Creating a Film for the MY HERO Short Film Festival and Competitionby by Jerrilyn Jacobs, Taft High School
Subject Arts - Media
To encourage students to use a variety of media in presenting stories about their heroes, MY HERO has established a Short Film Festival and Competition.
First, students make a Web page about their hero using the simple CREATE program. A lesson plan deals with this part of the project in detail.
Then students produce a short (under five minutes) film about their hero and submit it to the film competition. MY HERO may take some or all of the film, compress it, and add it as a link from the student's hero page. Winning films will be featured on the site in their entirety.
Students will identify, research and write about their hero, creating a MY HERO Web page. This part of the project focuses on basic literacy skills extended into publishing in an interactive format.
Students will take their ideas and research material and develop a short media piece which will be turned into a film. This part of the project focuses on basic media literacy skills as students develop images, text and sound, incorporate movement, and edit the elements together into a visual tribute to their hero.
In the process students will access, analyze, and evaluate multimedia resources, create and share their own film projects.
Analyze the media resources you have to work with before beginning this project. Students can work in any medium as long as the finished piece is presented in a digital format (DV, DVD, CD – Mpeg or QuickTime files only).
A media project can use a mix of:
digital stills (or try disposable film cameras developed onto CDs)
text in the form of graphic cards, or created and added digitally
dialogue, narration and/or interviews recorded on audiorecorders or using internal mics found in videocameras or in computers
original or imported songs with or without lyrics
special effects sounds
computer program for animation, image editing, and/or video editing
Factor in the need and cost of consumables for the elements you choose, like audio or videotape stock, CDs, DVDs, or flash memory.
Choosing Your Format
The research, images, and writing the students use in making their MY HERO Web page will provide the launching off point for deciding how to create a film tribute to their hero.
The format you choose to work in will depend on the availability of equipment and resources. The categories for the MY HERO Short Film Festival are: documentary, narrative, animation, and experimental.
Media elements can be combined in a variety of ways, as the formats meld and blend to meet the needs of the hero story. For example:
- A multimedia piece can be imbedded in a documentary.
- A dramatization or re-creation of an event can be introduced with animated titles.
- A PowerPoint presentation can feature original songs and lyrics.
- Create an animated piece about a literary figure with live-action credits.
- As the Ken Burns Effect in iMovie shows, camera movement (panning or zooming) on a still image can be compelling. Documentaries can be made showing what the student has learned through extensive research and critical thinking even with the most limited original visual material. Original soundtracks can be the dominant creative outlet in this kind of situation.
In the pre-production phase, it is crucial that students work out the basic structure and content of their piece. Whether you use brainstorming software like Inspiration, or paper, start off by having students find the main ideas, and how they are supported and developed by other ideas.
Once content has been roughed out, ideas can be developed into a storyboard where the main ideas can be ordered into a beginning, middle, and end.
Self, peer, and teacher evaluation at the storyboarding stage can save an enormous amount of time, helping students stay focused on the main message of their piece, and helping them refine the sequences and specific shots that will support and develop the main idea.
- Accessing Your Hero or Finding Media Pieces About Your Hero
Whether or not students have immediate access to their hero is a primary factor in deciding how to put their film together
If heroes are not accessible to the students, they will have to rely primarily on accessing, analyzing, choosing, manipulating, and editing media elements that can be found on the Internet, through library and media searches, and through requests for materials from individuals and organizations.
Challenge students to push their research as far as possible. If their hero has ever been on television, can the students find footage and obtain permission to use it? If their hero is a spokesperson for an organization, does that group have media elements that can be accessed and used? Maybe there's a brochure or a newspaper article with the hero's picture and quotable passages.
As in all productions, make sure students are meticulous in giving credit for materials produced by others.
Approaching famous or overly busy, important people: If their heroes fall in this category, encourage students to try to contact them through email, agents, or, if they know where they work or the name of a group they are associated with, by phone. Before making the call or writing the email, encourage students to prepare a brief but compelling statement telling the person who answers the phone, or any assistant they are able to reach, who they are and why the person who is their hero would want to talk with them. MY HERO reaches over millions of people around the world. A story and film on MY HERO is positive publicity that reaches a global audience, which can be appreciated by even the most celebrated and successful people!
Students should have some dynamic interview questions ready in case they get through. They should understand how to be a good listener and spin new questions off of answers to previous ones. When I interview people by phone, I put the person on speakerphone and record it onto audio or videotape. (Be sure students tell the person they’re speaking to that they’re recording the interview.) Your students could land the interview of their life if they are persistent and prepared.
If they do get to interview a famous person, one really good question to ask is for the hero to identify his/her hero. The MY HERO Web site has a special place for this kind of information, and it's a great addition to the students’ hero Web pages and/or films.
Prepare students for how to respond if they are turned down -- it's good experience for life situations -- and how to try for other resources for their production before they hang up or stop emailing. Does the assistant or person they've been dealing with have any headshots, or stills of the hero in action? Does s/he have articles or brochures, or any type of media that the students could use in their production? Have students leave their name and the school's contact information in case their hero would like to contact them. Promise to send the hero a copy of the MY HERO Web page that the student has written and follow through. Regardless of the outcome of the contact, students are practicing valuable skills in communicating and pursuing a goal.
If students can talk directly to their hero, they may get media elements that could become a documentary, or that may provide ideas and information for a dramatization or re-creation of a heroic situation.
Interview ideas: Be sure students develop interview questions which cannot be answered with a yes or no, and which are structured around the main ideas that make the person a hero to them.
If time permits, or as homework, you may want to set up a practice role playing situation, where someone pretends to be the hero and the student practices asking questions and listening to responses in order to create additional questions. This exercise helps make the interviewer comfortable with the questions while seeing if some need to be clarified or improved. It also gives the interviewer practice in being a good listener and creating new questions in response to what the pretend-hero has said.
- Creating the Production from the Media Elements
Working from a storyboard allows students to save time by efficiently exploring possibilities for constructing their media message. As much as time allows, they should be encouraged to experiment with their media pieces, developing an understanding of how to shape their ideas.
For students who are not confident with their drawing, I give a sh