Teacher Dan O’Neill knows how to motivate middle school filmmakers: Schedule an assembly in the Fries Family Theater where an audience of their peers will view their work on a big, big screen.
On a recent visit to Mr. O'Neill's classroom, it’s obvious that strategy is working. In both Grade 7 documentary filmmaking class and Grade 8 fiction filmmaking, students are busy putting to use skills in using camera angles, lighting, sound, the green screen, film editing, scriptwriting, directing, acting and more.
Seventh graders are creating documentaries to inform, entertain and/or inspire the audience of their peers. Eliza Caulkins and Sloane Thompson, for example, were getting Graland teachers to open up about their most embarrassing moments. Fiction works, on the other hand, are the forte of eighth-grade filmmakers. Max Birner (8) and his crew are finalizing a murder mystery after learning advanced techniques like perspective and angle.
“Using different angles, like following someone from behind, adds variety and interest,” said Max. The challenge, he said, is the editing process, which can be very time-consuming.
Another crew including eighth-graders Michael McKee and Rowan Brown is working on a fiction film styled after virtual reality video games. It’s shot through the eyes of the main character who has to complete challenges and beat the game master. It’s not all action and adventure, however. “I would call it a comedic adventure,” said Michael. During a recent class period, they were sourcing costumes from the drama department for an upcoming film shoot and adding sound effects to their footage using Adobe Premiere Pro software.
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.