Being a Director: An Introduction to Filmmaking Course Kit for Grades 6-8

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Welcome to Being a Director! This course builds upon the lessons students learned in the Being a Screenwriter series to teach the necessary skills for directing and creating a one-of-a-kind movie masterpiece!

One of the most important things to understand about the filmmaking process is just how much effort goes into creating a film. Over 10 sessions your students will get a taste of acting, set design, costume design, cinematography, editing, and more. While their in-class reading and activity will be structured around thinking like a director and learning to turn their screenplays into film, the shooting and editing of their films will be the most time-consuming part of the filmmaking process and will need to be done in teams since one student cannot direct, act, film, and edit her or his film all at one time.

Depending on the size of your class, we recommend one of two methods for structuring the work your students will do to make their own films.

Option One: Have the entire class work together on one film. Students can take turns each week being the director while learning about the many important roles in the filmmaking process.

Option Two: Break the class into two groups that will each work on one film. With this option, beginning in Lesson 4, groups will take turns filming and editing their movies. While one group uses the equipment, the other will complete an in-class activity.

Option Three: Break the class into multiple groups (2-3 each) that will each work on one film. With this option, beginning in Lesson 4, groups will take turns filming and editing their movies. While one group uses the equipment, the others will complete
an in-class activity.

Above all else, though, this course is about creativity and having fun. Remember, your enthusiasm is contagious. You’re your students’ biggest cheerleader, so as you lead them through each exercise, encourage them to ask questions, think intentionally,
and, most importantly, be creative!


Course Outline

Lesson 1 -Places Everyone: The Role of a Film Director
In this lesson, you’ll help your students understand the role of a director. No doubt that they’ve probably heard the word “director” before, but it will be your task to help them understand what it means. To help students get a feel for how directors affect a film, you’ll play a game today that asks students to look for distinctions between the styles of different directors.

Lesson 2 - Film as Art: Learning to Think Cinematically
In this lesson, students will learn about mise-enscène,an important aspect of filmmaking borne out of the earliest days of the medium when French filmmakers were first learning to use film technology to tell stories. It's very improtant for student to understand everything in the scene must convey something to the audience.

Lesson 3 - Movie Stars: Casting and Working with Actors
In this lesson students will familiarize themselves with the members of a filmmaking crew who bring the movie’s characters to life: actors. Throughout the production phase of a movie, actors and directors work closely together to interpret a script and turn the words written in a screenplay into a believable story.

Lesson 4 - Take One: Shooting Your Film
In today’s lesson, students begin the most important (and most time-consuming) portion of their movie projects: shooting their films. To do this, they first learn about “shots,” the small video clips that are edited together to make a scene in a movie. To do so, a director and her/his team set up their cameras, lights, sound equipment,etc. They put their sets, props, and actors where they want them.

Lesson 5 - Your Best Shot: Cinematic Techniques
This lesson will add to what students learned in the previous lesson regarding cinematography by discussing another important element of shooting movies: camera angles. There are many camera angles to consider but in these activites you'll focus on these:Establishing shot, Long shot, Medium shot, Close-up and Extreme close-up. 

Lesson 6 - Bright Lights: Storytelling with Light and Color

This lesson also adds some new tools to their cinematography repertoire that they can continue adding to their shot list. specifically focusin on lighting. As you help your students learn, any lighting in a movie is placed intentionally and has an important effect on the viewer.


Lesson 7 - Invisible Art: Editing Your Movie
In this lesson your students will begin to learn to edit their own movies. You’ll demonstrate to your students the three most basic features of any editing software: importing footage, adding footage to a sequence, and adding transitions. Included are instructions for performing these tasks in Windows Movie Maker and Apple’s iMovie.

Lesson 8 - Guiding Your Audience: Storytelling through Editing
In this lesson students learn about the power of transitions in films. Transitions play two roles in the editing process, both a mechanical role in the physical structure of a film when it was physically cut between scenes and the effects help the viewer understand how the story is moving between shots much like transitions in a written story or essay.

Lesson 9 - Finishing Touches: Harnessing the Power of Music
In today’s lesson students add some finishing touches to their films by working on their movies’ sound.This is the final step in the process of making a movie,and your students have worked hard to get here. What started as a brainstorm has now taken shape into a tangible product. With just one more step, their movies will be complete!

Lesson 10 - Rolling Out the Red Carpet: The Movie Premier
In this lesson, you will celebrate with your students and watch their final films! This is a big day. To create your own film from scratch is no easy task, and it is certainly an accomplishment to rejoice in. To celebrate, your students will take part in their own movie premiere. The movie premiere is broken into two parts: 1) a red carpet Q&A with the filmmakers and 2) the screening of their films.



Instructor’s Guide

Every step is taken to provide an easy-to-follow format and informative, fun-to-read instructions for each lesson. In addition to a brief listing of objectives, materials, and set-up procedures, useful icons point the instructor to a number of key elements:

Notes for the Instructor: Brief instructor notes introduce the subject matter and challenges presented in the particular lesson. They often contain real-life, age-appropriate examples from movies that most students have seen.

Notes for the Students: These notes “set the stage” for each lesson by presenting brief material to read, listen to, and discuss.

Vocabulary: New and relevant terms are defined here. Note, too, the comprehensive “Glossary” at the end of the Instructor’s Guide and Student Books.

Activity Description: Here, step-by-step procedures are provided for both the instructor’s demonstration and the students’ immersion in the activity.

Wrap-up: Discussion-provoking questions and summary-type activities are designed to revisit the day’s learning and help students take their inquiry further.

Clean-up: Clear instruction on preserving and storing materials is provided to ensure kit longevity and cost effectiveness.

Other Destinations: To extend lessons and deepen understanding across disciplinary and cultural divides, relevant links to multimedia, web resources, and fun at-home or extension activities are provided here.

Student Books

Designed for students to record their writings class after class, the Student Books acquire a quality that keeps the young screenwriters engaged in their project over time. The books serve as companions to the Instructor’s Guide and contain activity worksheets, questions to spark the imagination, and are a tool for students to brainstorm their screenplay ideas. 

Companion Resources

When you adopt Being a Director, your instructors will have access to a number of companion resources. The Resource CD includes tutorials for each lesson, lesson extensions, and other great ideas for the classroom. Word search and crossword puzzles help reinforce newly learned and used vocabulary. Links to other multimedia resources provide authentic lesson extensions. If your organization does not have access to CD drives we can substitute a USB thumb drive with all the electronc resources at no extra charge. 

Tools for Teaching

Quick Start Tips for Teachers

Preparing Staff to Teach “Being a Director”

Welcome to the staff training notes for Being a Director, a series of 10 hands-on lessons in creativity and literacy. This program is ideal for after-school programs, summer and vacation camps, scout troops, church youth groups and anywhere that young people gather.

The challenges in teaching Being a Director are unique, and the success of each lesson depends on teaching with clarity, listening attentively, being ready to help students understand new information, and encouraging productivity.

This course requires that students write in response to a series of activities. Although students’ ideas are produced in their activity books or journals, it’s critical not to make them think that their films will be judged. We are not interested in spelling or grammatical correctness or the “right” answers in this course. Instead, we want students to feel empowered in their creativity; we want their ideas to be uncensored.

Who can teach Being a Director?

Any responsible, enthusiastic and well briefed group leader, teacher, volunteer, parent, or other motivated adult can teach Being a Director. The text is easy to read and understand, the set-ups are detailed and uncomplicated, and the processes and procedures are clearly explained in the Lesson pages. Adults act as coaches and mentors, and guide learners as they proceed through the lessons.

What special skills does the instructor need to teach Being a Director?

No special technical (or theatrical) skills are necessary to teach Being a Director. Instructors should be well organized, motivated and observant individuals. Volunteers--such as other instructors or parents--can be helpful in ensuring that all students are proceeding through their roles and making progress in their understanding. Being a Director is fun, so enthusiastic and positive instructors are essential "cheerleaders" in the learning process.

Being a Director seems to contain a lot of film terminology and procedures. Wouldn’t it be better if we had a real filmmaker helping out with the project?

If you’re like most Americans, you’ve seen thousands of movies, videos, commercials and television shows.  You know more about how a film is made than you think you do—and now you’ll have the tools and vocabulary to discuss them.

We’ve designed each activity to teach an important lesson in the structure and development of storytelling through film. These activities promote both fun and learning, and the Notes for the Instructor (provided in each section) offers the "context" in which learners’ understanding is scaffolded and strengthened

How can instructors most effectively deliver the lessons in Being a Director?

Teaching any lesson in Being a Director is easy if the instructor is well prepared. Follow these steps before every lesson.

  • Read the entire lesson before you teach so you know what sort of outcome you are trying to achieve.
  • Familiarize yourself with the vocabulary and background information.
  • Identify the corresponding pages (where appropriate) in the Student Activity Book and review them so you know how to guide students to "fill in" their part of the activity. This step is essential because much of what students accomplish in their books will ultimately contribute to putting together their final “treatment” for a screenplay presentation.
  • Open the Course Kit and locate all of the materials you need for each lesson.
  • Set up your classroom so that it's easy for students to work in groups of 2 or 4.
  • Set up your demonstration area with all appropriate materials at hand.

Review the entire lesson with any volunteers who will help you teach the lesson.

Extend your lesson

Instructors--particularly those with access to computer labs--can extend their lessons by reading through many of the activities described in the Other Directions, Discussions and Destinations section at the end of each lesson. Even if there's no computer available in the classroom, many activities can be adapted by an instructor who takes the time to visit the recommended websites before delivering a lesson.

Consult your colleagues

Many lessons in Being a Director have cross-disciplinary applications. Talk with other teachers in your school or program about the ways in which what they are teaching might connect to your lesson. As you plan and prepare, ask your colleagues for good “discussion starters.” Show them the activity sheets and materials you are using, and ask for their experience in teaching about narrative processes. Being a Director is a great jumping-off point for lessons in character education, too!

And don’t forget to have fun!


Customer Quotes

“Great of the best curriculum's out there, great help for teaching our video class”

- Christine R., Principal, Trinity Lutheran School, Kalispell, MT

“Screenwriting was awesome, our kids really loved these activities. It was also really nice to provide such a creative curriculum that addresses the standards in such a fun way.”

- Heather S., Director, After School, City of Fairfield, CA

“Having taught at the high school and college level, I was impressed with this curriculum. The materials and guidance were well put together and very thoughtful.”

- Michael L., Artist, Shea After School, Syracuse, NY

“This amazing program has enabled my students to comprehend the process of forensic science as well as the sophisticated vocabulary encompassed in the program's lessons.”

- Erica T., Freehold Public Schools, Freehold, NJ

“This is a well organized course that I would highly recommend to other programs.”

- Chad S., Teacher, School #18, Buffalo, NY

“The program is awesome! I’m doing it as part of an after school enrichment time. Our kids really enjoy the projects and it’s wonderful to use as everything is provided.”

- Karen S.,Teacher, Olympic Middle School, WA

“This is the perfect kind of activity for afterschool. It’s fun; students learn by getting involved. Everybody wants to be a part of it!”

- Kim L., Program Leader, Child and Adolescent Treatment Services, Buffalo NY

“They love it…it’s awesome. Kids are dying to get in it!”

- Audrey A., Teacher, Clifford Marshall Elementary School, Quincy, MA

“The Missing Money Mystery was very easy to follow. The children had such a great time at it, we even allowed our group to re-enact the entire mystery. This mystery was fantastic, and we are looking forward to our next exercise!”

- Jackie. J., Director/Detective, Hempstead P.A.L., Hempstead, NY

“The students were engaged and enjoyed the experiments. The story keeps the activities meaningful and provided an interested way to connect Florida Standards. The teacher’s manual was easy to follow and materials in the kits made it very convenient for set up. Overall, this is a great thing to do in afterschool and during the summer!”

- Betty C., Teacher, Genesis Center, Leesburg FL

“Playing with Percussion offers an exciting doorway to exploring percussion, communication skills and learning about different cultures.”

- Sheila K., Site Leader, Accord Corp, Youth Services Division, Belfast NY

“Our kids enjoyed making their own instruments, especially sanding. Playing all those grooves at the end was a lot of fun!”

- Nina P., Music teacher, Napa, CA

“The Cookie Jar Mystery was such a big hit at the middle school…which has been tough.”

- Charlie E., Teacher, Lexington County Schools, SC

“The Cookie Jar Mystery went really well, the kids talked about it for weeks. They were very excited and intrigued with the hands-on activities and I really enjoyed teaching it!”

- Brook T.,Teacher, Lincoln Middle Schools, TN