Outline of How to do a Place-Based Media Arts Project
Ancient Proverb on Education: Tell me, I will forget. Show me, I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.
There are three phases to creating a media project: pre-production, production, and post-production. Accordingly a course calendar should be divided into these three sections. The first portion of the course would be focused on pre-production and that includes educating ourselves about the issue(s) we’d like to make a media arts piece about, becoming familiar with various mediums and genres and writing either a script or a treatment. Production is the creation of the material the students will use to make a Media Arts project such as filming, photographing, collecting sound, creating music, conducting interviews, etc. Post Production is putting all of the pieces together into a meaningful form, editing, screening, and appropriately distributing the finished piece.
Pre-Production. Solicit the group to think and talk about what topics they want to explore and what they want to accomplish. Maybe you have a particular goal for their piece like it must demonstrate knowledge of the Native Literature program, or maybe it needs to be science or social studies related, or be about a topic you’re studying. It is fine to give the students parameters in which the students can work, and within those they can still have the freedom to use a variety of creative ideas and to connect the project meaningfully to their lives. Ask the students to speak with members of their community to learn about local stories and to decide on a subject they feel is important to make a movie about. I often begin a project by asking students to ask the eldest respected member of their family or community what they think they should be doing a project on.
Once the group has decided on the topic or story they want to tell then they should discuss it fully and decide if they want to make a documentary, a narrative, or a PSA. Employ creativity building activities to help the group further explore the topic then begin the Writing Process. For a Narrative a script needs to be written, for a Documentary write a treatment. A treatment is basically a proposal of what they plan to film, who to interview, and why.
The Production phase of the class is the creation of and gathering of audio and visual materials they’ll use to create a piece - the filming, or taking pictures, and the recording of sound. Make sure you begin with lessons on using the equipment safely. Discuss good camera posture and the use of tripods, framing subjects, and basic types of shots. Stress the importance of good sound and always listening through headphones. A good piece is going to need the best possible images and sounds.
Below is an Estimated Facilities and Equipment List for a Place-Based Media Arts Class of 20 with all students working simultaneously:
- A classroom with a large open space for doing loud Drama exercises.
- 5 Mac Computers with a good external hard drive for each.
- Scriptwriting Software on all computers - Celtx is free.
- Video Editing Software loaded onto all computers.
- 2 Video Cameras with carrying cases – 3ccd with XLR inputs for audio, or preferably a high-quality HD camera
- 2 DSLR cameras
- 2 Zoom audio recorders
- Extra Batteries for each piece of equipment.
- Copious appropriate media storage devices
- 2 Fluid Head Tripods
- 2 Shotgun microphones with cables and compatible plugs to cameras
- 2 Lavalier microphones
- 2 Boom poles with heads
- 2 Lighting Kits with reflectors
- Multiple Headphones and compatible headphone splitters.
- 2 White Balance Cards
- 4 Lens Cleaning Kits
- Appropriate camera and equipment cases
- Basic Classroom supplies - Paper, Pencils, Markers, Stapler, Tape, and access to a printer, Xerox machine and a projector for Presentation of Completed Films.
Post-Production. After you’ve collected sufficient visual and audio materials for your script or treatment it is time for Post-Production - to view, analyze and edit those materials, this is when the project comes together. The first step is to log and transfer or capture all of the footage. The students look at each clip and summarize what is important about the clip, looking at both the visual and audio information, and make judgments about its usefulness and quality. This is a good time to teach how to analyze elements of the visual language such as framing, angles, and movement of the camera. Then the Editing begins when the group neatly knits together the audio and visual material they’ve got into the form they want, using whatever program or method is appropriate for their unique project. Encourage the students to see the work they are doing in a larger picture and through perspective taking, be able to see how they, their friends, and their family connect with the issues they are studying.
Public Screening. After the group’s piece is complete consider public showings and appropriate distribution. Organize a screening night and invite friends, family, and community members to view the completed pieces. Students should introduce themselves and their work then participate in a Q and A afterwards.
The most rewarding aspect for me in doing this type of work with youth is the empowerment that they gain through doing these types of projects. Utilizing the media tools that are often used to instill apathy in today’s youth, they can take these tools over and instill a sense of humanity. Through public performances, video showings, art exhibits and public access television the kids are able to not only deeply transform themselves but also to use positive peer pressure to inspire others to think about these issues as well and to free themselves.
© Tso Inspired Media Arts LLC