Get that image moving: filmmaking, animation, enterprise
Moving image is the most powerful medium in the world: mobile phone cameras, YouTube, embeddable video on your blog.
However, in schools we still tend to forget that, to get the most out of the world's most powerful medium, we need to teach and learn critically about it. We need to learn through, with and about moving image media. We do need more creative citizens who can contribute to society. So said Bernard McCloskey, Head of Education, Northern Ireland Screen, at a Moving Image Summit this week in Glenrothes.
Also present was Athole, pictured. After eleven years of going our separate ways from Student newspaper at Edinburgh University, Athole McLauchlan and I ended up serendipitously meeting each other, as fellow teachers, at a Moving Image Summit this week in Glenrothes.
Athole's my kind of teacher. We've spent about six months in an ambient friendship on Facebook, getting to know each other's work through our respective blogs. He told us in his show-and-tell of great film and animation that he only got the job in his current school because he, and no-one else in the job interview, used the word 'fun'. He is a fun teacher, and passionate about making sure kids are equipped to be creative with their media, not just amateur consumers of it.
Making films brings the enterprising attitudes that we seek from young people: self-organisation, role allocations, creativity, planning, execution, coming up with those moments of genius that 'make' the film, a product that's cut together as well as possible with a particular audience in mind. Athole goes even further, having students draw up marketing plans, find real cinema venues to premiere the students' work, get them organising kiosks, posters and press releases.
Getting animation or film-making off the ground in your school isn't always easy, so Athole suggests starting with something simple and progressing. He often begins by getting the storyboard to a potential film to become the film: scan in the students' ideas for each shot, add to Photo Story 3 or Jumpcut.com and add your narrative orally. Maybe you get into photography, so instead of using pictures drawn by students you get them framing shots to tell a story (the kind of thing I talk about in my 1000 words workshops on how to get more out of Flickr et al). They might even tell a story in photographs using plasticine characters that could, potentially later, be used in an animation. Eventually you might find the time and moment to get students animating.
Some of the projects people end up doing are the DVD Yearbook, starting a film club, running film festivals for both commercial and students' films, or creating lunchtime TV programmes, covering a mock election in school.
Animation in class time remains a struggle, and so Athole has created after-school clubs. He suggests that theming animation around real-life competitions might be another "good sell": you could have students design a music trailer for Radiohead.
It also helps to have simple well-designed themes for animations or photostories. Drawing on Wendy Ewald's ideas for photography with children, he concentrates on open-ended themes such as self portrait, family, community, dreams... He also takes advantage of any free toolsets out there to make life easy: I've brought them together here.
So many great ideas. Yet I feel cheated. Athole heads off in ten days for a well-earned career break, traveling the world. I just hope he creates a film and photostory or two that he can premiere at his local Odeon.