You’re a Star!: 3 Approaches to Movie Making Camp

You’re a Star!: 3 Approaches to Movie Making Camp

Kids these days love their technology.

In my school we have to take away their cell phones at the beginning of the day or they will never listen to a word we say. While you can debate the merits and pitfalls of this technology obsession, there is nothing stopping you from using it to your advantage. Enter movie camp. Given the amount of time spent watching movies (either feature or YouTube) most students will jump at the chance to play a part in creating one.

There are many different ways to go about creating movies with your class. The teacher’s technological know-how will be one major limiting factor, along with students’ English levels and confidence. To be clear, these activities do not require any significant expertise with video editing software or advanced video equipment. Most basic cameras (and many phones) come with built in video capabilities that are adequate to the task. Of course, the higher quality the camera the better the results will be, but it’s best not to fixate on that. One common problem is sound quality. Some cameras pick up sound very well, but others tend to amplify background noise. It is possible to purchase relatively cheap microphones from technology shops that will help with this problem. Compatibility and practical use will vary camera to camera and classroom to classroom, so be sure that you have tested the equipment before camp.

Beyond the camera and computer for basic editing, the materials needed vary based on the type of camp you are going to teach. On that note, here are a few concepts around which you could build a camp.

Adapt These Movie Ideas at Your Camp

  1. 1

    Re-Create a Movie

    Certain Hollywood movies are popular almost anywhere in the world and any of these can work as a remake for your class. There are a couple different ways to go about picking a movie. The easiest is to select one of the more recent blockbusters that was in theatres sometime in the last year. Odds are you will be able to figure out which of these the students enjoyed just by asking around regarding who has seen it. The other option is to select one of the ‘timeless’ classics or a movie that speaks to your particular country of origin and have the students remake that film.

    While this concept may seem like an easy one, it takes quite a bit of up-front work on the part of the teacher. The storyline has to be distilled down to something that can be filmed in about ten minutes and there needs to be the correct number of characters so that each student has a speaking role in the film. Essentially, the teacher needs to take the main plot points from the movie and rewrite the story. Dialogue needs to match the students’ levels and be in short enough pieces that they can memorize it. More advanced classes can do much of this work themselves with guidance from the teacher, but even this method requires a lot of discussion about storylines, the main plot points, characters, and dialogue that takes a significant amount of preparation by the teacher.

    When actually doing this activity in camp, teachers can involve students in many different ways. Students can help re-write the movie, create costumes, make sets, rehearse together, practice scenes, etc. It is important that every student has a designated role and, ideally, they all have a part that they must play in the film. How that happens depends entirely on the class levels, confidence, and the teacher’s own preferences.

  2. 2

    A Scene from a Play

    For more advanced classes, it might be possible to take a scene (or possibly an entire act) from a play and film it with your students as the cast. Depending on their level, age, and interest this could be anything from Hamlet to a more recent comedy piece. It may even be possible to have the students identify the play they would like to re-create. Usually (especially in the case of Shakespeare) it is necessary to simplify the dialogue so that the students are able to understand what the characters are actually saying rather than just memorizing words they don’t understand.

    A fun alternative spin on this project is to have the students select a play from their own culture and translate the dialogue from one of the scenes into English. This provides the added challenge of explaining to the English teacher not only the dialogue, but the setting and intent behind a scene. Obviously, this will only work with really advanced classes or with a lot of help from a co-teacher.

  3. 3

    Stop Motion Animation

    This project is great for students that are a bit shy or afraid to be seen on camera. It does, however, take a bit of technological knowhow on the part of the teacher. There are various stop motion editing programs that can be downloaded online, some of which are free. Depending on which program you are using, the technique for actual filming may vary, but basically you are going to take a single frame picture, move the object, take another picture, move the objects, and so on. The camp would start with the students coming up with a basic story idea. It is usually best for the teacher to supply a general topic and let the students go from there. Once a basic storyline is completed the students then have to make the stop motion characters and settings. Often these are simply paper cut-outs that can be laid on a table, photographed, then moved as necessary. These can be as decorated as the teacher and students wish to make them and often creating the characters can take most of a camp day.

    The easiest form of stop motion is done without any dialogue, so the English in this camp comes from the process of creating the film rather than acting in a film. Encourage the students to coordinate using English and have them write/draw English subtitles to go with the stop motion filming. One of the tricks with this camp is what to do on the last day. Because the students will want to see the finished product that day, and because the editing can take a fair bit of time on the part of the teacher, most of the actual shooting has to be completed by the second to last day. The final day could include a viewing, an end of camp party, and various English games. Of course, this is less of an issue if the students are able to do the editing themselves.

In addition to the above ideas, movie camps can centre on the re-creation of Pixar shorts, filming a puppet show, creating a film based on a famous children’s story, or just about anything else you can dream up.

Regardless of which of these approaches you select, or if you choose to take an entirely different route, remember that you will have to build this project slowly. Day one will mostly be vocabulary work and outlining the project to make sure that all the students fully understand what is expected of them.

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