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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.

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.

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.

Trick or Treat

The steady, very significant rise of horror films in popularity over the past several years has been striking to observe in the media literacy classroom. The increasingly significant number of students who select horror filmmakers and movies as topics of investigation for reports, analyses, and sources of inspiration — and most notably female students — is reflected in the stunning range of horror creations across motion picture media types today, from feature films to streaming series to interactive games and points in between and beyond.  In fact, currently, for her final project in Advanced Video Production one of my students is working on a documentary called The Evolution of Horror in which she traces the history of horror filmmaking from the first years of cinema to now.   

That said, horror is certainly a genre that can present a variety of issues when addressed in a classroom setting.  One series that can give educators some ideas of current and recent horror media from across the globe (and often off the beaten path) is the series Five Horror Movies to Stream Now from The New York Times.  Here is a recent edition from this series.  It’s your decision whether the pieces are tricks or treats.  Happy Halloween!

P.S.: Check out this informative piece — ‘Being a Woman is Full of Horror’ : Female Directors Discuss Their Craftpublished in February of 2022, again from the New York Times, for interviews with current women mediamakers (including Prano Bailey-Bond, Kate Dolan, Charlotte Colbert, and others)  exploring the diverse worlds of horror and suspense motion picture storytelling.

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.

Screen Shot 2022-07-25 at 10.16.24 AMIn an earlier post, I discussed ways in which student work can document history (often unconsciously) and some projects may become messages that resonate as testimonials to their time, place, and people.  

In addition, there have been many examples in these pages of how PSAs are strong vehicles for video production tasks in school communities.  With the onset of a global pandemic, our schools have had to confront some of the most distinct challenges faced by educators in a multitude of ways, and here is one example of a series of PSAs made to share with students as they returned to school at the height of the pandemic, before any vaccines were available.  Undoubtedly, this piece and others created during these months and years provide particular testimonials of these contexts in a unique time and place for American public schools.

Screen Shot 2022-07-26 at 9.50.28 AMPostscript: In early 2022, as schools began to shift to ceasing mask restrictions and shifting to fully in-person classroom instruction, the advanced video production class I teach quickly created (two-day turnaround time, in response to a central administration request) a PSA that could be used in all schools.  Here is the video that a team of four of my students produced.