Posts filed under ‘film’
The Third Annual Young Minds Digital Times Competition presented by KidThrive.org, encourages students in grades 6-12, for free, to create short films, documentaries, and public service announcements. Registration is now open!
“The competition is a way to honor the amazing work kids are generating in the digital creative arts,” says Jaclyn Bell, Competition Director, “This is the next wave of digital education; not just knowing the tools, but being able to use them well and manipulate their boundaries to produce something relevant, meaningful, and in our opinion, beautiful. Plus, we have some surprises and further opportunities coming up for students once registration is underway.”
The competition features two tracks: Young Filmmakers “Doing Good” and Young Filmmakers Freeform. In the “Doing Good” Track, students are invited to create public service announcements relating to social issues the public should be informed of, or relating to an organization that works towards social good. In the Freeform Track, students can enter films on any topic into six different categories: documentary, short film, animation, music video, non-moving movie, and comedic creation.
A Grand Prize Winner from each track receives a prize package to attend the 2012 South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. First place winners in each category and age division (6-8 grades and 9-12 grades) take home $200 and Judges Choice honorees receive $100. The school with the most student film entries that make it pass the Public Voting Stage will also win $1000.
The chance for the public vote will end March 30th, and the films that make it to the second round will be viewed and critiqued by industry directors, actors, filmmakers and producers.
Competition registration runs from October 4th, 2010 to February 18, 2011, with films due by March, 19, 2011. Films enter a three tiered voting process, beginning with public voting March 22-30, 2010. Winner announcements will be posted May 20, 2011 on the Young Minds Digital Times website.
The Young Minds Digital Times Film Competition is pleased to announce the Grand Prize Winners in our second annual film competition. Student Andy Wood, student of Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane, Washington, won the Grand Prize in the Young Filmmakers “Doing Good” track for his public service announcement, Education Proclamation. Wood drew attention to Converge Magazine’s, in partnership with Project Tomorrow, collaboration focused on grabbing the attention of our public and elected officials to entreat them to hear what students have to say about their rights to a 21st -century education.
In the Young Filmmakers Freeform Tack, the avant-garde short film, Tilt, by Dennis Walker of Armwood High School, Seffner, Florida claimed our second Grand Prize. Walker’s surreal short film caught our judge’s attention, particularly award winning entertainer and philanthropist, Ivy Koehler, ”I literally laughed out loud! You accomplished the illusion you were reaching! Great work.”
The final judging panel consisted of fifteen professional judges with insight into film making and youth culture. The judges were unanimously impressed by the films they viewed and hoped participants would continue to seek out opportunities to learn and improve their film making. Eight additional Category Winners and Judge’s Choice Awards were also announced by the Competition. The winning filmmakers represent nine different schools and were joined by over 730 other individuals throughout the competition’s process.
“Today’s tech savvy students are eager to explore what this innovative competition has to offer – they want a venue to share their ideas, showcase their work, and tell their stories – what better media than film? The tools are already at students’ fingertips, we just need to show them how to use them responsibly,” said competition director Jaclyn Bell of OneSeventeen Media. “The Young Minds Digital Times competition fosters an interest in promoting social good, and uses film to give today’s youth a voice to reach the masses. We are incredibly proud of all the young people that participated in our contest, and we are excited to expand the competition for young filmmakers next year – we hope they will choose to join us again.”
Posted by co-founders Beth Carls and Amy Looper
The Second Annual Young Minds Digital Times Student Film Competition judging is underway. We had 727 students register to be a part of the contest this year and we are excited to announce that the contest has shown over a 500% increase in films submitted and represents students from 62 schools in 23 states. We also tracked over 10,000 hits to our web site from interested people in 42 countries during the time registration began September 28 until today! After our Tier I Public Voting segment and Tier II Judging segment, we are now into our Final and Grand Prize voting round. We have painstakingly narrowed our 262 film entries down to approximately 40 films for the Finals.
These films represent each of our categories:
Freeform Category: The sky is the limit in this category. Students were given an opportunity to create an original film in one or more of the following film styles:
- Animation : Students created original digital, drawn, and stop motion film.
- Comedic Creation: Designed to get the biggest laugh, students created original comedy films.
- Documentary: Student created news features, historical narrative, and important topics.
- Music Video: Students’ original music is showcased and captured on film to tell a story.
- Non-Moving: Original automated power points and class presentations created by students.
- Short Film: Student’s original fictional films.
Doing Good Category: Students were asked to create a Public Service Announcement (PSA) that responded to, or incorporated, the Students’ Education Proclamation. The Education Proclamation’s goal is to help students’ perspectives become acknowledged — to grab the attention of our public and elected officials, and have them hear what students have to say about their rights to a 21st-century education.
Who will make it to the Grand Prize Round!?! To view the films yourself, check out our Young Minds Digital Times Film Site!
A big thank you to those of you who participated as judges. And, thanks to our YMDT Director, Jaclyn Bell, for an awesome job this year!
Why Is This Important? In addition to giving kids a creative way to share their voice, the YMDT Film Competition success shows the next round of investors that we can create communities of kids, quickly and inexpensively, who will then become members of the PlumbBrain community once the social network is launched. Already, we’ve seen huge results with a VC who made this very point and is excited about this progress in a short period of time.
Documentary films differ from the typical Hollywood movies due to one clear reason.
While movies tend to be fictional stories that are acted, documentaries are non-fictional stories about real people and real events unfolding, often, in front of the camera. Your goal is not to develop a fictional story, but to essentially to tell a realistic and true story by presenting facts and interviews.
Types of Documentaries
First things first: You need to decide what kind of documentary you would like to pursue. There are many different kinds, the most common of which are expository, observational and participatory.
Expository documentaries speak directly to the viewer, often in the form of an authoritative commentary employing voiceovers or titles, proposing a strong argument and point of view. This style of documentary is often biographical or historical in subject. Examples of expository documentaries are TV shows and films like “A&E Biography,” “America’s Most Wanted,” science and nature documentaries, or Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” (1990).
Observational documentaries attempt to simply and spontaneously observe lived life. Becoming popular first in the 1960s, this mode of film focuses on individual human characters in ordinary life situations. Think of all the un-scripted “reality” television that is popular today. Shows like MTV’s “Made,” slice of life programs like “Little People Big World” and “Deadliest Catch” are all examples of this “fly-on-the-wall” type of documentary making. The filmmaker is the one who observes but tries not to influence or alter the events being captured on camera.
Participatory documentaries believe that it is impossible for the act of filmmaking to not influence or alter the events being captured. Not only is the filmmaker part of the film, but the viewer also gets a sense of how situations in the film are affected or altered by the filmmaker’s presence. For example, Morgan Spurlock’s film “Super Size Me” put the filmmaker himself in front of the camera to tell the story about what could happen to the human body when it is sustaining itself on fast food alone. The filmmaker’s experiences are incorporated into the film, and the creator is the center of the story. The encounter between filmmaker and subject becomes a critical element of the film in order to find a “truth” through the encounter.
The key to documentaries is research and interviews. Ideally, you as the filmmaker will learn as much about your topic, or more, than your audience. This is why people like Ken Burns make documentaries about things they know absolutely nothing about: to educate themselves. Otherwise, you are not making a documentary, you are going to end up with a commercial for your beliefs.
Unlike the typical short film process, however, most documentary filmmakers come up with their narrative, point, structure and storyboard in the editing process, not pre-production. As a documentary filmmaker, you will need to change your approach to creating your film; otherwise you may end up influencing what you shoot with your own opinions.
Start by writing a proposal on what you want to do, how you go about doing it and what kind of research (library, living people, photos, etc.) to include in your documentary. Create a rough outline of the shots you think you will want to have in your documentary and send invitations to those experts you want to interview in advance.
When you are interviewing people, or gathering data, you have to ask questions that do not introduce personal bias/propaganda into the documentary. This can be very difficult. Keep the questions general and just let them talk. You never know what you might get. Select people who have knowledge of or are interested in your topic. If you get many interviews you will have a more diverse and interesting piece.
When filming, do not chat up the subjects off-camera. Off camera they might give you all their perfect, natural sound bites and you’ll wish you’d been rolling. The same bites will be forced or flat if you have your interviewer repeat them for the camera. Also, make sure they know that you are going to edit what you are shooting. They will get much more comfortable once they know you are going to edit.
Mix up your shots to keep things interesting. For example, if everything you film is a medium shot of people walking, your edits will be incredibly boring. Get wide shots to establish location and get tight shots if the situation allows. Extreme close ups of the subjects are excellent if they are discussing something with passion. Get cutaways like legs walking, hands writing, etc. These types of shots are called B-Roll footage. B-Roll footage helps back up your narration with visuals and helps tell the story.
Get lots of shots. Vary using the camera as a handheld and with a tripod. Plan on getting many more shots than you can imagine you will need. You will need them and may even wish you had more.
Once you get to post production, your job is to tell a story. Throw out any footage, no matter how lovely the shot, that doesn’t advance the story. Be sure to use your B-Roll footage effectively and add in captions and graphics as needed. Plus, remember to put the name of those you interviewed on the screen with the subject. Include their full name and their title, just like they do in news programs. Your end product should tie all the information and interviews, footage, etc. together in an interesting way.
Documentaries are a unique film genre that can persuade, educate, and entertain. Is there a story out there you want to document? Is there a moment in time you want to capture? Is there a message you want to convey to the masses? Decide on your purpose, research and grab a camera. Just be sure to keep it entertaining, informative and factual. Only then does it appear to be much more realistic and believable.
In the last 25 years the invigorating art form the music video has grown to be one of the most influential and individually stylistic modes of production in the industry. Music Videos began by bands filming themselves singing their hit songs until technology and big budgets showed up to create what we see in the medium today. But don’t be fooled, you don’t need a big budget to create your own music video, (the band OK GO created their music video “Here It Goes Again” in one take and after posting it on YouTube walked away with a Grammy 6 months later). Production companies charge a fortune for even the simplest promo video, but you can easily do it yourself.
Step 1: Music
First things first, however; you have to choose your song. A simple idea well executed is often more effective than a complex idea done badly. Songs that tell a story work well, though non-narrative approaches can also be arresting.
Music videos do not need to cost a fortune and can be made very simply. You just need a good idea. How many videos have you seen on MTV that consist of the band playing in a club, with the lights flashing whilst the audience jumps up and down? Exactly. Try and think of something different when you make your video. Be creative and have fun.
Step 2: Planning
Brainstorm ideas for how you’d like to illustrate the song. Do not feel you have to be too literal; many of the greatest videos represent the emotion or theme of a song, not just its lyrics. Also, filming a music video can take a lot longer than you think, so plan to create a video for the 3 to 4 min song and allow plenty of time for shooting. Start by creating a storyboard for each shot. Planning shots ahead of time will make things run much more smoothly. Also, make a list of your crew, performers and props you’ll need for each shot.
Step 3: Style
Maybe you want to shoot entirely in black and white, or maybe you want to use stop-motion animation. It’s better to decide now than halfway through the actual shoot what “style” will best fit the song. Don’t forget to consult the band, as well. Some bands will want to be featured in the video, some will want to have footage of them playing spliced into the video, and some won’t want to appear at all.
Step 4: Shooting
Shooting the actual elements of the video is the fun part. Since the only sound in most videos is the song, you don’t have to worry about audio. If you’re going to have shots of someone singing or rapping, play the song in the background of a shot to make sure their lips are perfectly synchronized. Do multiple takes of each shot, and don’t be afraid to mix things up if a new idea comes to you. The more footage you end up with, the easier the editing will be and the better the video will look.
You’ll have your plan and storyboard to follow, but remember that some of the best moments in a video can be unplanned. Keep the camera rolling.
Step 5: Editing
Your footage might be great, but it’ll only become a great video through editing. Load all of your raw footage into an editing system. Upload the song first and match the footage to the audio. To do a good job you’ll need patience, time and more patience. You’ll need to decide the ‘feel’ and pace of the video. Will it be made up of long sweeping shots, or quick sharp edits? Do you want to
follow the mood of the song and edit to the music or do you want the video to contrast with the track?
Great videos feel like visual versions of the songs they represent. Make sure your edits reflect that —they should flow with the music. For example, a bunch of quick, sharp cuts during a lazy bass solo is probably going to look awful. Consider also adding
in effects and transitions to put the finishing touches on the video. Blur scenes, add slow motion, correct colors—this is just as much a part of the video as the shots themselves.
You can spice up your video by adding some stock footage, but you need to be aware that, like music, almost video foot
age is subject to strict copyright law. Making use of footage without the copyright holders express permission is illegal. Fear not, however, there are free royalty free footage – footage that’s in the public domain.
However, there are source of footage that you can legally use. Royalty free footage is footage you can re-use in any setting, without asking permission or paying the copyright holder a fee each time you use it. Some sites where you can download public domain footage for free are:
From the first frame to the last, music videos serve as a blank canvas to your mind’s eye, a place to show the world what you can really do when let loose with a camera. But, if you let your creative juices drown your common sense approach to production, your music video masterpiece could wind up a public-access catastrophe. Keep your song choice always in your mind – it will drive your ideas and the shots in your film. Take your time in the planning process but don’t be afraid to experiment. Have fun! And who knows, maybe your music video will be the next YouTube hit.
In this day and age where everything entertainment seems to be wrapped in CGI (computer-generated imagery), it is easy for audiences to forget how film special effects found their start — Stop Motion Animation.
Stop Motion, or what was first known as “object manipulation” dating all the way back to 1889, involves photographing an armature, (a pose-able puppet), or inanimate object in order to bring it to life on screen by breaking up the figure’s motion into increments and filming one frame of film at a time. Although this technique is time consuming, stop motion animation is simple and fun for all ages. You are only five simple steps away from creating your own Stop Motion Animation and no expensive equipment is required. All you need is a digital camera, some creativity and a story to tell.
Step 1: Develop an idea
When thinking of creating a stop motion animation, keep it simple. What will the characters/objects be doing? Write out a script with action in a story line and storyboard your ideas. Limit yourself to one or two objects/ characters to move if you are a beginner. Plan well. It is important to have the motions worked out in advance.
Step 2: Create an armature*
An armature forms the skeleton of the characters you can create for your stop motion animation. Armatures were perfected by stop motion animator Willis O’Brien, a pioneer in the special effects industry. He began using models with wire frame skeletons and movable joints. The wire and joints made the figures easy to move. Then O’Brien covered the frame with clay and paint to create lifelike models, his most famous being his iconic King Kong from the 1933 classic film. King Kong was a challenge for O’Brien. He brought the giant gorilla to life on film using eighteen inch high models constructed on metal skeletons with ball-and-socket joints, padded with foam rubber and cotton, and covered with rabbit skins to simulate the beast’s fur.
To create your armature, use light weight wire or strong pipe cleaners. Be sure to twist your armature materials together tightly in order to make your character have a strong frame. Any part you want to move on your character should be easy to bend. Add tin foil to the armature to give it mass and shape. Then, use a thin layer of non-drying modeling clay over the structure to add details and decoration.
* Armatures are optional and used when creating figurines you want to animate. Other good choices include clay, wire, Legos or similar building block figures, small dolls with a lot of flexibility, etc. Even household objects and people are great! Be imaginative in the types of objects and figures that might work for your movie.
Step 3: Create your background/set
If you are using armature models, consider creating a setting for them. Use a shoebox or cut a display board into halves. You can even use a cookie sheet as the floor of the set (consider putting magnets in the clay armature’s feet so it will easily stand). You can even use elements from the outdoors to create your scene. As for lighting, use continuous, direct light from desk lamps. Finally, color and paint the background or use printed pictures. Finish off your set by creating accessories or use small toys.
Step 4: Film your scene
Place your camera in front of the “set” and your characters/objects. Check that the camera can view the entire frame. It is very important to support the camera or place it so that it is sitting steadily and cannot shake as you take the photos. Otherwise, the end result will appear chaotic and lack continuity. Keep in mind that the more photos, the smoother the video results. If you do not have a tripod, good alternatives include balancing on solid books, poster tack on the surface of the set or a piece of solid furniture at the same height. Now, begin the movement sequence. Move the figure/object bit by bit – very small movements each time. Take a picture after every movement and repeat the movement sequence until your action step is completed.
You can even use stop motion without models. Think “Bewitched” and “Wizards of Waverly Place”, where magic happens at the snap of a finger or a twitch of the nose. For example, an elephant appears in the room. The camera filming the scene would be stopped and the actors would “freeze” until the pachyderm was in place, then filming would resume. The result is an elephant that “magically” appears in an instant. Consider how you can use Stop Motion in live action scenes as well.
Step 5: Make your movie
Import your pictures into the desired program, such as Stop Motion Animator, Frame Thief, iStop Motion, Stop Motion Pro, Video Blender, or any video software editor you might have available. Make sure the pictures are at a very small duration so they flow very fast, start at a rate of .5 seconds. Adjust the film speed rate if it needs to move slower or faster. Add audio, titles and credits if you would like: sound effects and music will add to your story.
Movies, TV, and even music videos have all found a place for stop motion thanks to animators like O’Brien, Ray Harryhausen (Jason and the Argonauts ), Nick Park (Wallace and Gromit ), Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, (Robot Chicken) and Tim Burton (The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach). They have brought this unique style of animation to the masses, and now you can do it too. Stop-motion animation is one of the simplest, most fun animation techniques. With creativity and some patience you can create something truly unique.
Only 19 days left to register for the Young Minds Digital Times Student Film Competition. We have fantastic prizes for our winners, including two Grand Prize packages to attend the 2011 South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. Other first place category winners will take home $200 in cold, hard cash. The teacher with the most student film entries, and the school with the most student film entries in Track One: Young Filmmakers Doing Good, will each win $1000! But you have to register first!!
Registration is open until February 19th. The competition is free to all student filmmakers grades 6-8 and 9-12. Film entries are due March 19th. And check the rest of our blog posts for filmmaking tips and tricks.
The wonderful thing about creating short films is that they can be anything –– the only limit beyond the cost of production is that of your own imagination. Therefore, coming up with an idea for your script can be challenging.
How do you choose the right way to tell your tale? The following techniques will help filmmakers and educators alike to create compelling and screen-worthy scripts.
The best short films often focus on ONE moment or event in the life of ONE main character. The moment you choose to write about must have a story at its heart, a conflict that needs resolution, a deadline for action, and/or a choice that a character has to make.
Your goal is to successfully engage your audience, relate to your viewers and create something unique. To begin, there are three basic script idea elements: a world, a character and a problem.
For your audience, it is important to establish an instantly recognizable world. Set your film around a memorable, universal event or ritual: a first date, a wedding, the first day of school, dinner with stuffy relatives, etc.
With a setting of this sort, you can generate the audience’s familiarity with the situation and don’t have to spend much time setting up the story’s exposition. It is unusual for a short film to take place over a long period of time, so consider writing your script, more or less, in “real” time.
A story that spreads over more than a few days is unlikely to work well as a short film. Keep your time line simple.
Once you have decided which significant event in the life of your main character to focus on, the most important questions to then ask yourself are, “Who is this character?” and “What must they overcome?”
To answer these, start by writing a brief back story for your character. Include information such as where they come from, what they do for fun, what their parents are like, why this event is so pivotal for them, etc.
Not all of this information will go into your script, but it will help you develop a well-rounded and realistic character. A back story will also assist you in deciding what motivates you character will have and establishing the conflict they will face. Classic literary conflicts range from: person vs. person or group, person vs. self, person vs. society, person vs. nature, and person vs. machine.
Aristotle defined character as “that which reveals moral purpose, showing what kind of things a man chooses or avoids.” Your main character, or protagonist, is the one who has the conflict, and if there is not a conflict in your script, then you don’t have a film.
Decide what is driving you character’s wants, needs and/or obligations. Then, once you decide what is driving your main character, you need to throw a road block, or foible, in their way.
Create something to make the situation harder for your character to pursue what they want and/or need. This will move your story forward.
With character and conflict in place, now you must consider how to manifest the conflict of your story for your audience. Make sure that you demonstrate your skill as a filmmaker and not just as a storyteller; you need to “show” and not just tell your audience the conflict.
Your audience cannot look inside a character’s head, so they need to see characters DOING things that show the audience what they think and feel.
First decide if the stakes are high enough. Ensuring that there is something at stake in your story means that the audience can understand what the character stands to lose if they don’t solve or overcome their problem.
If the story is hinged around a life or death situation, then the stakes are clear. However, if the conflict is simply that the character’s car breaks down, think about how you can set up your tale so that the audience knows why this really matters.
Is your character late to see the most important game of the century? Is he going to miss the opportunity of a lifetime or lose the girl of his dreams if he can’t get the car started? The audience has to value and recognize the urgency of the conflict to help the story move forward.
Finally, ask yourself, are you telling the story from the best point of view? Consider the story of Cinderella, and imagine if you told the same story from a stepsister’s point of view. The story may have the same plot, but a different perspective. Contemplate the point of view you are telling your story from in order to keep your script interesting to your audience.
Whether you are in the classroom or writing on your own, let your imagination fly and play with your script ideas. Remember to keep your thinking focused and avoid clichés. Write what you know and feel passionately about.
To spark ideas, try watching as many short films as you can. You will get inspiration and a feel for how to “show” a great story in a short amount of time. Scriptwriting is an art form, and creating art is never easy.
Your goal is to create a fresh, original and unexpected vision with a universal and clear situation, a high stakes conflict and a relatable character. It is said that everyone has a story to tell; now it’s time to get scriptwriting!
One of the biggest misnomers about filmmaking is that you have to have a budget and expensive equipment, yet educators and filmmakers alike can spark creativity and innovation without spending a dime.
That means that the excuses of “I don’t have the equipment” or “I don’t have editing software” aren’t allowed anymore.
You Don’t Even Need a Camcorder
With the variety of footage now available from archives, remixing is becoming the new filming. From advertisements to film trailers, from short films to art installations, films made almost entirely from existing footage are now seen everywhere.
This trend began in the same way as audio remixes, with illegal mixes created by talented individuals on the edges of the law. However, today these innovators are now urged on by huge companies such as Viacom and General Motors to re-edit their advertisements. This technique was also chosen by New Line Cinema to remix the trailer of the recent Antonio Banderas film, Take the Lead, the first ever sanctioned audiovisual film remix by a Hollywood studio.
Cell Phone Cinema
Cell phones have also become a useful tool in the filmmaking process because they offer a cheap, easy alternative to camcorders. Mobile-as-movie cameras are breaking the motion picture mold, putting a touch of Hollywood into amateur filmmakers’ hands. How-to workshops have sprung up from Boston to Abu Dhabi to Rio de Janeiro, and Paris just held its fourth film festival devoted exclusively to movies shot with cell phones.
Even decorated director Spike Lee is jumping on the cell phone film bandwagon. He’s creating his own films with a Nokia N95 and the help of his son.
“He’s 10 years old, and he’s much more technologically advanced than I am,” Lee told Advertising Age. “The filmmakers who are going to take advantage of [mobile filmmaking] are the people who think ahead of everybody else, the visionaries. This stuff is really uncharted territory, so who knows where these devices and technology is going to take us in the future.”
Free Online Editing Tools
Once the visuals are compiled, editing must commence, but surely video editing is too resource-intensive to be done over the Web, right? Wrong! Many free online services allow you to do things like scene transitions, cuts, splices, loops and audio overlays. Most of them offer online editing and enable easy control of the video experience with the ability to send your creations to friends via e-mail and/or by embedding films online. Here are some tools to consider:
While none of these free services are going to put installed editors such as Pinnacle Studio, Adobe Premier or Final Cut Pro out of business, they do offer a way for filmmakers to have fun manipulating their multimedia digital content.
In my classroom, with no budget for film equipment and software, a group of students created an award-winning short film using nothing but Paint, a stock Windows OS drawing program, and PowerPoint to complete their timing and editing. Expensive tools are not necessary – all you need is a little innovation.
Once you think of an idea for producing a film, investigate the options you already have available to you before you let a price tag hold you back. Free and accessible tools are available and user friendly. Hollywood is just starting to grasp the conce, and you can too.