Posts filed under ‘KidThrive.org’
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.
Across the United States and around the globe, young people have joined a movement of mutual respect and human dignity called Spread the Word to End the Word. The goal: get people to stop and think about their hurtful and disparaging use of the word “retard” and pledge to stop using it.
Spread the Word to End the Word was created by youth with and without intellectual disabilities who participated in the Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit at the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games. The motivation for the campaign was driven by a united passion to promote the positive contributions people with intellectual disabilities make to communities around the world combined with a simple call to action – a pledge to stop using a word – that also symbolizes positive attitude change and a commitment to make the world a more accepting place for all people.
We found that almost all youth have heard the r-word and most have heard it used by a friend or a student at school. We also found that youth react differently to the r-word if it is directed at a person with a disability or if a friend says the word.
Half of youth (51%) said that they felt bad or sorry for the person being picked. Some responded that they either laughed or didn’t care when they heard the r-word and many (39%) said that they did nothing. Some youth (33%) took a stand and told the person it was wrong to say the r-word.
What YOU Can Do
Join he cause and the Spread the Word to End the Word’s Project UNIFY movement in schools around the U.S. Motivate your friends to get involved with a variety of fun youth activities. You can even contribute five minutes to take the Spread the Word to End the Word pledge.
Get in the game by joining Special Olympics Unified Sports®, where people with and without intellectual disabilities train and compete together on the same team.
Know someone with an intellectual disability? Refer them to a Special Olympics program nearby, and for more information, go to http://www.specialolympics.org/.
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.
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.
Hitchcock is notorious for having used them. Spielberg has been known to hire armies of artists to create them, and, as filmmakers and educators, you can use them too. In fact, if you don’t, you could be opening yourself up to problems you might not otherwise have. We’re talking, of course, about visualizing your film before you shoot by creating a storyboard.
Film is, after all, a visual medium, and the storyboard is the most often used tool for getting a sense of how an idea will work before filming takes place. Storyboarding involves drawing still, comic book-like images of what you want your final scenes to look like. It is used as a guideline for smooth filming on set, as well as a template for the pre-production editing process.
Alfred Hitchcock was well known for storyboarding every shot of his classic films. In fact, he was so meticulous about storyboarding that he considered the procedure to be the most creative phase of the filmmaking process. Shooting the actual film was just a necessary evil. The storyboard not only determined exactly what the film would look like, it even decided what kinds of camera movements and shots were necessary to create the perfect scene.
Who can forget the shower sequence from Psycho, its every shot communicating a new terror? Or the plane chasing Cary Grant in North by Northwest? If Hitchcock had waited to decide how to shoot the scenes of either of these sequences on location, there is little doubt that they would not have ended up as well crafted and memorable. But how can drawing a few storyboards have such an effect on the final outcome of a film? The main reason is time.
If you don’t storyboard, you’ll be spending more time with your camera in hand, forcing your actors to wait on the sidelines and working hard to figure out what to shoot next. Your time is better spent planning on your own and going over your script in detail.
Pretend you are shooting the film on paper and drawing each shot as you go. (For beginning filmmakers, it is helpful to have a list of possible camera shots to assist you. This will help you visualize the difference between close-ups and medium shots, cutaways and cut-in shots, etc. and allow you to choose what will best help “show” rather than tell your story.)
Review your drawings in sequence to make sure every shot will fit together smoothly, and if they do not, it is best to know this beforehand. That way, you can make changes before filming begins, eliminating the stressful need for a re-shooting.
How do I get started?
To give you some practical insight into how the storyboarding process works, here is an exercise. First use a storyboarding template and make additional copies as needed. Next, grab your favorite movie and watch a short scene with your pencil and template in hand.
Choose something short. You may be surprised how many shots (or edits) there are in a short film sequence. For example, the shower sequence from Psycho has 52 shots in a span of only 2 minutes and 8 seconds.
Freeze frame your scene and stop at the first shot of the sequence. Sketch what you see on the screen as a still representation on your storyboard. Continue sketching each new shot (or edit) within the sequence.
If the scene includes a long pan, or moving shot, (for example, a pan of the skyline or a zoom in on an actor’s face), you can indicate motion within your storyboard. Use an arrow to indicate the motion the camera will make. An arrow can eliminate the need for multiple drawings. Under the storyboard box, write careful descriptions to effectively communicate the movement happening within the shot as well.
To test yourself, or if you are a teacher, to test your class, try the American Film Institute Screen Education handbook and Door Scene Exercise. Teams of students must create a storyboard of a simple scene involving a door and a number of camera angles and shots. Then, they must film and edit their finished scene based on the storyboard.
To ensure that the students’ storyboard is complete and easy to follow, they must trade their storyboard with another student team. A second film is made exactly as this “new” storyboard instructs with no other communications from its creators.
Will the films turn out the same? If they do, congratulations, you have created an excellent storyboard, one that can effectively communicate your vision without explanation. If the two films are different, you should go back and try to figure out where your visual communication could have been clearer and more concise.
A storyboard is the primary communication tool for filmmaking. It does not matter if you are creating a work of fiction or a documentary; each benefit from the kind of planning that storyboards provide. The dilemma here is that a storyboard should not leave anything to the imagination: using your imagination could be dangerous as no two people “imagine” the same thing.
Use your original script to create a solid and interpretable visualization of your story. Take the time to plan, or otherwise you will be dealing with reshoots, footage you cannot use, scenes that are difficult to follow and a lot of miscommunication. Follow the great directors who went before you and grab some paper and pencils, because storyboarding is the secret to a successful film.
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.
Today’s post is for beginners and it’s about scripting and storyboards. It will also provide links to a free scripting tool and free lesson plans. Want more than the basics? No worries. There will be plenty in the coming weeks for intermediate and advanced filmmaking! Even interviews with our professional judges! So come often and participate in the conversation.
I’ve got a nifty tool you can use to get started right away with a very fundamental part of filmmaking: the concept idea and scripting. Getting the idea/creative vision/inspiration for your film, video or one-shot wonder down on paper first is a good thing and this is much easier to do if you use a process called storyboarding. You have flexibility with a variety of ways you can get your ideas captured so do what works best for you. It’s more important to have a tight, all-inclusive and coherent roadmap for the process of completing your film that keeps you on track rather than worrying about which process to use.
For example, I frequently use Post-It Notes for my general outlining process so I can move them around on the wall easier as I hone my idea. I’ve used dry-erase boards, recycled paper, napkins, cardboard, anything I can draw on and tape to the wall — I’m kinda “old school” — that way, I can sketch little rough visual pictures of things like captions, props needed, camera angels, look and feel references, stuff like that. It almost looks like a crude comic strip. It’s not meant to be perfect at this initial stage — just capturing thoughts and ideas down.
I also jot down any little odd thing through this part of the concept brainstorming process. Items that may seem irrelevant or too detailed in the early stages still get their little notations and then go into a grouping we call the “parking lot” for later. You can do that too. This Post-It Note process also allows for my team members to add their thoughts and ideas as well. I prefer to collaborate with a team of diverse skill sets and thinking to get the best ideas flowing.
Then I grab my computer and take all of the little Post-It Notes info and dump them into a more polished electronic scripting formatting tool similar to Kids’ Vid Storyboarding Tool — it’s free and easy to use. It’s a fantastic way for beginners to jump right in. I know plenty of creative people who storyboard right on their computer. It doesn’t matter what you prefer so I’ll repeat this again — don’t let the process stop your creativity. Go with the flow that fits your comfort zone and then loop back around and put it into a process to keep you focused, on track, on time and on budget! Storyboarding tools are a great way to help with this process.
Additionally, on Kids’ Vid, you’ll see a variety of good fundamental information important to getting you started with a solid foundation if you’re a fledgling young filmmaker. For educators, this site is simple to understand and provides resources to incorporate video production into your classroom curriculum. Take a look at the classroom lesson plans Kids’ Vid provides as well.
OK, let us hear from you! Do you have a cool tool or thoughts and ideas to help get the creative process going? If so, leave a comment. Also, let us hear your No. 1 question about filmmaking and we’ll get the answer for you.