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Through the Eyes of the Director
What makes a movie work or fail? A well-made movie can draw viewers in so completely that they can forget that everything they see and hear was planned out by the filmmakers. This printout prompts teens to look at several distinct elements of a movie and decide on their overall effectiveness.
A movie’s success often depends on the effectiveness of the strategies used to create it. Generally, filmmakers want their movies to be both entertaining and understandable, which they accomplish by introducing characters, plot, sound, images, and ideas that appeal to the audience. If done well, these elements draw viewers into the experience, rather than making them constantly aware that they are watching a movie. If done poorly, viewers can be left feeling that they had an empty or uninteresting experience. This printout provides some examples of strategies that filmmakers use to tell their onscreen stories.
- Make a plan to watch a movie with a teen or group of teens. This experience will seem more natural if you choose a movie that nobody in the group has seen before.
- Make copies of the “Through the Eyes of the Director” printout and read it with the teen(s). Discuss the examples, making sure everything is clearly understood.
- Brainstorm other techniques and strategies moviemakers use and make a list of them to talk about and rate later.
- Watch the movie. During the movie, everyone may want to keep some quick notes on a separate piece of paper.
- After the viewing, ask the teens to rate the movie’s use of the various techniques and strategies listed on the printout, as well as any they came up with during the brainstorming session. Also have them rewrite their notes in complete, coherent sentences in the appropriate comment spaces on the printout.
- Lead a discussion exploring the teens’ reasons behind their initial impressions, encouraging them to develop their ideas through thoughtful debate. In what ways were the techniques and strategies applied in the movie, and in each case did they help or hinder the enjoyment of the movie? How so? What might have been done differently to better effect?
- Have teens compare favorite movies of a particular genre in a roundtable discussion. Contrast those with movies of the same genre that they feel were unsuccessful. Are they in agreement with their friends?
- Also have teens look up professional critical reviews of a movie they have all seen. Have teens write a response to a critic with whom they disagree.
- Encourage teens to create a “movie review group” on a social networking site suck as Facebook. Have them post their reviews to the group site.
- Have teens come up with their own rubric for evaluating the effectiveness of a film. Ask them to create category definitions and example comments in the style of those found on the printout.
- Have teens use moviemaking software to create their own short film. Tell them to use the strategies on the printout as inspiration when planning their film. Before they start filming, have them brainstorm techniques and strategies to “borrow” from favorite films or directors, such as the use of close-ups or music or editing.