March 27, 2008

Get that image moving: filmmaking, animation, enterprise

Atholecurry 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 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.


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There was a moving image summit this week in Glenrothes? Darn.

Absolutely concur on the value of making videos. It's remarkable watching groups of teenagers learn to have creative arguments; particularly if they're pushing a deadline. Remarkably, it's both brain-bendingly hard *and* fun, which I think is where the value appears.

It's certainly what causes the satisfaction, when you stand back and say 'OK, it could have been better, we could have done this and this and this, but hey - *we made that*.'

The scicast was actually mentioned by Athole, too, and now I can put two and two together between this comment and your email tonight. Nice to 'meet' you!

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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