The Movie Companion to Five Ways I Hope To Keep It Real | Billy Miller

The more I’ve taught filmmaking, the more I want to. To go with my last ALT space posting here is a movie companion project made with students at Ogden Middle School in Oregon City, Oregon. The notes are from where each item manifested live in the classroom. You will find the movie in question at the end of this post.

Make (And Keep) Agreements
We started this project with the goal of creating a four-minute movie that promoted Ogden Middle School and the agreement to “RESPECT the space, tools and each other.” The students were a revolving cast of characters from Ogden’s Middle School Matters class that provides extra homework and academic support. Three students, Cody, Connor and Aisha, were there every session with other kids coming in if they had completed their homework and the ones who transitioned to good academic standing making the final movie. Fun filmmaking was a good incentive. And fun, we did have.

 Balance Planning With Spontaneity
The hardest part here was fifty-minute class sessions, or, not a lot of time to do much filmmaking. With only nine sessions, I really had to pare back what we did in order to make the work as much of theirs as possible. We did that by focusing on what every kid seems to love — filming. Whether it’s in front of the camera or behind it, putting kids to work on their own crew never ceases to engage. Since Connor was a ringer behind the camera, I was able to let him explore the equipment and his skills while focusing the others on interviewing each other and capturing still images, where there’s a lot more leeway.

 Read Widely
For this, I introduced the work of Andy Warhol as a template — a fine artist who loved advertising and never differentiated between the two. The goal was to promote Ogden to prospective students. Yet that didn’t deter students from some cinematic storytelling. Through their different impressions of the school, we were able to explore band, lunchtime fun, the outdoor classroom and the project’s meat — who their favorite teachers were and why.

 Exercise Ambition
While our time together was limited, our project ideas were not. With steam, we were able to get more into camera operation and sound capturing, as well as delve into what was working with students and what outside talents and interests they possessed. The subject could have been dry, yet was given life by students’ ideas, experiences and dreams. Although there wasn’t time for them to edit the piece, they did review their stills and footage and identify some best work. We even did a session in Final Cut Pro early on so they could see how sequences are put together from moving images, sound and text; they can now look at media with a different set of eyes despite not having a chance to get into the editing.

Embrace Technology
Hopefully, the finished product attests to how it has never been easier to film, edit or share a real movie. Marrying desktop technology to our universal love of the art form can communicate powerful ideas and build real connection, just like at Ogden Middle School.

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