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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.

PSAs for Safe Driving

Screen Shot 2022-02-25 at 12.56.28 PMSeveral years ago, the Journal of Media Literacy Education published my article The Role of Collaboration and Feedback in Advancing Student Learning in Media Literacy and Video Production.  In this piece, I discuss examples of public service announcements for safe driving initiatives.  Safe driving is certainly one of the most common topics of PSA campaigns for high schools since this issue is one of the most directly impactful for American teens.  This fall, my students produced pieces for the Just Drive campaign sponsored by the Impact Teen Drivers program.  

For this project, students examine approaches to the creation of advertisements and other forms of promotional messaging, along with informational segments for a variety of media.  They develop and pitch their own concepts in pre-production workshops and then devise approaches to produce their pieces.

Screen Shot 2022-02-25 at 1.03.30 PMFor this particular initiative, a strong range of messages were created.  One project was created by a two-person team; theirs, titled Just a Second, turned out to be an award-winning piece.  Another group of three students worked together by each writing and directing their own piece while crewing or acting in each others’ projects.  Yet another PSA was crafted by a student working alone, and he created a piece that hinged on a single visual idea designed for stark impact.  Check out these others here: Cut Short, Lucky, and Don’t.

Devon Michael with Natalie PortmanA NYTimes OpDoc piece was published recently and it concerns a topic close to the hearts of generations of movie viewers, each with their own reference points related to the genesis and evolution of this storytelling universe: Star Wars. In this case, the issue being explored is the impact of media on a particular group of people sometimes involved in its creation and subsequent life in culture: child actors.

For the production of the opening movie of the second trilogy of stories created for the Star Wars movies (in this case the prequels to the original three, which would become episodes I-III), George Lucas needed to cast a central role: young Anakin Skywalker, who would become Darth Vader.

This short documentary recounts the experience not of Jake Lloyd, who was cast in this role, but of a young man who was almost cast in this role: Devon Michael. In this piece directed by Ben Proudfoot, titled Almost Famous: The Unchosen One, viewers explore the journey of this young child actor and the impact of losing out on this once-in-a-lifetime casting opportunity. It is a very powerful story. (As well as quite an insight on George Lucas as a director, when one considers the audition performance and acting qualities displayed by Devon Michael, who was not selected for the role.) Extremely compelling viewing for media students, especially those who are into the Star Wars galaxy of storytelling, from those who grew up in the 70’s or very young viewers whose first experiences are in the episodic series The Mandalorian or The Book of Boba Fett.

News Reporting

Screen Shot 2022-02-25 at 10.21.11 AMAcross the United States, many local news stations and educational programs offer platforms for students to develop skills in news reporting through the production of pieces that may be selected for broadcasting or streaming.  These news reports can cover a wide range of types of media journalism, from feature pieces to hard news to community events to business stories to other categories.

As discussed in Chapter 6 of Moving Images (“Recording and Presenting Reality”), one of the most difficult tasks facing students when developing non-fiction projects is finding a topic that is newsworthy, compelling, and manageable.  In the classroom, this part of the process can provide some of the greatest challenges for teachers.  It is critical to develop a process so that students can hone their abilities to investigate, analyze, and assess sources of material and approaches to portraying the stories they depict.  

Once students have determined topics for investigation, they work on pre-production.  With such a wide range of types of news projects, there are many approaches that can be taken with the material, and valuable pre-production elements can be two-column scripts, story breakdowns, interview questions and contacts, time-sensitive events, scheduling, and related considerations.  Students must ask: what are my images – first-person reporting, interviews, recording of events, b-roll or cutaways, archival, or other types?  At the same time: what is the audio – sound recorded with the aforementioned images, voiceover, ambient tracks, or other elements?  With all of this, some of the most powerful challenges that can be faced are ones of logistics, particularly if people involved with these topics need to be contacted and met.   

Screen Shot 2022-02-25 at 11.40.08 AMNon-fiction projects are core elements to the work in Moving Images.  In the realm of news reporting, for several years my students have been producing pieces that have been shared with the Student News program in Connecticut.  Here are links to two pieces that have aired as part of the program.  The first was an award nominee for this year (by Craig Gnatek, Brennen Yourous, and Tristan Skorupski): Suffield Agriscience Gives Boost to Gardening, and another featured work by Aiden Dultz was Businesses Helping Businesses

Sparking History

Many posts on mediateacher.net have dealt with the intersections of social studies and the documentation of lived experiences and historical events that are an intrinsic part of the evolving story and functions of motion picture media.  Each year continues to bring changes to uses and trends in media creation and transmission that produce and mark profound changes on societal trends and the roles of moving image production and comprehension throughout the world.  A year ago, mediateacher featured the post Telling History about grassroots examples of first person documentation of one’s times in the media literacy classroom and then shared subsequent pieces about the ongoing depiction of our tumultuous era for the United States and the world.

darnella frazierThis week, one of the most historically consequential examples of media creation in our time was rightfully noted as the initiating factor in the conviction rendered for the case of the murder of George Floyd.  Darnella Frazier was one of the bystanders at the scene of George Floyd’s death, and soon after she saw what was happening, she began recording it on her phone.  Journalist Rachel Triesman explains, “The 10-minute video she posted to Facebook has since been seen by millions and became a central piece of evidence in Chauvin’s trial.”  Since then, Frazier, 17 at the time of Floyd’s death, has been given an award for courage by PEN America, bestowed by filmmaker Spike Lee