Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The right mix: a new film project with teenagers.

The right ingredients?
Today I started work on a new film project with three EAL pupils at my local high school. I felt quite nervous beforehand – it has been a while since I have undertaken group work with teenagers– whatever would I do if the project elicited nothing more than a gothic roll of the eyes and deathly silence?

In the end, I was most pleasantly surprised by the pupils’ enthusiasm!  The trick will be, I think, to keep the momentum going over the weeks that follow and produce something which does justice to the talents of the individuals in this group.

Unfortunately, one pupil was absent today,  but I was lucky enough to have two fantastic members of staff present who contributed a lot of ideas and enthusiasm to the process.

  •  I brought out a mixing bowl and a wooden spoon, and started mixing an imaginary cake.  I added some flour to the bowl and passed it on to the pupil on my right who added butter.  We went round our little circle with each person adding whatever they thought was an important ingredient to our “cake.”  
  • It was easy to agree on the ingredients for a cake. I knew it might be harder to agree on what makes a great film! A quick circle of the mixing bowl elicited a few ideas: someone said “funny” and someone else said “good people."
  • It was at this point I brought out some suggestions:

Costs lots of £s to make!
Good music (soundtrack)
Brad Pitt
Handsome actors
Is in Polish
Makes you cry
About 1 and a half hours long
Beautiful scenery
Has animals in it
Nice costumes
Is in Hungarian
Makes you think
Has a happy ending
Is fast moving
Is in English
Is exciting

  • Pupils read the suggestions and ticked the ingredients that they thought made for a great film. Unsurprisingly people had different ideas, so this generated some interesting discussion.

  • I then showed the pupils extracts from three short films. Two of the films were made by  groups of adult ES(O)L learners. The third film was made by a local group of young film makers. I gave everyone in the group a small whiteboard and a marker pen. After each film they had to write down a number between 1 and 10 which reflected their opinion of the film they had seen. On the count of three they had to show each other their score and back this up with an opinion. This was interesting: it gave me an insight into what kind of film the pupils might like to make. Also, I could see that pupils were, in some cases, watching the films and thinking "I could do better than this!". 
  • Now came the tricky bit. Before the end of the lesson I wanted the pupils to agree on the kind of film they were going to make. I gave them a brief: I want them to make a film which can be shown to incoming EAL pupils who arrive new at the school. The film has to be welcoming and positive: apart from that they have creative freedom! Aware that our presence was becoming more of a hindrance than a help myself and the other staff members left the pupils in peace for five minutes to discuss their plans.
  • Did we return to a stony silence? Not at all. The pupils had already agreed on their idea and as I write this I am aware that I do not want to give too much away, for fear of taking the shine of the finished film. Suffice to say, the pupils had approached the brief from an angle I could never have predicted and I am very excited about the next few sessions!

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