The Game to Movie Curse may have been a supernatural jinx on any attempt to turn a video game into a feature film… OR maybe it was just the result of game-to-movie productions never stopping to pick up a STORY along the way. In either case, from Mario Bros to Assassin’s Creed via Angry Birds, the genre is littered with less than critically acclaimed cinematic outings. (despite Resident Evil delighting Zombie fans everywhere…)
This recent Onion piece offers us light-hearted insight into how some screenwriters must struggle with the next Game Adaptation request
Most university students today have grown up in a multimedia society unparalleled in the past. Thanks to the internet and the tools it’s offered, both in terms of entertainment and education, the traditional styles of lecturing and educating students no longer offer the impact they once did. Students are easily distracted and distant in lessons, and pedagogy will have to evolve to create new frameworks in which students are able to connect with their lessons and subjects. Jessie Daniels at the City University of New York found the use of documentaries the perfect tool to boost her students’ engagement.
Documentary’s digital renaissance
Documentary filmmaking is going through it’s own renaissance. The rise of digital filmmaking and crowdfunding aiding many documentarians’ productions. Because of the breadth of this genre, Daniels believes that documentaries are the perfect digital tool to incorporate into the classroom. In her lessons, Daniels has seen an increase in student engagement and critical thinking thanks to the introduction of a multimedia form they are familiar with.
The internet has provided a home for documentaries, whether through online subscription services like Netflix, via independent filmmakers on YouTube or through mainstream media sites like the BBC. The ease of access that is now available to documentaries only helps the genre envelop itself into popular culture and become a constant in the lives of many current and future students. For decades, scholars and educators have used popular culture to base a framework and present examples to their classes. Their students’ ready grasp of current events and the world around them helps cement concepts in which a larger academic sphere can be tethered. Documentaries are that next frontier.
Revolutionising the classroom
Daniels believes the best way to incorporate documentaries into a curriculum is by using them as a supplementary resource. By combining documentaries with academic studies and texts, Daniels is able to offer students a visual representation of the theoretical framework behind her lessons. By using worksheets and giving her students a basic and fundamental grasp of filmmaking and digital media, Daniels can have engaged class discussions in which the students, having not only read the same materials but also having seen the same experience on screen, are able to exchange an informed and free flow of ideas.
Daniels also uses worksheets to increase the student’s critical media skills, allowing them to conceptualise the entire process that would go into a documentary after viewing the final product. When used alongside traditional pedagogical venues, documentaries can only help to increase student engagement in the classroom.
With the breadth and variety of documentaries today, particularly in genre, it is fair to assume that every educator can find a documentary that will help engage their students and further develop their critical skills. By applying documentary films as a supplementary resource in the classroom, teachers and professors like Daniels inspire increased student engagement thanks to their dedication to connecting with and understanding their students’ educational needs.
Every editor will tell you that efficiency is what they strive for in post-production. Getting a film to look perfect is a gruelling and difficult task which all editors go through daily. Three-point editing makes editing a rough cut easier and faster! The following exercise will help teach your students how to use this simple yet effective technique.
What is three-point editing?
The main idea behind three-point editing is that your footage will be roughly edited before you set to work on the actual cut of the film. With every edit you will use three points of in and out placement: an in and out-point on your source footage and an in-point along your editing timeline. This will allow you to choose which clips of footage to use and your editing software will automatically place it on the timeline.
1 – Out in the field
Instruct your students to go out and film a variety of clips between 10-15 seconds. Ensure that they’re filming footage that would work together in a rough cut, for example shots of a garden or even the goings on of their own homes. Keep in mind that more footage equals more options but also more time spent at the editing desk. Between three and six clips is a good starting point.
2 – Set a time
Tell your students to edit their footage into a particular time constraint: perhaps twenty seconds. This will encourage them to use a more critical approach when selecting which segments of their footage to use in the rough cut.
3 – Tell a story
Even if the footage your students have brought in is simple, instruct them to find a narrative within their clips. This doesn’t need to mean telling a complete story or ensuring that dialogue and sound is matched up, but will help them analyse which footage to use as they edit.
4 – Revise
Make sure your students have a rough idea of which footage they want to use before they sit down to edit. This will save time and energy as they piece their images together. Tell them to jot down potential in and out points of each source clip to make sure they know all their options.
5 – Time to edit
Supervise your students as they use the three-point editing system. Start by having them include the footage sequentially, placing the first clip first and adding further footage after. Once they’re comfortable with the basics, instruct your students to backfill by placing a middle or last clip first.
By the end of this exercise your students should feel comfortable using three-point editing when making rough cuts. Encourage them to make mistakes and learn from them, potentially doing this exercise again either at home or during free time with editing software. As an added bonus you can even group students together and have them work with each other’s footage, presenting it to the class at a later date. By using footage they haven’t shot themselves, they will employ a more critical eye as they’ll be prepared to feel less attached to the material.
Whether or not your students are accomplished editors who prefer a particular method, three-point editing is a great tool to add to their arsenal and boost their editing confidence.
Short films are often undervalued and overlooked within the film industry. Sure, they can represent the first shaky steps of a filmmaker but they can also show the magnitude and versatility the medium has to offer. Short films can play a huge hand in launching careers, much like they launched film as a whole back when the Lumiere brothers screened their first creations. Many of today’s most acclaimed directors first dug their nails into film through shorts and a few found those efforts lead directly to some hugely successful feature films.
1 – Whiplash
Despite having worked in Hollywood before, in 2014 Damien Chazelle was relatively unknown. His film Whiplash turned out to be a critical and commercial success, winning three Academy Awards. Three years later, Chazelle has a Best Director Oscar under his belt for La La Land, the most nominated film in Golden Globes history.
Whiplash was the film that launched Chazelle on to everyone’s radar but the journey to making the film was rocky. Despite having connections in the industry, Chazelle found difficulty gaining the right financial support to produce his breakthrough film. It was then that Chazelle decided to take a scene from his screenplay and produce it, entering it into short film competitions and presenting it to producers for financial backing. The short ended up winning Sundance’s Jury Award for Best Short Film in 2013 and the rest is history.
2 – The Babadook (Monster)
Although Australian director Jennifer Kent had experience in the film industry, she normally found herself in front of the camera. After being particularly struck by Dancer in the Dark, Kent took a chance and wrote to Lars von Trier asking to shadow him during the production of Dogville. Her experience with von Trier inspired her to make her own short film, Monster: a black and white supernatural horror film that would later find wide critical acclaim as The Babadook.
Although not a direct adaptation, Monster served as the conceptual brainchild for Kent’s debut feature, helping raise $30,000 for additional sets on Kickstarter.
3 – Saw (Saw 0.5)
Whether a fan of the franchise or not, one can not deny that the Saw films revolutionised the horror genre. In an attempt to find producers, Australian director James Wan filmed a scene from what would be the first film showing the intricacies and depth behind the life-and-death game so central to the franchise’s narrative. Wan used the short, cleverly titled Saw 0.5, to pitch the films to Lionsgate. Almost a decade and a half later Wan’s short has spun into a seven-part film franchise with one of the most dedicated cult followings.
Although there are many short films that have either been adapted for a feature or given inspiration to a big screen film, the three listed here show the importance short films serve in the film industry. A beautiful tool for helping students grasp filmmaking’s basics, short films are also an incredible medium for inciting inspiration and passion into all filmmakers with eyes on bigger prizes.
As a film teacher, many of your students will look to you first for advice on how they can achieve their dreams of filmmaking. Instilling film theory, filmmaking skills and history in your students will help propel them a long way in a film career However, it’s also advantageous to teach them about the best routes to go about achieving their dreams and putting their best foot forward when it comes to a career in film.
1 – Time is of the essence
It’s common to hear the phrase ‘don’t give up your day job’ when talking about pursuing creative careers. Your students need to know that, despite their passion and talent, what will most bring them success is dedication and experience. Filmmakers need to learn the tools of the trade and with that comes dedicating one’s time. However, your students are probably not in a position to dedicate all waking hours of their days to filmmaking. Encourage them to spend as much time as they can with film: writing; directing; watching; reading. All the time spent in the trenches of film knowledge will help set them on the path to achieve their ambitions.
2 – Embrace any film job
Encourage students to accept any job on a film set, whether it coincides with their immediate passions or not. In film, you’re constantly learning on the job and whether that’s as a production runner, costume assistant or gaffer, the experience and knowledge your students will gain through hands-on work will make all the difference in their careers. The best filmmakers are well-rounded, and the knowledge you accumulate from different facets of filmmaking will only help.
3 – Network, network, network
We’ve discussed the importance of networking before but it’s as crucial an aspect as any of an aspiring filmmaker’s future. By encouraging students to attend networking events, you’re only helping them make the connections they need for a future in the industry.
4 – Study your options
Filmmaking is a tough career and it’s nearly impossible for students to understand how much is required of them on a day-to-day basis. By encouraging students to learn about every aspect of filmmaking: from finance to production and distribution, your students will feel more confident to voice their visions and push themselves to be the best filmmakers they can be, in a huge variety of roles in the industry.
5 – Get excited
Studying classic cinema and what has paved the way for generations of filmmakers will help your students better understand the medium but their true passion will spark when they find excitement in film. Encourage your students to read and watch films that excite them! Try to find local film festivals and screenings of films, commercial and independent, that will give your students a wider understanding of film diversity as well as helping them find the films and stories that make them want to jump out of bed in the morning!
With these five encouragements, your students will feel better equipped to go out in the world and pursue their dreams. Well-rounded students are the key to a flourishing and engaging film future.
The Avengers have been Movie GOLD for Marvel Films (owed by Content Behemoth Disney), and has provided the proof of concept of the Endless Series Universe, the idea that sequels in a successful series can run practically forever.
Not only has this worked amazingly so far for Marvel with its IronMan, Avengers, Thor and Captain America streams of major blockbusters, but has also inspired studios to repeat the formula most notably with the Star Wars universe (now 8 films and counting, with a new mega-release planned for every year from now until… well, forever.
One wannabe contender in the movie universe game which has so far experienced a shaky start with this strategy is DC Comics, Marvel’s big rival. With Superman and Batman as two of the best known characters in movieland – success is practically a foregone conclusion, right?
Well, it might have been until Zack Snyder was recruited for 2016’s bleak and messy Batman v Superman which was critically panned although a Box Office success, just. The opening gambit of the ‘Justice League’ universe set a dark and difficult direction for this series… and opened the door for the following mockery, faithfully reprinted here from the Onion:
DC Executive Worried Batgirl Script Not Interesting Enough To Be Movie, 3 More Movies, 2028 Reboot And 4 More Movies
BURBANK, CA—While giving creative notes on the screenplay in a Friday meeting, DC Comics president Geoff Johns reportedly said he was concerned that a recent draft of the Batgirl: Origins script was not compelling enough to support a movie, three more movies, a 2028 reboot, and four additional movies. “Frankly, I just don’t see this having the legs to carry a feature film, a follow-up trilogy, a video game franchise, and then another prequel trilogy,” Johns said, adding that while the script’s first act “definitely works,” he worried the narrative would drag when stretched to a full 90-minute runtime, several more 90-minute runtimes, and a dozen more 50-minute runtimes as part of the Netflix tie-in series. “I’m just worried this starts running out of steam well before the end of the movie, the comic book adaptation, and the standalone spinoff movies telling the Huntress’s backstory. If a narrative can’t even sustain a single movie and a Lego set, let alone more than one syndicated animated series, maybe it needs some heavy revisions.” At press time, DC executives had decided to ask for a total rewrite after concluding villain Killer Moth was not an interesting enough antagonist to hold people’s interest for two hours and the length of several Six Flags roller coasters.
In an impoverished community of the Mojave Desert, New Mexico is Black Rock High, a continuation school for students aged 16 or older who are at risk of never graduating. Unlike more traditional US schools, Black Rock believes that by putting stronger emphasis on life skills, they can turn the lives of at-risk kids around. The Bad Kids is a documentary that follows the inspiring teachers at Black Rock High and the students they strive to help.
The film primarily follows three students: Lee Bridges, a student who struggles to support the son he shares with a fellow classmate; Jennifer Coffield, a teenage girl who has never found support from her family; and Joey McGee, a student who struggles with issues of drug abuse and home-life instability. At the heart of the school and the students’ journeys is principal Vonda Viland who dedicates her life to ensuring her students set off on the right path. The students who attend Black Rock High have often lived through childhoods filled with abuse, neglect, poverty, substance abuse and problems with the law. It’s the teachers’ incredible empathy that shines through the documentary as they approach their work with dedication and patience.
Vonda, the school’s principal, goes above and beyond her job description, calling her students who are at particular risk to not attend class to give them the extra nudge they need to get out of bed in the morning. As we watch Vonda mentor and counsel the three students at the heart of the film, we realise just how far her compassion, patience and dedication reaches. Her counselling sessions are often juxtaposed with the unjust home lives Lee, Jennifer and Joey face. In one particular scene, Vonda shares her own experiences to help Jennifer understand she needs to rise above the harmful opinions her father voices about her academic achievements. It’s through this sharing that Vonda is able to create a bond with her students and help them feel understood. The supportive and nurturing community at Black Rock High fosters an environment in which students feel comfortable confiding in teachers, peers or even the film crew.
Despite the teachers’ dedication to the students and the nurturing environment Black Rock High manages to create, not all three kids make it to graduation. The documentary is an honest look into how, no matter how dedicated an educator may be, it isn’t always possible to provide a solution for external struggles. The documentary and the inspiring teachers at Black Rock High also help provide a lesson for all educators.
Schools have many ‘invisible’ at-risk kids who choose to not speak up about their problems and The Bad Kids shows its audience how to pick up warning signs for students who may be in danger. The teachers at Black Rock High prove that amazing feats can be achieved with limited resources, and it’s this message which is most striking throughout the film. As one of the film’s directors puts it, ‘It doesn’t cost anything to listen to a student,’ and sometimes that makes all the difference.
Many view the film industry as a global marketplace with a plethora of opportunities for international films to cross borders and become successes. It may therefore come as a surprise to some that the majority of box office income for British* films is domestic**!
*this article will mainly cover UK films that are produced independently in Britain.
**UK territory is viewed as England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Where do British films earn money?
Based on a BFI analysis of ComScore data, it becomes clear that the majority of films with a budget under £5 million earned over half their global box office income from within the UK. One of the factors for why these films earn more money domestically than abroad could be because of their limited budget, allowing for lesser distribution worldwide. You may think that this is only a small percentage of UK-produced films but in reality, 95.8% of British films produced between 2008 and 2013 cost under £5 million, with a hefty 47% registering a budget under £150 thousand.
How much global box office goes to UK films?
Independent UK films collected only 1.2% of the global box office in 2016, a significant drop when compared to a high of 3.2% in 2014. However, it is important to note that UK cinema is a tale of two worlds: those produced independently, and those which are studio-backed. Due to the recent boom of American/British co-productions, it isn’t surprising that a weighty 15.2% of global revenue goes to these films. Films like 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which grossed $812.5 million worldwide, are filmed in the UK (often with primarily British casts) but backed by large US studios and therefore have a wider reach in terms of box office success.
Which countries love British cinema?
While independent British films are highly successful in New Zealand, capturing almost 5% of the country’s box office income, they perform badly in certain Asian territories, particularly China, Japan and South Korea.
Which British films export well?
With the conflicting statistics of British film’s success overseas, it’s easy to wonder which UK films do perform successfully overseas. In 2016, the best performing independent British films included The Danish Girl and Florence Foster Jenkins. Besides these films, which received critical and commercial acclaim both at home and abroad, is it possible to view a larger trend of British films that find commercial success outside the UK?
In 2012, David Steele published a paper entitled ‘International Territory Review’ which looked at the global market for UK films. Among his findings, Steele discovered a pattern and formula for UK films which achieve commercial success once exported:
- Biopics of internationally recognised British figures (The King’s Speech, The Iron Lady)
- Medium budget films with A-List stars (Nanny McPhee, Johnny English)
- British films with a cultural or national connection to the country in question (Senna, Jean Charles)
- British films with story content of universal appeal (Slumdog Millionaire, Life)
Taking William Shakespeare’s works and putting them on film, whether adapting them faithfully or using his tropes as a general outline, has been a long staple of cinema. Whether retaining every word of Shakespeare’s original play like in Kenneth Brannagh’s Hamlet, or taking the playwrights tropes and archetypes for an animated classic like The Lion King, it’s undeniable that Shakespeare’s portfolio of work continues to inspire every day.
Arguably Shakespeare’s most popular play, Romeo and Juliet has found itself adapted for the screen countless times. First adapted in 1936 by George Cukor, Shakespeare’s classic romance has seen many lives, whether as Baz Luhrmann’s modern adaptation Romeo + Juliet (1996) that sets the tale in Miami’s Verona Beach while retaining the bard’s original language, or the more recent zombie rom-com Warm Bodies (2013).
Many directors choose to adapt Shakespeare’s plays and set them in the world of American high-schools. The Taming of the Shrew became the classic 10 Things I Hate About You (1999); Twelfth Night turned into She’s the Man (2006) and Othello was adapted as O (2001). The appeal of transposing the bard’s plays to a teenage setting is apparent as it allows a younger audience to relate to the characters as well as showing the universality and timelessness of Shakespeare’s plays. Besides creating an sympathetic atmosphere, the location of a high school makes sense for Shakespeare’s stuctured prose, as the school itself has its own defined social structures and norms. The heightened emotional teenaged landscape of also helps highlight many of Shakespeare’s recurring themes.
But what if Shakespeare were alive today? What kind of films would the bard write? The Big Short’s (2015) larger than life characters, constant breaking of the fourth wall and with themes of corruption, greed and temptation, it evokes many of the bard’s tropes and may remind viewers of some of Shakespeare’s best comedies. It goes to show that modern aspects of our socio-economic structure continue to draw parallels with Shakespeare’s reality four centuries ago. However, Shakespeare’s love of conflicted heroes may draw him to the modern-day superhero genre. Batman, the tortured-soul, often evokes Hamlet himself while franchises like The Avengers play on themes of good and evil, prominent in Shakespeare’s work.
But no conversation about Shakespearean tropes would be complete without the theme of doomed love. The bard would definitely find interest in films like Moulin Rouge and Brokeback Mountain. Similarly, he would inevitably be drawn to films and narratives that play on themes of corruption and domination like Whiplash as well as films that outlie and emphasise the hero’s personal flaws like in The Social Network.
With its ability to examine universal issues on a broad scale, it is fair to speculate that Shakespeare would find himself writing for the screen rather than the stage if he had been our contemporary. However, who knows what direction the arts would have headed if Shakespeare had not been around to create so many beloved archetypes and narrative formulas 400 years ago.
Teaching in the digital age can be challenging. With both the emergence of technologies being introduced into education as well as students’ growing digital literacy, some teachers may find it difficult and even intimidating to incorporate digital platforms in their classrooms. Virtual learning environments make this task easier. We at Quickclass believe that VLEs are most effective when paired with traditional education formulas, incorporating this platform into your students’ curriculums. Here are three methods worth considering to make the most out of your VLE.
1 – Using a VLE to open communication and improve collaboration
A fear that often plagues teachers when introducing VLEs in their curriculum is losing student engagement. However, VLEs and other digital education platforms can help increase communication between teachers and their students as well as boost peer collaboration and activity.
With forum and chat room functions on VLEs, teachers are able to provide another platform for students to get in touch and voice their questions or concerns. VLEs also allow teachers to give their students in depth assessment feedback without taking up class time. Between classes and work, many students find it difficult to dedicate time to meeting up in groups. VLE forums also allow students come together for group projects and activities online instead of needing to always find a way to meet within their often busy schedules.
2 – Setting clear expectations
Digital technology and VLEs allow you as a teacher to set out clear guidelines for your students and help outline your expectations of your class. By integrating a VLE into your curriculum you are given the perfect opportunity to set clear expectations for your students. By setting lesson outlines as well as stating desired project outcomes, your students are able to clearly appreciate what’s required from a certain project or assignment. VLEs are also great portals for uploading practice exams and previous assessments so your students can fully gauge what they should be aiming for. You can also upload class schedules and entire curriculums so students can stay on top of their timetables and know what to expect throughout an academic year which not only allows for a better learning experience but also ensures awareness of your expectations.
3 – Using data to guide learning
Educators are generally advised to base their lessons on data. It can be increasingly difficult to flesh out lesson plans when each student varies in learning practice and preference. Here, a VLE comes in handy. By uploading further resources for your class, each student can decide on their preferred method of learning by accessing the tools you provide digitally in addition to the lessons and information you deliver in class, creating a well rounded experience for your students. By supplying your students with supplemental information, you also allow them to continue expanding their learning outside the classroom as well as feel they are more actively involved in their own educations.
VLEs are a wonderful way to supplement many already successful teaching models. Students can find a nurturing and collaborative environment online and can access it from anywhere, whether at school, home or even on the go.