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Anything being sold here on Family Reunion?

In the ongoing series sharing references and resources to the economically-oriented aspects of media literacy education, here are some recent pieces of interest to share related to advertising and media.  Product placement is a core element of investigation for media literacy coursework, and here is a recent highly interactive article by Sophie Haigney titled How Products Became the New TV Stars.  And for those interested in knowing who is vying to be the current “King of Product Placement” in Hollywood, here is an article by Brian Steinberg for Variety.

Pitch Notes 102

Just a quick note about a part of the media creation process that has the potential to provide fertile ground for classroom discussion and skill development: The Pitch.*  (See also: Pitch Notes 101.) 

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I am commenting here because this spring, my Advanced Video Production class has engaged in what have been the most fruitful, productive, constructive pitch sessions I have seen.  In this case, for the final project of the course, based on Chapter 7 writing and Chapter 8 project in Moving Images, the students came to class with outlines and project development materials (story breakdown, log line, other possible elements) and needed to pitch their concept and gameplan to a collaborative team.  Very positive attitudes, creative and respectful reactions and conversations, and concrete story development (along with discussions of sound, visuals, and more) was achieved by all group members.  

One resource available related to the development of skills in pitching and workshopping is a unit on media storytelling from members of Pixar studios (by Khan Academy) and which features a section on Pitching and Feedback.

* Please note: This process also has the potential to provide some of the most thorny challenges to any learning environment: through pitches, students open up themselves to group feedback in ways that can make them vulnerable and defensive.  It is critical to put into place effective, healthy approaches to workshop-type classroom situations and feedback-based interactions.  Make sure to examine a variety of project-based learning strategies outlined in texts like Moving Images and in resources available such as through mediateacher.net or the Journal of Media Literacy Education.

Movies, Anyone?

End of moviesWhat is going to happen to the experience of going to the movies?  Over the course of the global spread Covid-19, among the areas of human behavior most affected by the pandemic have been in the venues of the performance arts and the cinema.  Already, impacts of streaming services, home viewing, and related shifts in moving image culture had been causing widespread questions about the future of the experience of moviegoing through large screens in a shared, public venue.  There have been many analyses and editorials on the challenges facing the theatrical motion picture experience, from angles related to business, technology, sociology, creative expression, and beyond.  In addition, there have been many heartfelt expressions of the value and importance of motion pictures as a vital medium of creativity and human expression, and this topic can be a fertile area of dialogue in the classroom.  One such recent piece is by columnist Ross Douthat, titled Is this the End of the Movies? (New York Times, March 27, 2022).  

us jordan peeleIn this piece, Douthat investigates this question in a lively essay that concludes with some interesting suggestions for improving the current crisis of cinematic moviegoing and the viability and importance of feature films in our culture.  Most interestingly for work related to Media Literacy Education is this recommendation: “…Second, an emphasis on making the encounter with great cinema a part of a liberal arts education… at this point, 20th-century cinema is a potential bridge backward for 21st-century young people, a connection point to the older art forms that shaped The Movies as they were. And for institutions, old or new, that care about excellence and greatness, emphasizing the best of cinema is an alternative to a frantic rush for relevance that characterizes a lot of academic pop-cultural engagement at the moment.”

HUGORelated to the work being done by Media Literacy Educators across the country, this can be seen as quite a message about the importance of our mission, a call to renewal and reinvigoration and action, and a strong point of reflection on the key role of motion picture arts as communicative vehicles to understand, articulate, and share our experiences and expressions of the world. 

Screen Shot 2022-07-26 at 1.51.15 PMIn the Journal for Media Literacy Education, I published a piece titled The Role of Collaboration and Feedback in Advancing Student Learning in Media Literacy and Video Production, in which I discuss the importance of implementing effective  collaborative project strategies and managing appropriate feedback at all stages of production work.  In the article, I examine case studies and learning outcomes from courses I have taught, and I have followed up this work in presentations at Media Literacy conferences and professional development sessions by adding more examples of this work in action.   

IMG_0369A regular component of the work in video production courses that I teach has been the completion of projects that respond to actual needs of our school community.  An obvious recent example was the need for public service announcements related to protocols and phases of the management of the Covid pandemic.  Another example is through Student News pieces that have depicted community events or initiatives, such as with our agriscience program or town Land Conservancy.

IMG_0374At the end of this past semester, my Advanced Video Production class engaged in a complex production that involved the entire class in an extensive collaborative task.  This project required intricate planning and organization through all phases from development through post-production.  The genesis of the project came about as a result of a request by our school system central administration for pictures or videos of various school activities in order to share with the school board and community during the budget adoption process.

Screen Shot 2022-07-26 at 2.05.39 PMFollowing that request, I proposed that our media production students work to create a cohesive statement about some of the exceptional learning taking place throughout our schools.  The pitch was greenlit, and work was immediately underway.  (We had to move fast to make the deadline.)

Screen Shot 2022-07-26 at 2.04.13 PMThis project was the last in-class exercise (before the final course project, which are shorts made independently by each student and turned in as part of the final exam), so students had already completed several motion pictures in which they employ collaborative techniques to set objectives, evaluate effective approaches related to the contexts or demands of the project, and implement a team-based structure to complete the work through production and post-production.  Here is the assignment that they received.  (Please note: in terms of brainstorming and other aspects of pre-production in which the team members determine their approach and goals for the project, an important phase is when the class examines and assesses a number of examples from in-house work, as well as a variety of student and professional references.)

Screen Shot 2022-07-26 at 1.57.40 PMAnd here is the video that they produced Keep in mind that, yes, it was entirely planned, written, directed, produced, and edited by the students.  As a final note about this project, it must be pointed out that one of the most distinctive challenges that students can face in terms of topics for the creation of media messages is when the subject is abstract in nature (as opposed to the type of challenge when depicting an actual event or initiative, or a person or group or place), such as when facing a concept such as “education” or “the leaning process.”  Here, the students had to face questions such as “what exactly do our schools do?” and “what is learning all about?”  These types of inquiries can provide strong challenges for any media creators.

Screen Shot 2022-02-25 at 11.56.05 AMIn the earlier post News Reporting, the topic of journalistic projects was discussed and examples of news features were shared.  Recently, another piece by my students was selected for broadcast and it showcases a distinctive range of material used to present its story.  For their piece, students Matt Sinofsky and Jack Pixton used a wide variety of techniques discussed in News Reporting to craft this feature on an educational initiative by the local land conservancy.  It is worth noting that this marked the third time that a project had been attempted by students on this topic, with the first two attempts being thwarted by the outset and then further developments of the Covid pandemic.  In this case, the third time proved to be a charm and the project creators were very much up to the task.  Check out Suffield Land Conservancy Makes Strides to Preserve Space in Town.

Postscript June 2022: Turns out that the qualities of this piece were recognized by the judges of the Connecticut Student News program as well: Matt and Jack earned the top prize in the Locally Grown category sponsored by Big Y for the Fox61 program.