TIES: Teaching the Five Minute Film

6 Dec 2005

The presenter for this session at the TIES Conference is James McLellan from Oak Park High School in Winnipeg. I attended a session that James presented a couple years ago and thought I would come to this one to see what’s new. Plus, with our 1-to-1 initiative I’m getting a lot more interest from teachers who want to get their students making short films.

James’s recommendations for teaching video content:

  • Classes should be balanced with theory and practice
  • Discovery learning should not be the major vehicle for receiving new information
  • Avoid shooting during school hours if possible. Class time is for teaching or editing.
  • Give lead time for students to shoot outside of class. Make sure students are planning for due dates and build in adequate time.
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James suggests starting students will mostly silent films because the added complexity of dialog is too much to handle for budding film students. Surprisingly, he also suggests that beginning students shouldn’t use storyboarding. Instead he recommends “coverage” which means shooting scenes from many different angles and deciding in the editing process which angle works best. He has his students begin storyboarding after they have made a few films and understand better which shots will be most effective. Interesting idea. That goes against what I’ve been recommending to teachers. It makes a lot of sense though.

Here are the assignments that James uses in his intro course:

  • Silent film, 1-3 minutes (5 weeks)
  • Action film, 1-3 min (4 weeks)
  • Short film, 3-7 min (7 weeks)
  • Documentary (4 weeks)

Major skills he teaches:

  • Rule of thirds
  • Master shot technique
  • 180 degree rule
  • Isolating subject matter
    • Focus
    • Color
    • Framing
    • Lighting

The “coverage” method generates roughly 10-minutes of raw footage for every minute of final edited video. Each scene is played out in its entirety twice for each shot to ensure that there’s a decent “take.” (Two takes is really a minimum.)

2 responses to TIES: Teaching the Five Minute Film

  1. One thing I’ve learned from watching director commentaries is that the pro’s don’t do much storyboarding, it’s pretty much coverage.

  2. Thank you for the summary. Good info, especially the section on storyboarding. Exactly where I fall, telling my teachers/students to go that way.