It can be hard for film students to grasp and understand just how much meaning and complexity images hold, particularly when they are only beginning to use filmmaking techniques themselves. This following exercise will help them start to fathom the phenomenal amount of meaning they’re able to convey through film.
Before you start:
The central focus of this exercise is image. Before taking this to your class, find an image which features more than one person. The more dynamic the shot, the more inspired your students will be to write a compelling narrative to go with it. You can either ask your students to write about the same image or have them choose individually between a variety of images. Here’s an example.
1 – Description
After you’ve selected the image(s) for your class, divide the image into vignettes according to how many people are in the image (you can include couples or people in conversation within the same vignette).
Have your students answer the following questions for each vignette:
- What do you see?
- What feelings, memories or meanings does each image evoke? (Use your personal experience or cultural background to inform a unique view of each image).
2 – Narrative
Once your students have completed the description of each vignette have them develop a narrative around each image by answering the following questions:
- What is each person thinking and feeling?
- Describe the relationship between people. Are they strangers? Friends? Neighbours?
- Write a sentence describing what just happened, what is happening, and what is about to happen.
This exercise is perfect to break into two parts. Have your students complete the first half of the task in class with you to answer any questions. Provide them with an example you’ve completed yourself (preferably with a different image) before letting them take a stab at the first half of the exercise towards the end of a lesson. Ask them to complete the second portion of the exercise at home, giving them more time to flesh out their narratives before presenting them to the class next time you convene.
This exercise will help your students hone their creativity and access their storytelling skills by finding their imagination inspired by a visual stimulus.
For a bonus exercise, ask your students to write a short screenplay (three to five pages for beginner writers; six to ten pages for more experienced writing classes) on the narrative they have written around the image. Ask them to include what happened to bring the characters to the events of the image as well as what they do immediately after, utilising all aspects of the second half of the exercise to their advantage when fleshing out their narrative. You can even have students swap worksheets and write a short film based on the completed exercise of another student.
Check our blog for more exercises to bring into the classroom including an introduction to three-point editing; four exercises to prepare your students for university and how to boost any filmmaking career.