The Movie arc started with Gever’s usual dramatic presentation, but this time he surprised everyone with something very simple: “We’re going to watch the first twenty seconds of this clip eight times,” he said. There was definite confusion from the kids – why do you need to watch the same thing over and over and over? Boring!
We didn’t end up watching it eight times over (we did watch it five times, and then the day ended) but each time, Gever helped the kids see something new. The angles. The contrast. The dialogue. The way the camera moved. The relationship between the characters. How Spade feels about his visitor. After those five viewings, the kids were more excited to start diving into the Movie arc.
Since then, exploration has taken off. A couple lines of study that have taken off in the bands, among other things:
Students in the Indigo Band were tasked with genre studies, where they had to present to the rest of the band– and some hangers-on– about certain genres of film using research on the tropes and styles used in each. They talked about the camera angles, story lines, use of color and music, and types of characters, and then made short genre films of their own! They did two rounds of these genre studies – touching on westerns, romance movies, comedies, musicals, sci-fi, horror, and noir – and then paired each other off to do a third round that Rich hadn’t even assigned.
Yellow Banders have been focusing on documentaries – both watching them and making them. They watched Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Food Inc, took notes, and then chose subjects to film their own documentaries about issues interesting to them. They also have been trying to understand making how-to videos on various math topics.
The Green Band has been studying the films of animation legend Hayao Miyazaki. They have all watched one or two of the director’s films before, but with their film festival they are using their Friday afternoon viewings to see the films critically. They ask questions about what makes it “good”, why is happening, why are the main characters, what makes a strong character, what are the greater themes explored in the film, how does the pacing, speaking, action affect the story? After the viewing and some discussion, they write a critical review on their blogs. They are also studying Shakespeare to talk about adaptation from words to visual, as well as doing Movie-in-a-Week challenges with one student as director each week.
The Orange Band is talking about the historical and cultural significance of film, using documentaries to visualize the impact of film on society, as well as the impact of technology on how movies are made. They are taking on mini-challenges each week in small groups to film movies with a different emphasis: stop motion, interesting camera angles, Foley special effects. They are also reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to compare the text of the novel with the two adaptations from the big screen.
The Blue Band wanted to learn history through film, so took the Civil War as their first topic of study – not only because of the amount of movies that have been based on this time in American history, but also because it links to the conversations about civil rights that have been a constant theme during this school year. Their first film was The Birth of a Nation, which they watched with a very critical eye and read a lot about. They are also watching the series “The Story of Film”, are experimenting with styles of movies, and are using vlogs to document their work every night. They just started a study of the French Revolution starting with watching Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette.
Red Banders have continued to explore the world of story through examining characters and developing their own. They are thinking about stop motion and the connections between storytelling and moviemaking. Check out the podcast below, hosted by Shawna, and featuring the Red Band: