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Why filmmaking is the key to unlocking talent in the Primary Classroom

brought to you by Tim Head

Film in the classroom is often maligned as ‘watching DVDs’. Where this can be the case, it is not the only time you will see film in the classroom and it can be far from a worthless activity. The key is what you do with the film.

The Literacy Shed has become somewhat of a phenomenon in recent years with its creator Rob Smith blazing a trail of using film to inspire quality writing. He advocates using short films and clips to encourage inference and deduction skills as well as boosting children’s ability to describe characters and settings.

Using many of the clips on his site, I have been able to inspire even the most reluctant writers. The Stunning animations grasp the children’s attention, hooking them into the plot. Where Rob is clever is in selecting animations that have little or no dialogue or narration. This makes them perfect as a scaffold for children to create their own plots and dialogue.

Focussing the children on how they can ‘show not tell’ how the characters are feeling, builds on the visual nature of film. For children to understand how to represent the often-complex visual representations of animation as descriptive sentences, requires them to explore the bounds of their own grammatical knowledge.

Complementing this is the work of A Tale Unfolds. They are former teachers who create projects to inspire children to create their own films. Dominic Traynor the C.E.O. shared with my Film Awards the following advice for teachers:

“The most important thing that happens in the classroom when making films, is what happens before you press play!”

This is such an important philosophy. Children who are let loose to make films without any planning and script drafting do not produce outcomes that compare with those who do. The ‘A Tale Unfolds’ projects are based around quality writing first.

Using this approach, we created a class film, which was an epic twenty minutes long odyssey though, the Rainforests of South America to rescue a hostage. With quality writing driving he plot, it was a fantastic way to unlock the talent in the class.

At the end of the project, we invited the parents into our film premiere. They were amazed at the quality of the writing for the plot and the dialogue. We were able to show our technical expertise in use of multi-camera angles and use of green screening to transport ourselves to glamorous locations.

Filmmaking allows us to become creative by appsmashing (Combining) a number of apps to create special effects and credits which gave it the feel of a well-produced Hollywood blockbuster. By showing our film to the parents, we had given the writing and the filmmaking a purpose. Knowing the parents would be watching the film, ensured the children always gave it their very best effort.

Giving children an audience is something I am passionate about. It is the driving force behind the film festival I run.   We invite children from all over the town to create short five-minute films that can be animation, live action or both! Of the films that are entered, up to four are chosen to be nominated for each category. These films go forward to an Oscars style event complete with trophies, popcorn and decorations. We have even had a red carpet in the past.

We have been incredibly lucky to have local companies support us in the event. The Odeon in Lincoln have provided raffle prizes of merchandise, popcorn and large standees to decorate the theatre. The Secondary School who kindly lend their theatre also laser cut some trophies for us. Others judge the awards for us and present the winners with their trophies.

Dom from ‘A Tale Unfolds’ delivered a presentation to the children via video. He explained that filmmaking allows them as writers to develop into master storytellers. He also reminded them that writing was the key to any film making.

This year we were lucky to have First News judge and announce the overall best film category. Having national brands like First News and Odeon really helps to make it special for the children.

Film really is a medium that can capture children’s imagination and unlock their talent. Whether using video clips to inspire writing or creating their own films, it is something that can be tied into nearly every curriculum area.

With the quality, easy to use tools available on tablets these days, there is no reason why filmmaking can’t be attempted at any age group, though younger children will need some guidance. My class are now able to be given an iPad and return with high quality productions, complete with titles and edited film.

Give it a go, you never know, it may be the spark that leads to fantastic writing.

Tim Head is an Assistant Headteacher in Nottinghamshire.

He Tweets under the handle @MrHeadComputing sharing his love of computing and filmmaking with anyone who will listen.