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Making Media That Matters #8

It’s so hard to believe that there are only about 5 weeks left of Making Media That Matters. Each week the students inch a little closer to starting production, and watching the process unfold is so much fun. Because it is still spring break for a lot of local schools, our group was again a bit smaller this week, but we still charged ahead, learning about camera safety and setup, story development, and how to avoid clichéd scenes and dialogue.

We began with our usual welcome circle, and I asked each of the students to find one thing on their person (or a possession they brought with them) that tells a story. The answers were so fantastic: tokens brought back from travels, scars with interesting origins, ripped jeans with a tale to tell, and Hawaiian salt to ward off evil spirits.

Elliana then started on our film lecture for the evening, discussing exposure, aperture, and manipulation of light for filming. Since I’m not a filmmaker, I find myself quite engulfed in the lectures, learning more about film every week. I’ve come to notice little things when watching a movie now, turning to my husband and proudly proclaiming, “That’s an over-the-shoulder extreme close up shot!” much to his chagrin. ☺ However, some of the film lesson was challenging; discussing ISO, white balance, and shutter speed. I was impressed at how quickly the students picked up the information, and we moved along to our new “stations” set up. This week, we had a station about learning about camera safety and properly assembling camera equipment, a writing exercise station dedicated to stereotypes in film, and a station devoted to further storyboarding individual films. We quickly moved into our first station, and I decided to sit with a production team learning about camera equipment. Elliana and Sam gave the team a camera, and started by demonstrating how to properly (and carefully!) set up a tripod. The girls listened and giggled, and each took turns pulling on tripod legs and getting familiar with the locks and latches. Then, we opened the treasured camera cases, ooing and awing at all its glory. Elliana explained how to handle the camera with extreme care, how to insert the battery and sd card, and how to attach the camera to the tripod. All of the students took turns trying it out, and I noticed how seriously each one took the instructions, taking care to handle the camera with respect. Before we knew it, our station time was over and it was time to switch! I moved over to the writing station, led by Noa and Serena. I was in a very small group, with only 2 group members present that evening (the rest of their production crew was absent because of spring break). Noa began by asking us to name some stereotypical character roles that we see represented often in movies.

We switched stations and I moved into another group to discuss storyboarding and scene building, led by Lisette. This was a much larger group, and they were working on scene placement and logistics. It was interesting to observe, because each of their ideas had to be questioned: Is that scene logistically possible in this film space? How will we create a closet door? If the main character finds an advertisement on a cereal box, how will we create that cereal box? It was yet another reminder that filmmaking is incredibly intricate, and I loved hearing the girls problem solve and think critically about each of their ideas. This production team communicates very well with one another, which made it fun to observe and watch them work through the storyline. We will likely begin filming in 1-2 weeks, and I can’t wait to watch the teams scurry around, working hard to create their films.

Before we knew it, our 30 minute station was complete and it was time to come together as a big group to say goodnight. I threw out the closing question, stoked to hear everyone’s answers: “If you could live in any fictional world, where would you choose?” The answers were fabulous and made me giggle and marvel at our students’ inventiveness and originality. “I’d live in Narnia!” “I’d live in a giant cake house and eat cake whenever I wanted.” “I’d like to live in Wonderland, specifically to go to the Mad Hatter’s tea party.” “I’d for sure go to Hogwart’s.”

From Xanadu (the movie) to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, I think this question (and its answers) might be my favorite to date. ☺ I love that we get to learn a little something about each student every week through these opening/ending questions. As silly as they sound, they give us a glimpse into their individual styles and personalities. Next week, we’ll prepare to start filming! I think we’re almost ready, and if not, we’ll get ready, because that’s what filmmakers do. ☺

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