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.
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.
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.
Incorporating filmmaking into the curriculum not only helps foster an environment of creativity for students and staff alike but also allows students to develop an appreciation for digital media that will undoubtedly play a role in their futures. Simon Pile, assistant head teacher at London’s Anson Primary and Into Film Teacher of the Year, believes that filmmaking benefits every aspect of education when introduced in the classroom.
Pile believes that one of the most important steps in getting filmmaking in the classroom is ensuring that teachers are on board. Teaching filmmaking to groups of energetic students could seem daunting to anyone, let alone those who may not have experience with digital media. Pile suggests hosting seminars to introduce teachers and educators to basic filmmaking techniques. These lessons not only allow teachers to understand the technology available, but also provide a framework they can apply to their teaching methods. By removing their fear of the unknown, Pile allowed teachers to become excited about new filmmaking curriculums, allowing their exuberance to transfer to their students. By encouraging teachers to film one-minute films on their phones, Pile showed teachers just how accessible filmmaking is.
Pile also illustrates that filmmaking should be treated like literacy, incorporating both film watching alongside the more practical media skills. Young people are very comfortable around technology and may find themselves using their mobile phones to film themselves and their friends in social settings. By illustrating how certain filmmakers frame shots during film watching lessons, students will be able to incorporate that in their personal future projects.
Filmmaking and film literacy activities, like watching, are also effective tools to be incorporated in classrooms alongside more traditional curriculums. Pile likes to use film techniques when discussing adaptation. Many popular books and literary series taught in schools at different levels have been adapted for television or cinema. By pairing filmic adaptations with their source material in classes, students are able to visualise what they’ve been reading as well as understanding that filmmaking is a process that begins with the conception of a story. Encouraging students to also seek out and read the books that inspired their favourite films is a wonderful way of ensuring they view media, both traditional and new, from an refined standpoint.
Incorporating filmmaking and film watching into school curriculums also helps students understand digital literacy. With the constant evolution of technology, young professionals are required to have a deeper understanding of technology and digital platforms than ever before. Introducing students to digital learning and appreciation at younger ages will only benefit them in the long run, encouraging then to understand the technology that surrounds us all.
Filmmaking is an inclusive and creative endeavour that promotes teamwork and collaboration. Taking advantage of VLEs and other online platforms helps benefit students and teachers by allowing access to research materials and filmmaking tips as well as providing an environment for students to share their films outside of the classroom, particularly outside of term-time. Filmmaking only helps add richness to traditional curriculums and by establishing balance between traditional and contemporary methods of learning, teachers will help prepare students for the expansive world of technology available to us all.
The efforts and sacrifice that go into filmmaking are what make it great, and can also inadvertently make it hilarious. These memes below share the lighter-side of what makes filmmaking so simultaneously challenging and satisfying.
1. Client Brief Vs Client Budget
2. How not to treat your Camera
3. … or your tripod
4. Get used to an Irregular Diet
5. … and working for ‘Exposure’
6. GoPro 1960
7. Using what you got (when you don’t have a child at hand)
8. Be decisive about that Final Cut
9. … as long as you didn’t build your editing suite like this
10. In the end, be prepared to learn from your mistakes!
When the Academy Awards roll around every year, the question of what differentiates the Oscar for Best Sound Mixing and Editing can arise. Two technical categories awarded on Hollywood’s Biggest Night, and yet sounding so similar – they’re bound to breed confusion! Besides sounding similar, the nominees for sound mixing and editing often overlap. So what actually is the difference between the two categories?
Before being called sound editing, the Academy referred to this category as ‘sound effects editing.’ The award’s original title is much more telling of what the job actually entails and what the Academy recognises.
The 89th Academy Awards outlined the responsibilities of a sound editing supervisor as ‘the principal interpreter of the director’s vision to the sound editing team.’ Sound editing supervisors are responsible not only for approving sounds and deciding their placement within a film, but also with editing dialogue and coordinating any additional dialogue recordings, or ADR, the cast needs to perform. Everything you hear on screen is composed and constructed by a sound editor.
Besides compiling the sounds that have been collected throughout production, sound editors are also responsible for creating new sounds, whether they record them themselves or use a sonorous library of effects.
In essence, sound editing is the responsibility for all of a film’s sound elements, including dialogue; sound effects; dialogue replacement; atmospheric sound and more.
Once the sound editor has completed his job, the sound mixer can get to work, working on top of the sonorous landscape the sound editor creates.
A sound mixer enters the scene once a film’s sound has been edited. Variety magazine defines a sound mixer as the person on a film’s production which decides how the audience will hear the film. Academy Award nominated sound editor Erik Aadahl, who was nominated alongside Ethan Van der Ryn for Argo, described the post-production sound design as an orchestra. He went on to describe that “the sound editor is the composer choosing a symphony while the sound mixer works as a conductor, deciding when the symphony should rise and fall.”
Sound mixer’s manipulate a sound editor’s work in order to inject certain emotions in a scene. A sound mixer may decide to emphasise a film’s score during a particularly melancholy moment just like they may decide to highlight a character’s heaving breathing, overshadowing a scene’s other sounds to help build tension.
The Academy’s Sound Mixing category is often populated by large action and war films. With big action films like 2017 nominees Hacksaw Ridge and Rogue One, sound mixers can have up to 2,000 channels of sound they need to work with. It’s important here to balance the individual elements in the scene as much as it is to create an overall atmosphere.
You may ask if having two sound categories is really necessary and in reality the Academy ignores various technical categories that often go without recognition. For now, we’ll have to be satisfied with just these two sound honours.
It’s safe to say that most filmmaking students aspire to work on a film set. Whether they’ve found work while studying, or landed a job after graduation, it can sometimes be hard for new filmmakers to know what is expected of them on set. Here are four simple etiquette tips for working on a production whether you’re a grip, production runner or camera operator.
1 – Attitude
It’s fair to say that anyone who has worked on a set will have found it taxing. Your attitude at work is possibly an even more important asset than your skill set. Your composure is the first thing people will notice about you and a positive outlook is a filmmaker’s greatest strength. Filmmaking can consume heaps of both time and energy, and if you’re going to work for over twelve hours with the same group of people, it’s pretty damned important to ensure you get along with them. By having an easy-going and positive attitude not only will you find your time on set more enjoyable, but you’ll find more people will want to work with you in future.
2 – Opinion
Although your opinion is valuable, it isn’t always necessary. Voicing what you think about a shoot can distract your fellow filmmakers. When you’re on set, be careful what you say as you never know who could be listening and you could potentially throw off those who are trying to develop the film’s story. As a beginner, focus on how you can make your performance better and improve your work habits.
3 – Listen
Being able to listen to instruction and advice and apply it to your work is a great asset to any filmmaker. When you first get hired on a set, make sure to develop your listening skills as soon as possible to ensure you’re performing your job to the best of your abilities. Ask for clarification if you’re unsure about instructions, since repeating a job twice will eat up production time and costs. Stay alert while you work and try to take in the information both your department and others are providing you. By listening to your co-workers, especially those with more experience, you can gain knowledge that will not only help your immediate position, but also any future jobs.
4 – Ask questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Everyone was a beginner at some point and most filmmakers are willing to lend their advice to you. Not only will you be showing your co-workers how interested you are in learning everything there is to know, but they will appreciate your thirst for knowledge. Try to limit your conversations and questions to times that will not interfere with production, but make the most out of your fellow filmmakers’ experience.
By following these tips on film sets you will only help elevate your knowledge and status. Popularity can go a long way in the film industry and you never know who will offer you a job one day!
Not that Quickclass would ever condone this sort of treatment of our beloved feline friends, but a Nottingham smartphone filmmaker has caught this rather surprising (and slightly hilarious) insight into one man’s efforts not to leave his cat home alone!
Very sweet or something to contact the RSPCA about… you be the judge.
On a slightly less cruel and more film-relevant note, let’s take a moment to consider camera orientation and the modern smartphone filmmaker…
There has never been a bigger boost to the POPULATION of global filmmakers than the last decade’s smartphone explosion, which has endowed the pockets of hundreds of millions around the planet with top-notch 4K footage-capturing cameras. This empowerment (and massive video files) has led humanity to create more ‘data’ by volume in the last couple of years than in the preceding 10,000, i.e. ALL of it!
Whilst empowering and greatly improving our potential to document our lives and the world around us… BUT without the absolute basics of filmmaking tuition, the average new owner of a super-specced smartphone is likely to commit a highly basic error regarding their image orientation….
Most people use their 9:16 ratio’d screens (yes 9:16, horizontal dimension first, vertical second) in an upright, portrait manner. For browsing, tweeting, mailing, navigating, whatsapping… this makes sense, and the Apps have been optimised for this way of holding our devices.
This is unmatched by the best way to shoot film. Consider of our cinema, TV, and computer screens… All wider than tall to reflect our horizontal interpretation of a gravity-laden planet. Look around you, folks, its a horizontal world out there!
So Quickclass strongly endorses one of the first rules of the game in our brave new world of filmmaking, and this is definitely one to start your students off with:
When you fire up that camera App to capture the furious cat in a backpack on the street in front of you, imagine what a FULLER and RICHER view of the world you’re creating for the army of viral cat clip fans when you turn your smartphone ON ITS ‘SIDE’!
(Rant over. Thanks for reading.)
Diversity in film has been a topic on many people’s minds in recent years. With Kathryn Bigelow being the last woman nominated for a Best Directing Oscar back in 2006, it comes as no surprise that gender inequality in film is still an issue now.
Northern Irish director and screenwriter Mary McGuckian comes in at number 7 on the BFI’s top director’s list, the only woman included in the top ten. McGuckian manages to sit in first place among female directors in the UK, releasing five films between 2003 and 2013. A total of five filmmakers, including Bend It Like Beckham’s Gurinder Chadha and Fishtank director Andrea Arnold, weigh in in second place with three films apiece, ranking in 34th position out of all British filmmakers. The lack of female directors is not a uniquely British issue, with a 2015 study revealing that only 9% of the USA’s top grossing movies featured a female director. The same study also explained that only ‘33% of films 0 or 1 woman in the roles considered.’ Various associations have founded movements to promote female directed films, including LA’s Women in Film with their 52 Films By Women pledge, which urges audiences to watch one film directed by a woman a week for a calendar year.
In the British film industry, women are far better represented in producing roles than the director’s chair. Almost a quarter of the top UK producers (namely, those who have produced at least 11 feature films between 2003 and 2013) are women, with Tessa Ross, ex-Film4 head, clocking in as the second largest producer in the UK. Ross’ credits, which include the Academy Award winning features 12 Years a Slave and Slumdog Millionaire, produced 47 feature films in the past decade. Although Ross may have been the second most successful producers in the UK, she is the only woman included in the BFI’s Top Ten UK Producers list in 2013. Liza Chasin, producer of Love Actually and The Theory of Everything, just misses the top ten with a hefty 24 films produced between 2003 and 2013.
Female screenwriters on the other hand fail to make the BFI’s Top 10 list of screenwriters. Kick-Ass’ Jane Goldman and Suffragette’s Abi Morgan may be the top female screenwriters in the UK but are only in twelfth position overall. The only woman who trumps their credits is British novelist and Harry Potter author JK Rowling who, although credited for creating the stories behind one of film’s most successful franchises, has only had one screenwriting credit for 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The issue of gender inequality in the film industry is one that still needs attention even in 2017. Despite many film reboots with female casts, including the upcoming Ocean’s Eight, there is still a disparity behind the scenes. With stars like Jada Pinkett-Smith believing that the issue sits with a lack of opportunity to women in film, some female filmmakers have taken action in order to give opportunities to more women in there productions. In 2016 it was announced that a non-profit production company entitled We Do It Together would launch to produce films with a focus on female empowerment. The production company includes an advisory board of female film professionals including American director Catherine Hardwicke and actresses Jessica Chastain and Juliette Binoche. The company hopes to give emerging equal opportunities and help end Hollywood’s gender discrimination.
It’s impossible to deny that creative industries are thoroughly competitive with many aspiring filmmakers finding that they need an edge. With cinema constantly evolving, it’s important for students to know what to expect. Below you’ll find an exercise to help your students finesse their skills and get closer to the career they aspire to.
Step One: Content Strategy
If there is one skill all filmmakers need it’s the ability to identify excellent content. For film, that content generally stems from a screenplay. Whether using your own story or adapting someone else’s for the screen, it is important to know what makes a story great. Have your students read a variety of screenplays to identify what makes a story great. Once they’ve done their research, ask them to write a five-minute screenplay using the skills they learned from their reading. This exercise should help them recognise what contributes to making a great story.
Step Two: Project Management
As any film professional knows, an entire project can fall apart if it isn’t managed properly. In order for your students to learn what makes a project successful, have them create a budget for one of the screenplays they read during Step One. Once they have the budget, instruct them to create a schedule that will allow them to understand how they would go about producing their film.
Step Three: Film Finance
Once your students have completed their budget and schedule, have them look into ways in which they could potentially finance their film. With the filmmaking schemes available to amateur directors their adventure into financing will help them truly understand and appreciate the entire process of filmmaking.
Step Four: Presentation
Your students may find that many of the potential financing schemes they encounter require filmmakers to pitch their idea to investor or studio executives. Now that they have made a budget and schedules, your students should be ready to pitch their film. For this exercise, act as a potential investor and have your students pitch their projects to you. Allow other students to sit in and hear their classmates’ pitch not only to acclimate those presenting to speaking to an audience, but also so they can learn from their peers.
Step Five: PR
Although your students may not have included marketing and advertisement in their budget, it is important for them to know how films gain traction after production is completed. Have your students put together a simple press kit for their potential film.
Step Six: Social Media and Creating a Brand
Although many students may already use social media on a daily basis, they may not know how to use it to its full professional potential. Have your students create new social media handles and portals to make a filmmaking resume suited for the twenty-first century. On Instagram for example, filmmakers can upload short clips from films they’ve already produced and interact with others who share the same passion. Social media is a wonderful way for filmmakers to network and you should be able to guide your students to do this in a professional manner. Another attribute many students may want to work on is a webpage where potential employers and colleagues can see their resume and film history. By the end of this part of the exercise, your students should have a personal brand that summarises them as a filmmaker as well as the types of films they would like to produce.
Step Seven: Networking
Although having a digital presence is very important, aspiring filmmakers need to know how to network with other professionals. Have your students lead professional conversations between themselves and instruct them to make the best first impression. By the end of this exercise, your students should feel confident enough to use the other techniques they’ve learned to promote themselves and make professional connections.
We hope this exercise will help your students understand what is required to work in film.