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Holy Family School - A film of our own

Location: Paradise, NL
NLAC Program Funded Under: ArtsSmarts
Amount Funded: $4,027

Holy-Family-Film-1

Students working with Brad and Xavier.

Dates: December 1, 2014 to April 1, 2015
Artists:
Brad Gover and Xavier George
Teacher Contact: Virginia Fudge
Teacher E-mail: VirginiaFudge@nlesd.ca
School Website: http://hfsparadise.com

Having always wanted to make a film with her students to enhance learning opportunities in her classroom, Virginia Fudge at Holy Family School applied for an ArtsSmarts grant for this school year. Her grade five French Immersion class of nine students was the perfect size to undertake the ambitious project that will see her students write, direct, and produce a short film themselves.  Working with filmmakers Brad Gover and Xavier George, the nine students were first introduced to some of the artists’ work as they explained the filmmaking production stages.

The students themselves determined the content of the short film that they wanted to make. Once the art of pitching was explained, the students were asked to offer ideas that considered accessible locations, resources, and the actors that would be available for the project. When the filmmakers returned to the classroom for the second day, students then had the opportunity to present their developed pitches, before the class picked a group idea they wanted to go with collectively.

holy-family-film-2Brad watches as students film.

Various roles were assigned to students for the production phase, and all members of the class were guided through scriptwriting, which resulted in a three to five page collaboratively written script in French, to create a five minute short film. The students storyboarded the scenes they have written, thinking about how they wanted the final film to look, and what they would need in terms of shots during the editing stage of their project.

When they moved into production Xavier George was on hand to operate the camera and, being Francophone himself, he assisted Brad Gover with filmmaking vocabulary as they took students through the filming process. Following that, a mobile editing system on loan from NIFCO was brought to the students right in their classroom so they could continue with direct involvement in their own creation. Once the final post-production stages are complete and the film is picture locked, a free public screening of the finalized short film will be organized. We caught up with the project’s lead teacher Virginia Fudge for this latest feature interview.

Q and A with Virginia Fudge...

NLAC: How did the students respond to the initial presentations made by the filmmakers?

Virginia: My students were thrilled by initial presentations by our talented filmmakers, Brad Gover and Xavier George. Both men were very engaging and supportive. Many of the children had used iMovie in the past in projects at home and in school, but Filmic Pro was new to them so they were very excited.  They had no idea that there was a much more in-depth alternative to iMovie, and that it was capable of so much. Neither did I for that matter!

NLAC: What were their reactions and suggestions when asked to come up with ideas for the short film? And, what idea was ultimately chosen?

Virginia: The children had many good ideas! Many of them involved elements of mystery, and funny situations that they imagined happening in and around the school. In the end we chose to make two short films, one entitled Conséquences about custodians who must get even with some mischievous students and the other la forêt hanté which features a witch in the woods outside the school!

NLAC: How did the production phase of the project go? What types of roles did the students take on during the shoot?

colony-performanceStudents setting up a shot outside.

Virginia: Once we began working together the scope of our project changed. Initially, we planned to write pitches and screenplays, and then have Brad and Xavier be directors and film the students as actors. But in the end we ended up forming two teams of students who each wrote a script (and loglines, scenarios, beats, storyboards with specific shot types they wanted to use and so much more!).

One team then functioned as the technical team for the other. So in my class that meant that we had five or six actors per team, and a technical group including a child as director, one as the cameraperson using an iPad mounted on a tripod and the Filmic Pro app, another holding a boom microphone, and one to track which shots were keepers and help in any other way they were needed.

Of course, this all happened under the watchful eyes of Brad and/or Xavier depending on the day. And, all the technical terms and much of the work was completed in French with Xavier as an incredible language model as a francophone.

Besides the artistic value of the project, which is immeasurable in so many ways, having Xavier there to help us with our fluency was wonderful! We had a lot to learn before we began, learning about who did what job and what that meant, which types of shots existed and why we use them, how we write a script, how we create storyboards; the amount of planning required to film was surprising even to me!

Although there was a lot to learn beforehand, the actual day of filming went very smoothly and easily because we were so well prepared. Brad and Xavier taught us so much.

NLAC: Outside of the script development, did the students create any sets, costumes, etc?

Virginia: Much of what we needed in terms of costumes and props was found at home or at school.  We needed very little in terms of sets as we chose to create films which were set in and around the school.

NLAC: Has this project inspired students to further explore filmmaking as a profession or make professional artistic considerations for their future?

holy-family-film-4Filmmakers Brad Gover and Xavier George with students and Virginia Fudge.

Virginia: I think that more than thinking of the future in terms of profession, my students are interested in using the app and skills right away! Some of them already wanted to be actors, and I think they have a decidedly different interpretation of what that means now. They have seen how much work it takes to approach acting and filmmaking professionally. I expect some of them to come to school with their own projects to show me any day. I intend to try some things this summer myself, and with what Brad and Xavier have taught me I feel confident enough to try this sort of project in the future with a larger class.

NLAC: What kinds of challenges are present when doing a project such as this in French? What are some of the advantages of doing a project like this with French Immersion students?

Virginia: There was very little in terms of challenge with Xavier there to help us with film jargon and vocab in French.  If we had a language question he was there for us, and he had so much in terms of “Film” knowledge to share as well. Xavier’s manner with the kids was more than admirable and in addition to fixing their little mistakes he made them feel good about themselves throughout the process.  He was an absolute pleasure to work with.

NLAC: Why did you want to embark on a film focused project in your classroom so badly?

Virginia: Personally I have a strong interest in the arts but have always leaned towards projects involving music and visual arts, such as painting or clay.  But, I love movies! I made Brad’s acquaintance a few years back through mutual friends and was always so interested to watch the projects he was involved with unfold.  Asking him to help with the project was a logical first step.  I had such a small class this year, it seemed like the perfect time to learn more about technology and link that to a medium that I’ve always enjoyed but have not had the opportunity to work with.  I’m so glad that I did as it has been a very rewarding process.

NLAC: When will the free public screening event take place?

Virginia: We anticipate showing the two films and a hilarious blooper reel on Friday, May 8th in our school gym.

NLAC: How does the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council (NLAC) funding from ArtsSmarts help?

Virginia: There would have been no project without the NLAC’s support. The success of our endeavour was completely dependent on what we learned by working with Xavier and Brad.  I was a total newcomer to filmmaking and I needed their help to be able to lead my students, and to be able to embrace this process on my own in the future.  I now have many resources at my disposal for the coming years, and filmmaking is no longer the great mystery that it was to me. My children have made something special together in their language of instruction, and I can’t thank the NLAC and the body that supports them for allowing us to do this. We don’t remember everything that we learn in Elementary school as adults but this, they will remember.

ArtsSmarts is funded by the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Education through the Cultural Connections Strategy, Statoil, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association.

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