Lights, Camera, ACTION! You’re ready to start filming! This is an exciting time, especially for the students, but there is still a lot of important learning and planning at this stage. Read more and find out how you can prepare your students to film your class movie in a smooth and successful way.
Once the students have storyboarded their script and have a good idea of the different clips and camera shots, you are ready to start filming. To make it go more smoothly, the students need to learn about the jobs on the set. Take a look at this video made by a former colleague, April Payne, showing the behind-the-scenes preparation for filming. (After you click the link, scroll down and click Behind the Scenes.) You can find her masters with student job labels as well as descriptions of the jobs here.
It's essential that students be assigned individual jobs when filming. Before we begin filming we discuss and demonstrate the different jobs and emphasize that all are important. The movie would not happen if all the parts didn’t work together. Typical jobs when we are filming include the cinematographer, the director, and the actors. For the stop motion section of our movie, we added the job "candy movers."
Every year I find that once I step back and give up control to the students, they come through in amazing ways. Students naturally take control and complete their jobs in a professional manner. This year I had a little girl that was so in tune with the lighting and shadows as a cinematographer — she was always searching for places to put the lights so the actors would be seen well. I also had a few kids that shined as directors and were able to coach their peer actors to better fluency and acting. As a teacher, it is amazing to see your struggling readers yell out their lines with confidence, fluency, and emotion.
What the Other Students Do During Filming
If you are wondering what the other students are doing while the groups are filming, you are not alone. It is important to make this time purposeful for all of the students and not stop any learning for filming.
Depending on the movie and where we are filming, students will be doing different things. When we are filming in our classroom, students carry on with their day-to-day activities while one group at a time films.
The filming for this year's movie was completely in front of a green screen that I set up in an empty classroom. Because we needed to move to another classroom to work, students brought their differentiated skill work with them. When not filming, some students were reading and writing, and others were working on language arts skills they need more practice on. The important piece was that all students were continuing to learn and do work while filming went on.
The Unexpected Learning
Every year that I have been creating movies with students, the most exciting learning that takes place is unexpected. This learning can range from academic to personal. In the past I had a child whose voice trailed off when reading. In the classroom I used all the typical fluency instruction methods and I couldn’t get her to fix this. It wasn’t until she saw herself on camera that she understood and automatically fixed her voice when reading. Other kids learn about little fidgets they do like playing with their shirt or swaying while talking. I love when students become more aware of eye contact once they try talking in front of the camera. The grammatical errors that typically go unnoticed when young students are speaking get corrected when filming. It truly is amazing to watch the range of learning that takes place during filming.
I hope this latest post in my Behind the Scenes series on filmmaking with students was helpful in getting your students behind the camera. Next week I'll conclude this series of posts with details about the editing stage of filmmaking. In the meantime, please ask questions and/or tell us about your experiences filming class movies.