An interesting conversation began in Students 2.0, where Anthony, a high school student, wrote,
“…like home movies, most…student videos are lacking a thesis and a design to support them. As technology allows us to integrate creative projects…we need to give students the tools to funnel their creative efforts into an effective and cohesive whole.”
I made the point that teachers need to be showing students basic elements of film language if they’re going to ask students to make films. We would never teach writing without teaching students how to read text. How can we teach film without pointing out how to read film language?
Anthony felt that this was out of reach of most teachers. He’s probably right since most teachers don’t have this knowledge themselves. However, I don’t think it’s hard for a teacher with an ounce of motivation to learn how to analyze film nor does it take a lot of time to teach because most of us are already subconsciously aware of what goes into the “design” of films.
Tom of Bionic Teaching picked up on this thread and posted an excellent Before and After Powerpoint example of how a powerpoint slide could be improved through better storytelling and by linking design to the storytelling of the slide.
I’d like to try to illustrate the point from a film making perspective and demonstrate how this relates to film. Specifically, let’s look at framing from high and low angles and at varying distances.
These shots come from our film “The City Mouse and the Country Mouse” which was made almost entirely with still images in my first grade class. In this scene, a mouse party is interrupted by the entrance of a cat in the room. The mice flee and a chase ensues.
Most of the teacher and student films I see look worse than the above shot in that they’re taken from even farther away and the camera never moves from that position. The cat might enter, turn her back to the camera and the mice would quickly run off-frame.
So we looked at at least three things in this brief example:
Shooting from different angles can make characters more or less powerful.We can show character’s point of view by cutting to what they are looking at.Shooting from different distances conveys different information about a scene.
Naturally there are technical names for these shots and techniques but I’m trying to simplify things so that a teacher who knows nothing else could teach this.If teachers would teach just these basic film elements by analyzing any popular media, students would be able to produce better video and be better able to analyze all types of media.