Composition and framing are constantly referred to when describing the purpose of a particular shot in relation to the story. Being members of the most visually literate generation in history, the children are very quick to describe what they see and enjoy using the terminology. However, composing shots to effectively communicate meaning takes practice.
Production is next. I have written a number of simple screenplays usually featuring interaction between two characters, which can be quickly rehearsed and blocked then filmed in a one-hour session. The children in groups of four (camera/director/cast) shoot these scenes in an environment in which exploration is encouraged but discipline maintained through the use of film set protocol. The pattern for the next four sessions involves an hour of production, an hour of editing/screening followed by an open critical discussion. This shoot/edit/critique cycle creates powerful circumstances for the children to learn from their mistakes and make discoveries about what works and what doesn’t. iPads are used for this shoot/edit cycle for convenience, footage from the iPad used to film can be quickly airdropped to peers for editing and then screened via airplay.
After a couple of rounds of this shoot/edit cycle, the children were briefed with a final project which involved the children collaborating to present a WW2 poem.
Master shot technique
For the children’s first experience of production, I use a simple screenplay which has been become known as “Outy Outy”. It features two students, one of which is intent on irritating the other. It’s easy to compose and shoot in terms of blocking with one static potentially seated actor and the other moving into the frame.
The scene is learnt easily quickly rehearsed by the actors and then the director and camera operator block the scene. I’ve had great success with this production which can be completed within limits of an hour session.