written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/16/2010
Here are some tips and techniques to help teach filmmaking for kids.
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Film as Education
At the same time as school budgetary problems strip arts and technology from public schools, the world around us is shifting more into the inclusion of digital art forms like filmmaking into the public sphere. Educating children into the details of filmmaking is a great way to teach them about contemporary technology, the power of communication, the skills needed in modern media, and the ability to see and shape stories. Here are a few tips for setting up kids to become young filmmakers.
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Cheap Digital Video Cameras
One of the great things about the new digital video revolution is that camera with decent images have become incredibly affordable, but you are not going to need great broadcast quality HD cameras for first time youth filmmakers. You will want a camera that will allow the young filmmakers to learn the basic principles of working with a digital video camera like dealing with focal distance, setting the iris, working with shutter speed, using filters, and so on. You need the image to be good enough so that they will be able to display their film work and get down the principles for digital video cinematography. Filmmaking for kids is best done on a light weight DV camera that is going to get the job done and remain resilient. A good option is the Sony PD-150, or other medium level prosumer cameras that can be purchased for relatively cheap.
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Video editing is a standard part of all filmmaking, and will be also with filmmaking for kids. This does not mean that you need to start them off on the most advanced non-linear video editing software, but there are a number of different options for easy editing. You can use something like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie teach them the basic principles of video editing. If you continue with your filmmaking for kids program then you may want to extend into something like Final Cut Pro, and possibly even audio mixing and graphics, but this should be kept simple.
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Focus on Storytelling
Filmmaking, either for kids or in the Hollywood production sphere, is really about storytelling. Understanding and reproducing the basic elements of a story can be difficult and this should be much of the focus of filmmaking for kids. A basic look at narrative structure, how to bring out ideas, and communicate the story that they want is important. If these are narrative films then you can look into basic screenwriting and how to build a beginning, middle, and end and real characters. If you are trying to focus in on documentary filmmaking for kids then you can begin focusing on how to find stories in the real world and bring them out of situations and people.
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Kids themselves are usually very adept when it comes to online video distribution and social networking, and you may want to allow them to drive what happens to their film projects once they are done producing them. Work with them to create a web presence and help them get down the post-production workflow that will bring the project from the editing program to the format that they want.