Last year when I attended the NCHE Thrive Conference, I shared in one of my talks about my son’s new found love of filmmaking. A good friend had been taking time to teach him the basics of film editing. This friend had also given my son a camera and a tripod to get him started. I shared in the talk about how my son had become so involved in film making that he was “doing school” and didn’t even realize it. He was learning the basics of good story telling, computer skills, editing skills, how to handle a camera, how to handle a cast and crew, and so much more.
I encouraged him over and over to NOT let his littlest sister be in his movies. She is fickle. One day she would be excited about a starring role. The next day, she would no longer care and refuse to help. He had to learn to woo her and work with her to convince her to be part of his project. He seemed to refuse to learn his lesson and kept letting her into his movies.
While at the conference, I met Damon Evans. He is the creator of Film School 4 Teens. We started talking about my son’s love of making movies. The more he described his course to me, the more I realized what a great fit it would be to take my son to the next level of film making. The course we landed on is Introduction to Filmmaking.
I work with middle and high schoolers. Making movies is something that appeals to many of them. Even if it is not an actual movie, many of them have YouTube channels. They want to learn to edit and present their content on their channels.
Introduction to Filmmaking is designed from a Christian worldview. While the content is not exclusively Christian, it does not shy away from films such as the “Jesus” film. There are also movies assigned that deal with issues of faith like Mel Gibson’s character in the movie, “Signs.”
The course consists of streamed videos, a textbook, photo and video assignments, and movies to watch. Most of the movies were available either through Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hoopla for free. I think we might have had to rent one or two.
The course consists of 18 sections. Each section has four parts: The Lesson, The Assignment, The Film Report, and The Fun Film Fact. You can purchase the text book or download the free PDF. We chose the download because I had borrowed a comb binder from our homeschool library and I went comb binding crazy last year.
The lesson portion of the section consists of the video lesson that my son watched and a worksheet that he filled in as he went. The classes are not live, which was nice so he could work at his own pace.
The assignment part of the section varies from section to section. There is typically a video to watch and an assignement to complete. In section 1, the assignment was to compare and contrast the “Two Nerf Gun War Shorts.” However, the assignment for section 5 was to generate ideas for a movie. The link to the videos and all the content is easily accessible from the student dashboard on Film School 4 Teens.
The third part of each section is a Film Report. Movies are assigned based on the elements being taught in the different sections. Admittedly, we did not watch all of the movies. For being as interested as he is in making movies, watching movies is another story. My son has always been sensitive to images and prefers to stick to books. I do believe the movies selected for the course are appropriate and speak to a general audience. You can see the list of films HERE. For our family, however, there were some that we opted out of. He did watch several movies including “The Wizard of Oz,” “Life of Pi,” and “The Princess Bride.” There is a film report to fill out during or after watching the movie. I do not think my son missed out terribly on the experience of the course by skipping the movie watching.
The fourth part of each section is the Fun Film Fact. This can include such things as “The Invention of the Film Camera and Projector” or a spotlight on a certain person like Orson Welles or a spotlight on a certain era like “the Golden Age of Hollywood.”
There is a brief quiz at the end of each section with information important for students to remember. This is a great tool for reinforcing the information given in each section.
Through the course, my son learned different editing techniques. I believe the course is user friendly for simple editing tools like the ones found on a smart phone on up to a more sophisticated program like Adobe Premier. We started off using a free editing download called Hit Film Express and eventually transitioned to Adobe Premier.
Even though some tools and equipment are needed for the course, it is not a heavily technical course. The essentials are taught in a way that is not overwhelming. Students who are minimally interested in film making as well as students who are intensely interested will find this course engaging.
The first few lessons do not require much time to complete. Watching the movie will take up the most time. However, as the course goes on, the assignments become more time intensive. For example, there is a section where students will be asked to film from ten different angles to learn about perspective.
My son did the majority of this course independently. I received a progress report once a week. I honestly did not look at it often because I could check his workbook and chat directly with him to see where he was in his assigments. The course did require him to engage other people in that he needed to have subjects to help him with various assignments. Those subjects were, more often than not, his sisters. Each student does work towards creating their own short film over the course of Introduction to Filmmaking.
The Introduction to Filmmaking course is designed for middle and high school. You can earn a high school elective credit! It is perfect for individuals and groups. My son was inspired to possibly teach the course as an Enrichment Class in our local homeschool group. You have access to the workbook and answers. My son spread it out over four days per week. It could take more or less. You can work at your own pace. Once we signed up, we had access to the course and lessons for one year.
My son took it upon himself, with inspiration from this course, to recruit about fifteen other middle schoolers to participate in his movie project. He selected cast members as well as crew members. He wrote a script which he sent to the actors. He storyboarded each filming day. He wrote a list of filming locations and who would be needed at each one. I was able to create a group message with the moms while he created one with his friends to keep everyone informed. He had 6 or 7 filming days and then worked to edit and complete his project. It took about six months over all. We had to work around schedules, sicknesses, weather issues, etc. We are planning to have a showing of his final product in a couple of weeks. It was kind of fun (and extremely tiring) to tote all these children all over the mountains of Western North Carolina… following in the footsteps of other great films like Hunger Games and Last of the Mohicans, also filmed in them thar hills.
His experiences in this film making course and his individual work have taught him so much more about story telling and working with others than I would have been able to just by giving him writing assignments at home. When I asked my son what he would say in a review of Intro to Filmmaking, he said, “I really like the guy who teaches it. He is very engaging… like he actually wants to be teaching us!”
You can check out my son’s YouTube channel HERE. You’ll find a few of the fun videos he has done with his sisters. Currently, however, he is all about computer animation and most of what he does makes no sense to me… but to those who it does make sense, they love it!
I am thankful to have met Damon Evans last year at the Thrive conference. I would definitely recommend using Film School 4 Teens in you have a middle or high schooler even remotely interested filmmaking. The course is $280 and includes all I have mentioned before as well as support from the creators. Film School 4 Teens also offers a course called “Essenstial Media Training” and one called, “YouTube for Teens.”
We were given free access to the Intro to Filmmaking Course with the promise that I would use my big mouth (my words, not theirs) to share with those around me about how great it is. So… hear me when I say… it is really great!