Lesson 1 – Get Your Act Together
Students get settled in and receive an introduction to the sophisticated form of writing known as the “Screenplay.” They’ll learn about three very important concepts of screenwriting: genre, theme and the three-act structure. Students will work on developing an idea that’s close to their hearts and experiences. Learners try their hand for the first time at movie criticism with the delightful short “Oscar and Violet.”
Lesson 2 – What a Character!
This lesson explores character in a unique way in the film, “The Drum Set.” Characters make a student movie tell a story. In this lesson, students zero in on how to build compelling characters. Activities address characters’ habits, fatal flaws, catchphrases, quirks and physical attributes. Learners also explore what makes an audience care about characters, including heroes and villains, romantic leads and their foils, sidekicks, mad scientists and more.
Lesson 3 – Scene by Scene
All films—whether long or short—are built on a series of “scenes”: encapsulated depictions of action or exchanges of dialogue that take place in just one location. How many scenes does a 5-minute video need? In this lesson, students spend some time shaping their stories to fit a small time frame. Learners will laugh out loud at this lesson’s student film, “Dan and the Red Sea.” .
Lesson 4 – Storyboard
“Better Days”—an action packed film of family conflict—is a great example of a film that needs extensive storyboarding. Movie producers “get the picture” when screenwriters present their ideas in the form of storyboards—simple visual tools that provide the shorthand necessary to visualize the action. Students learn how storyboards help facilitate plotting as well as to help identify gaps in their storytelling plans.
Lesson 5 – Let’s Start Talking: Dialogue I
Call it what you will—chitchat, blather, gossip, or yakking—dialogue reveals critical information, moves story action and shapes the ways in which audiences understand character. This lesson provides ample opportunities for students to experience the effect of voice (how does a doctor say a phrase differently than a hairdresser?) on character motivation and development. “Falling Asleep for Her” provides an instructive illustration of the lesson.
Lesson 6 – Where the Action Is: Getting Your Story Moving
Yelling “Action” sounds like fun, but learners come to understand action as a key component of moving their story forward. Action is not just about car chases, it’s what happens in a space of time that provides the audience with new information about the characters. In “The Kid and the Cone”, we see how a very small event can still hold a lot of dramatic value. This lesson also covers “complicating” action.
Lesson 7 – Set Design and Story
“Sparks in the Night”—this lesson’s film, sets the stage with an elaborate gangster-filled milieu as students grapple with the meaning of “set design” …it’s not about carpentry! Students get briefed on how set design will determine the “look and feel” of their movie. They’ll use templates to “dress their sets” and see how the objects they choose in each shot will establish the mood of their video.
Lesson 8 – Talk Is NOT Cheap: Dialogue II
In this lesson, students return to the problem of creating dialogue. The film, “Transatlantique” highlights the special challenges of the use of a foreign language in film, and how hard dialogue must “work”—even when we don’t understand it! Most writers find that dialogue makes up the bulk of their creative work. Students also learn the old adage, “writing is re-writing”: how working hard to refine dialogue is a great investment for their final products.
Lesson 9 – The Buzz: Coming to a Theatre near You
Designing a publicity campaign for their own films helps students understand the broad scope of the movie-making process. A zombie fan favorite, “Brains,” perfectly illustrates the many opportunities for publicity, from the right title, to poster, to product placement. Students discover how knowing their audience helps shape their campaigns and converts interested consumers into the ticket-buying public.
Lesson 10 – Premiere Night
It’s showtime! In this final lesson, students both act and direct in portions of each others’ screenplays. Ballots for the “Frannie” awards (our version of the Oscars) will be distributed before our proud honorees step to the podium to accept their statuettes and thank their mentors. Parents and friends can also participate! This wrap-up activity provides great fun, feedback and a sense of accomplishment to all of the participants.