Preparing for writing a film review: Shot types and angles

Starter

I gave students a card sort with a few basic shot types and agles. They had to match the description to the picture (I found the pictures online). I’ve attached the card sort below. The images are OK but the high/low angle aren’t that easy to decipher. After the students had completed the card sort I asked them to make notes on the effect of the different shot types/angles.

Main

I showed the students the ‘shoot out’ scene in ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ (youtube link on the PowerPoint) and asked them to make notes on the camera shots/angles used. I modelled how I wanted them to write about the effect of the choices made by the director and then gave them three scenes from the scene to analyse/comment on.

Plenary

The students were given a list of scenarios and asked to decide what shot type or angle they would use e.g. to show a terrifying giant. The discussion about this was quite interesting where students had made unusual choices but were able to justify them.

Shot types and angles

Card Sort: Jumbled shot types and angles

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Preparing for writing a film review: Genre

Starter

I asked students what they thought ‘genre’ meant and then gave them the basic definition: a type of film e.g. romance. In pairs I then asked to list as many genres as they could come up. We then discussed why genres exist – successful formulas are repeated to appeal to particular audiences.

Main activities

We did a quick Character/Film/Genre quiz which I have borrowed from somewhere and will need to give credit for. Basically you show them a slide with a few famous characters and students identify the character name, which film they are from and the genre of the film.

We then discussed how you identify the genre of a film – which they would probably want to identify for the film they review. Genres have typical settings, characters, scenes, story-lines and plots. As an example we looked at the police/crime genre and what they would expect to see in each of those categories. I then asked them to complete the table for another genre (or more).

Plenary

I showed them the slide with six images and asked them to identify the genre.

Film Genre

Preparing for writing a film review: Sound in films

I’ve been working with a class in preparation for writing a film review. What will follow is a series of posts with PowerPoints focusing on developing skills needed to write a film review.

The first one is a lesson on the use of sound in films:

Starter

I began by asking students to mind map ideas about sound in films – could they think of any memorable sounds (think Darth Vader’s breathing)? How important did they think sound was in films? Could they categorize what sounds were used in films? This led on to a discussion about sound in films and the 3 soundtrack elements: dialogue, sound effects and music.

Main

I played the audio of the short film ‘Double Take’ by director Toa Stappard. At 4 minutes it’s perfect for this kind of activity and, interestingly, there’s no music or dialogue. When it was first played, students were asked to just write down any sounds they could hear e.g. a zip being closed/opened. They then discussed what they could hear with a partner and what these sounds made them think of. With this short film, be prepared for some interesting responses… Based on this discussion, students had to come up with their own storyline to match the sounds they could hear. Finally, we watched the film and compared their versions with what was in the film.

Plenary

I asked studnets to think about/discuss how important sound is in films and then list 3 things they’d learnt about sound in films from the lesson.

For a bit of fun – and to illustrate the effect of sound – I showed them the Youtube clip of ‘Mary Poppins’ set to horror music. There’s a link to this in the PowerPoint.

You can find ‘Double Take’ and other short films on the EMC DVD ‘Double take and other films: moving image study 11-16’.

Sound in Films

Creative Writing: Sensory Boxes

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‘To begin writing…sensually acute writers almost invariably engage…in some form of physical activiy.’ (Fleckenstein 2002) 

This was a lesson I devised in my training year and I will admit that it took a lot of preparation and will quite possibly prove to be a bit of a logistical nightmare. Having said that, it was one of the most memorable lessons I’ve taught and if you’ve perhaps got time in the summer term then maybe you could give it a go.

 What you will need:

  • 5 boxes which you can put your hand in to but can’t see the content
  • 5 items with different temperatures, textures and consistency etc. As you might have guessed, I used kidney beans, mash potato, jelly, ice and grass.
  • Somewhere for students to wash and dry their hands (I just brought in a washing up bowl and paper towels)
  • A short story with lots of sensory detail – you may have one or you are welcome to use mine but it’s no masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination and was written around the preferences of my class (an assignment requirement).
  • Some very spooky music

The key objective for this lesson was for students to understand the impact sensory detail has on the reader and for them to develop their skills of writing about touch (I personally found this to be one of the most underdeveloped senses in their writing).

 I began the lesson with the room cleared, blinds down, lights off and spooky music playing as students entered the room. I asked students to sit on the floor and I read them a short ghost story. Afterwards we discussed where the writer had used sensory detail and what the effect of it was. We also discussed what effect the music had on them and how music could make you feel different emotions – this fed into a discussion about how powerful the senses are and the impact they can have on how we feel.

Following this, students were put into small groups and I laid down some very strict ground rules for the lesson (I think this is probably essential for any lesson involving kidney beans and mash potato…). One person in the group was to play the role of the ‘writer’ and they were to place their hand inside the box and try to describe what it was they could feel without saying what they thought it was. The rest of the group were the ‘readers’ and through the ‘writer’s’ description they had to try and guess what the item was. The aim was that students would be forced to think of imaginative ways to put across what they could feel and would be encouraged to focus on a variety of details including texture, temperature and consistency. Students moved round the different boxes and took it in turns to be the ‘writer’.

This fed into further sensory tasks involving an adaptation of the infamous ‘Sherbert Lemon Game’ using Werther’s Oringal and ended with students writing their own ghost stories using what they had learnt about sensory detail.

I was apprehensive before the lesson that students were going to put their hands in the boxes and food/grass/ice would end up everywhere. However, much to my surprise and joy they were incredibly well behaved despite the potential for mayhem. They conducted themselves with maturity and were only a tiny bit silly about the kidney beans which I have to say felt disgusting! Best of all, their ghost stories included some lovely sensory detail and they really made my day by behaving so beautifully.

Here’s my ghost story (feel free to use/adapt/slate): ghost-story.doc