Well, every so often we decide to put our money where our mouth is and borrow a class for a few hours. This is what happened when we spent the day at Parish Church Primary School in Lincolnshire, using film to teach a year six class the story of the conversion of Saul armed with a video camera, a clapper board, six Macs and a lot of enthusiasm…
We used an adapted industry workflow to give the children an idea of how Hollywood does it!
Step One: Concept
We began the day by mind mapping “Journeys” in order to give the story of Saul some context. The children worked by themselves, considering the journeys they had been on, how they travelled and what feelings they associated with travelling, leaving and arriving. This could be done using software like Mind Manager 8 but we chose to use pens and paper. After a couple of minutes, we discussed the results in brief before asking questions about famous journeys in the bible. The response to this was very positive but we would recommend having a pretty encyclopaedic knowledge of journeys in the bible if you ask this question!
When telling the story of St Paul, we asked plenty of questions to ensure that the students understood the events, with a particular focus on how the characters might have felt. The class was then split into groups and asked to summarise the story into scenes which were then written on the board as a master list. The list came in handy when deciding on what the most important scenes to film, but it helps if you already know what you want the children to pick! We tried to limit the video to 7 or 8 scenes, and it’s worth bearing in mind that when trying to explain that not everything in a story can go into a film, Harry Potter is an invaluable analogy!
Step Two: Scripting
The class thought about the most important parts of the story and the best way to show these to the audience. They had the freedom to illustrate these points however they wanted – for example, the idea that Saul was not a nice man was illustrated with these lines on the road to Damascus:
Saul: Guess how many Christians I’ve killed
Guard 1: I don’t know, four?
Saul: Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha. No. More like twelve
Guard 1: Oh, that is a lot!
Step Three: Storyboard
A storyboard is effectively a cartoon strip with an image for every scene. Armed with our 8 scenes, we began to build a simple storyboard. In the interests of being frugal with time, we used stick men to demonstrate how each scene would be shot.
The most important things to decide and storyboard were who and what would be in each scene, and where the camera was going to be (a wide or close up shot etc).
Step Four: Casting
We asked the students who they thought was involved in the making of a film. With a few leading questions, such as “who decides what that actor wears?” and “where does the noise of the horses hooves come from?”, the children were able to come up with a pretty complete list, which looked something like this:
- Special Effects
Once we had the list we assigned roles to our eager volunteers.
Step Five: Filming
If everyone is clear on their roles and the cameraman knows how to press the record button, filming is easy, but we did find that having any more than fifteen students involved at any given time caused absolute chaos. Watching recorded scenes on the camera’s LCD screen and doing retakes on a couple of shots allowed the children to evaluate each other’s work and offer constructive criticism. They responded to this maturely and with pertinent comments.
We then edited the film as a class in iMovie.
Step Six: Watching
We premiered the film as a class, complete with popcorn (actually, it was watched three times, at the student’s request!). This was followed by a small awards ceremony honouring the best actor and best crew member.
Some additional activities…
Where would all the blockbusters be without some good marketing? We asked the children to make a promotional poster for their film using Pages. We showed them examples of other movie posters and talked to them about what things made posters good: bright colours, tag lines and images from the film.
They came up with some great taglines, which ranged from “Saint Paul the movie, the best movie you will ever see”, to our favourite: “SAUL WAS A JEW WHO TURNED INTO A CHRISTIAN. HE WAS BIT BY A SNAKE AND TOOK ALL OF THE VENOM OUT OF ALL THE SNAKES. WHAT A MIRACLE!!!! OH DEAR!!! SAINT PAUL HAD HIS HEAD CHOPPED OFF”. Perhaps overly informative, but definitely an attention grabber!
Oh, and by the way,
If you are using an external mic while recording, try to make sure it has batteries in it. (We learned the hard way and ended up subtitling half the film!)
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