" and "through her personality!" and "with their mannerisms!" We talked about creating a character with a compelling desire or goal, one that they can fight to obtain or obstacles they can overcome to achieve their desire. We learned ways in which to make a character show emotion visually, so the audience can feel those emotions along with the character portrayed on screen.
Eventually we were placed into groups so the students could develop their own individual story arcs. A story arc is made up of three main components: Setup (what the story is about and who the characters are), Conflict (oppositions or challenges the characters face), and resolution (ending conflict or establishing change). The students moved into their respective groups and worked quietly on their arcs, brows furrowed in concentration and bodies strewn about the
room, lying on the floor or leaning against the walls, diligently writing in notebooks. We shared our story arc ideas to our groups and gave feedback to everyone. Some of the student's ideas were wildly imaginative with tales of combat and strength and foreign countries, and some were about the challenges that teens face such as self-esteem issues or eating disorders.
We moved into larger groups and completed a group challenge wherein we all developed a story arc together. We each took turns creating a character then passed the information to our left to have someone else continue the story in
whatever way they wanted. When we finished, some of the students chose to share their combined work, and the room was filled with giggles and laughter at the end results. My personal favorite was a story about an alien from "Bro-town Saturn" (the main character was
a stereotypical "bro") that decided to come to earth to haunt humans. However, he falls in love with human culture and decides to stay. He tries to become a rapper but is horrifyingly terrible and gets laughed "off of the face of the earth." He returns to Bro-town Saturn and becomes a mega-star rapper. As I said before, no one can accuse these kids of lacking imagination. :)
After we completed our collective story arcs, we decided to end our evening on the triumphant high note of the students' inventiveness and originality. Some students remained to watch the screening of Makers: Women in Hollywood directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton, with pizza and some of the staff. We will continue to have film screenings during the course of the program because watching and observing films are key to become a filmmaker. Viewing films can also to help inspire and motivate the students' work. All in all, a great night and a wonderful lesson in character development and story-making. Here's to the next!