On January 23rd 2014, in Woolwich, London, a group of filmmakers came together to celebrate their achievements. Awards were handed out in a variety of categories, rewarding the teams behind a range of superhero movies packed with action, suspense and (of course) exciting visual effects.
The awards ceremony was called the “Nighties”, the venue was Nightingale Primary School, and none of the filmmakers was over eleven years old.
I had the great honour of judging the category of Best Special Effects, choosing a shortlist of four nominees from ten excellent submissions and picking the winner – an entertaining tale of kidnap called Doomed, which impressed me with the way it used its greenscreen shots to help tell the story.
After the ceremony, I caught up with Andy Wicks, former professional filmmaker, now ICT Coordinator at Nightingale School, and one of my oldest friends. Here’s what he had to say about the project:
Could you describe the “Superheroes” project? What brief did you give the pupils?
In term 1 of 2013, Years 5 and 6 created comic book stories. We had local author Andrew Donkin in to inspire the children with his knowledge of writing for comics and superheroes. “Superheroes” was the theme for both term 1 and term 2, with an emphasis on writing stories linked to the genre. In term 2, the children used what they had learned about superheroes to write film scripts. The incentive was that they would then turn those scripts into films, which they would act in, design props and costumes for, and edit.
How does a filmmaking project like this fit in with the overall curriculum?
Our main focus as a school is improving writing. We find that giving a concrete reason and a specific audience for their writing helps inspire the children to produce their best work. Filmmaking gives the reason for writing. It also brings in many other benefits, including problem solving, team working, resilience, negotiation and so on. There are also strong links with computing, as the films were shot with iPads and edited on computers. Our aim is to embed computing into the overall curriculum and this is an ideal project to achieve that aim. We extended and deepened the learning with the “Nighties” awards ceremony. The children designed the room, invited guests, contacted suppliers and organised the event. They acted as reporters and photographers on the night as well.
How much of a free rein did the children have when planning and making their films?
They were given carte blanche. Teachers were there to advise on use of location, special effects and so on, but each group decided what they wanted to create.
Do you plan to share your experience of running this project with other schools?
The evening was live-tweeted, we had a teacher from a local school as MC, and we will be sharing the project as a showcase for our developing curriculum.
What equipment did you use?
We used iPads ad Flip cameras to gather footage. We used iMovie running on MacBooks for editing and greenscreen compositing.
Can you describe how you went about creating the greenscreen shots?
Children had to decide which shots in their script needed to be shot using the greenscreen. They then sourced background images – mainly from the internet. On the filming days we set up the greenscreen in a classroom; each group had a time slot in front of it. We used a Sony camcorder, with the children setting up shots, guided by me. For dialogue shots we used a microphone on a boom pole.
Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks to Andy and head teacher Roy Coleman for including me in this inspiring event. I think the message is clear. Forget the Oscars. Bring on the Nighties!