Film in Education – Re-purposing Media with Students.

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Early last month I headed off to The British Film Institute, Southbank to attend the first day of my penultimate MA module, on Moving Image. It was so exciting to walk through the doors of this iconic institution to meet fellow students.


It was really interesting to hear the wide range of personal experience in this year’s group, for example, students who have studied or worked on projects in: education, tech industry, film production, journalism, and social media.

Into Action

The day was organised into two sessions led by John Potter, James Durran and Michelle Cannon.

Introduction to Editing: editing theory, film grammar and our experience of creating media in our personal and professional lives.

We were tasked with making a film in 15 minutes! Using 3 key shots to infer a particular scenario, we headed out to Southbank to film ours, based on the scenario ‘It was an accident waiting to happen…’

Editing Practical: Re-purposing Romeo & Juliet*

We were given access to a selection of sample film and sound clips from Romeo & Juliet, starring Leonardo di Caprio and Claire Danes (1996), directed by Baz Luhrmann. In groups we spent some time getting to grips with Premier Pro and drawing comparisons with other editing software we are familiar with.

We played around with the clips, repurposing them, i.e. changing the order, cropping, adding effects, adjusting speed and sound effects to ‘tell a different story’. As I tweeted, ours ended up being a little dark and ominous! wp-premier

Our Next Assignment

The follow-up task was to complete a personal version of the Romeo & Juliet* re-edit, or use sample clips of Y9 UK students acting out an apology [POV].

Once back at school, I shared the story of my day at BFI with students. As described in Learning Strategies – Are We walking our Talk, I feel it is important for them to hear about our experiences as learners.

When I left London, I began thinking about how I could involve students in the re-editing assignment. In Computing lessons, our students learn to combine images and video on a timeline, to layer sound effects or add titles into video clips within projects on animation, green screen, storyboarding and iMovie (iPad). This year, as I upscale my own skills I’m planning to expand our current modules with more detailed editing and filming opportunities.

Editing Experiment

The context of the original Y9 Apology clips [which due to permissions, I’m not able to share here] = two students, a boy comes into a classroom to apologize to a girl for getting them into trouble in the playground. There are various close-ups of nervous hand rolling, a monologue to camera by the boy, the girl playing it cool as the apology unfolds.

Around the time I went to BFI, we were developing our understanding of ‘interlingual’ learning at our school. Watching the clips I got the idea for an alternative narrative: a scenario whereby the boy and girl in the scenes were speaking different languages and found it challenging to understand each other.

First Viewing

Editing complete, I reviewed my film (with sound muted) with students to explore what they could infer from it. The group was really sharp on picking up on visual cues and body language, e.g.

  • Maybe they are speaking different languages, seem confused.
  • Maybe the boy has just moved to the school, he’s not in school uniform (the girl is).
  • The girl is looking very bored (leaning back on chair) so she doesn’t look like she is really listening or interested.
  • They need a speech bubble with ‘I don’t know WHAT you are saying…”
  • When she suddenly smiles, I think she begins to get what the boy is saying, so she smiles, maybe he said something funny?

Final Editing

I decided creating voiceovers in different mother-tongue languages would add depth to the narrative. I found two enthusiastic students who were happy to volunteer, one mother tongue Dutch, one Polish, who had both learnt English since arriving at our school.

We discussed our experience of landing in countries/situations where people speak a language we do not, or don’t yet understand, and what it feels like when we are not able to express our ideas, or connect as well as we could in our mother tongue. Reviewing the film together, we thought about what dialogue may fit with the scenario.This is where things get interesting! Why?

We all speak English, two of us speak Dutch, one of us speaks polish and we planned to interpret the dialogue and cross-translate our understanding in each language! Needless to say, tech came to the rescue via Google translate. However, this didn’t always give the correct nuance, giving us cause to adapt some of the dialogue for best fit.

We hit a few snags which we  overcame by lots of talking, and getting into character. Sitting in the arrangement the Y9s were in the film to help set the scene was the turning point. When the students sat in the same poses, and adopted the facial expressions and gesticulations it was easier for them to convey emotion and more natural speech to fit the clip. The shift in empathy with the on-screen characters was a game changer.

Great fun and an example of collective learning in which collaboration was the key to finding the solutions we needed to create a realistic film – ‘Lost in Translation’.

Editing Tweaks

Various tweaks to the timeline were needed as we recorded our voice versions in multiple re-takes until the synch was right. Getting the best ‘fit’ dubbing on the mouth synch was tricky! We found that when we comfortable with the content of our script, this needed further refinement once laid down next to the film. Finally, we added titles and colour effects. The opening shot was switched to duotone to represent ‘confusion’-  the  interplay between the students homeland, languages and personal journeys. This effect plus others was also used at other points in the film to create visual inference.


The Takeaway

In the process of editing, we realized that most of the filming we do at school to date is piece to camera for reporting, pitching, etc. apart from occasional acting on green screen. We have not yet engaged in portraying characters in 3rd person through acting roles that require you to interpret the thoughts and dialogue of another character. It’s now on my list for #future development.

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Film Translation (Polish = P, Dutch = D):

Boy enters Classroom:

P: I don’t know if I will understand him. (looks up)

Rolling Hands Close Up:

N: Does she understand Dutch? What will we talk about? Is she doing OK? Which language does she speak really? (thinking to self)

At table:

N: Hello, welcome to out school, how long have you been coming to this school? (awkward)

P: I don’t understand him at all (crosses arms, looks at hands)

Boy, Close-Up: (Scene flipped, backdrop display sign then appears backwards to represent mixed understanding)

N: I don’t understand her, I have so many questions I want to ask her, but she wont be able to understand me. What’s going to happen?

Girl Close-Up:

P: I don’t understand ANYTHING he is saying… Sigh, I wonder what he is saying? (approx.)

P: …. (smile) Oh – I understood that word! …(smiles).









2 thoughts on “Film in Education – Re-purposing Media with Students.

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