Monday, 4 February 2013

Film making: Technical Tips

Work on the ES(O)L Film Festival website is well under way. In the meantime, all festival information will be posted on this blog.

I am absolutely delighted that Elaine Williamson has agreed to lead the ES(O)L Film project with me.  Many of you will already know Elaine from the wonderful work she has done as co-coordinator of the IATEFL ES(O)L Sig.

Welcome aboard, Elaine!
In this post I will look at some technical tips on film making in the classroom. I should admit at this point, that I am a relative newbie to all things techie. If any tech geniuses happen to be reading, I would ask you not to chuckle at my naive advice, but rather to add some of your pearls of wisdom in the comments box below. Many thanks!

So, with that in mind, don’t feel that you lack the technical skills to work on movies with your learners.  Film making is not the expensive, time consuming past time it once was. Here are some tips to get you started…

Tip One: Start Small 

You don't  need to rush along to your nearest camera shop and splash out on the latest state of the art video equipment. It's possible to make great  films using your mobile phone (a number of film festivals are now devoted exclusively to mobile phone films!) This has exciting implications for film making in the classroom: more on that in a later post, as we are staying small and simple for now. 

Tip Two: Save Time

As busy ESOL teachers and learners we simply do not have the luxury of time which professional film makers enjoy. We therefore need to make sure that any time we spend on filming in our lessons is used as efficiently as possible. This is particularly important when you are filming on location: organisation and planning is everything. 

If you are working with a script make sure that your learners can confidently deliver their lines. Invest time before filming on looking at stress patterns and features of connected speech, so that the resulting dialogue does not put any strain on the listener. 

Tip Three: Get Help
Perhaps one of your learners has experience in film editing. If so, ask this learner to share his/her knowledge with the rest of the class. It can happen, however, that none of your learners are confident in film editing techniques and if you’re not either, then what?

Newcomers to film making and editing have some steep learning curves to contend with.  I know a teacher who once spent an evening in tears believing her computer had swallowed two hours worth of film. * It doesn’t have to be this way. Don’t we all have a computer geek/ frustrated film maker friend to hand? Friends such as these can often solve in a minute what might take you or I a week of evenings.  Time for a matey phone call…

Teachers with access to computer suites are particularly fortunate here. In our last film
( , we copied a folder of video clips to each computer and learners used Microsoft Word Movie Maker to edit and order the clips. The resulting film was a blend of learners’ ideas.
Tip Four: Editing

Free editing software is simple enough to use. I’m no computer whiz, but managed to figure out Moviemaker pretty much unassisted. If you work with Apple products, then iMovie is even better.  Enjoy yourself, and take it easy - September is a long way off yet!

*Luckily for me it hadn’t!

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