We have facilitated several free courses throughout Halton funded by Halton Youth Provision, including a seven week set of Filmmaking sessions at Halton Lea Library for young people aged 10 to 16 years.
During this project our participants were introduced to film theory; including when to use certain types of camera shots and the Rule of Thirds, before being invited to put their skills to use in practical filmmaking activities such as the Five Shot Challenge.
As a group we started our journey into filmmaking by introducing our favourite films and deciphering some films described in emoji form. We then discussed what we were going to be looking at throughout the seven weeks of the project; from how to properly frame your subject using a camera to understanding the importance of audio in filmmaking.
Last of all was our Record and Playback activity; each participant had to record themselves talking about a subject or acting in a scene of their choice. The quality of the film didn’t matter, it was about getting comfortable appearing on camera as in the coming weeks we would all have to get used to the sight of our own face and the sound of our own voice, as horrible as that may be!
Films as Emojis – Answers on a postcard please!
We built upon the Record and Playback task from the first week by delving into film theory. We asked why we choose to point our camera a certain way and how our decisions can affect our audience.
We introduced the Rule of Thirds, a useful guide to framing subjects when filming or taking photos, and looked at five key camera shots. In order to help identify them we watched a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with groups of participants standing up when they saw a given type of shot. As well as a handy impromptu fitness aid (and fun for the watching Mako staff as young people bobbed up and down!) this kinesthetic learning activity helped to cement the five shot types in the minds of the participants.
We then made Five Shot Films, in which the participants had to use each of the five shots we had discussed one time only to create a short, suspenseful scene of no more than a minute that would keep the audience coming back for more.
Having learned how to frame basic shots last week we were ready to build on that knowledge and start moving the camera to achieve certain effects. The participants completed a Shot Scavenger Hunt, in which they ticked off a given type of camera movement and shot type(s), all the while thinking about what kind of effect they could achieve by using that movement in a film. For example when participants followed a character in a tracking shot, they could build tension or show a character running from danger.
We then used shot list templates to shoot film trailers, which allowed the participants to show off their new camera operating skills and knowledge of shots while producing a cohesive piece of media in double-quick time.
With knowledge of how to frame and move the camera in the can we then explored two concepts concerning the organisation of cameras on a film set; coverage and the 180 Degree Rule. Used together these ideas help filmmakers to get the right amount of shots of a given scene from angles that match up cohesively during the edit, shot from one side of an imaginary ‘line’. The participants came to understand that an editor would not thank them for forgetting to get good coverage or for committing the cardinal filmmaking sin of ‘crossing the line’!
The participants put their new knowledge into practice by reshooting scenes from Disney films. With both classics and more recent Disney films to recreate we had some brilliant reimagined scenes; including new takes on the tragic death of Mufasa and this hilarious doorstep discussion from Up:
This week we moved on from creating visuals to considering what a film audience hears. We learned how essential the soundtrack of a film is to the mood of the piece: if Captain Jack Sparrow sails into port with triumphant music playing we recognise him as the brave hero of the film, but if the music is scary we think he is under threat and the images of hanging bodies take on an extra sinister feel!
Next it was time to create our own alternate soundtracks to some much-loved films. Did the participants want to support the original mood of films such as Star Wars, with a sci-fi-tastic futuristic space battle soundtrack, or did they want to undercut the feel of Christmas classic The Grinch by adding scary strings in place of the jaunty brass band?
In our penultimate session we prepared for our final film project by learning about story structure and how to plan a film shoot. In creating a Story Mountain participants mapped out the rough outline of a possible story idea in a simple three act structure. Also through designing a Storyboard the participants could visualise a scene they might shoot in their final project.
In the final hour four groups began planning and shooting their final films, before final publication and viewing next week!
Our final session was given over entirely to our final films. Props and costumes were assembled and storyboards were studied before each of the four film crews got to work. They were tasked with planning and shooting all their scenes, creating and importing a soundtrack and adding titles and captions to their work. Then at the end of the session we got together to enjoy a quadruple bill of short films, during which we discussed how the participants had put into practice all they had learned across the past seven weeks.
Given the challenging times everyone has faced due to the Covid 19 pandemic; including instances of illness and social isolation, we agreed with our funders to centre our Halton Youth Provision projects in 2021 around health and wellbeing.
During this Filmmaking course our staff encouraged our young people to talk openly about their physical and mental health and regularly checked up on how our participants were feeling, through both informal verbal checks and written feedback.
Overall our seven week Filmmaking project was a resounding success; lots of new friendships were made and many young people signed straight up to do more activities with us. Thanks so much to Halton Borough Council for funding our youth provision in our local community this year.
Check our Coming Up page to find out what we are next doing near you!