Writing teachers need to have examples of great literature that inspires them and I think anyone undertaking video production in the classroom (or digital storytelling) needs to have some great films inspiration as well.Â Here’s a couple of my favorites that you may or may not have heard of. I encourage you to reflect on films that have been meaningful to you. How do you want to harness the power of film in your classroom?
Dan Meyer was right when he said that I’ve been using the term digital storytelling and digital storytelling synonymously. I’m not sure I know what the difference is anymore. It used to be that “storytelling” was a term for just stills thrown together but La Jatee is a collection of stills which I think transcends that genre.Â I used to look down on the idea of storytelling vs. filmmaking but privately I’ve agreed with myself to stop doing that and work toward encouraging others not to just throw stills together but put them together cinematically.
The summer before I left Los Angeles for NYU film school I started vociferously requesting films from the local county library to increase my knowledge of film history. I worked during the week but on the weekends I’d watch movies all day.
When I got to film school my fellow students were more interested in comparing the relative cinematic merits of Batman Returns to Batman Forever than in discussing French New Wave cinema.
I started collecting DVDs when I returned home and the format was in its early stages. My first DVD was Alfred Hitchock’s Vertigo and I kept buying after that. I’ve amassed a collection of 150 DVDs but I have not bought more than a couple of DVDs in the last three years. Why haven’t I bought any new DVDs? Because there’s not much left to buy.
There was a time when the Godfather, Star Wars, Nashville, etc. were all unavailable. They’re all out now. But this month I bought two DVDs I’ve long been waiting for.
The first is Sans Soleil a haunting film poem directed by Chris Marker who created the equally wonderful short film upon which Twelve Monkeys was based. I must confess that although I’ve seen Sans Soleil about five or six times I’ve never watched it all the way through without falling asleep. It has a dream-like quality and watching it is like weaving in and out of consciousness. It may be the lull of the monotone narrator’s voice but its images stay with you…an homage to Vertigo, scenes of Japan, electronics, giraffes. I cannot accurately describe this film but there is no other film like it.
The second film I have only seen once but it stayed with me as well. At NYU they showed us a lot of films that I didn’t really like. Weird was in. Violence was cool. And my peers loved those movies. Killer of Sheep they showed us and I sat for two hours with my eyes transfixed. Maybe I was missing home (it’s set in Los Angeles), maybe it was the score of blues and ragtime (which I loved and incidentally held up the DVDs release), or its fascinating structure of intersecting lives. But I thought this film was terrific.
When the lights came on my best friend at film school was asleep and the general consensus at dinner was that it was the worst film anyone had ever seen. I remembered that film even though I haven’t been able to see it again since then. It influenced my writing style in a couple of films since then. It’s existed as something of a holy grail of DVDs. Its release was announced two years ago but its release was long delayed.
Even now as the DVD has arrived at my hosue, I’m almost afraid to watch it because I’m worried that it won’t hold up to what I remember. I just like having it here to complete my collection.