We’re making movies!

film-workshopYesterday we had the privilege to have Angela Blake from SmartFone Flick Fest run a workshop for a bunch of keen museum staff who all had stories to tell, but just needed an easy and accessible way to make them. Why? In the words of the Flick Fest folks:

These days you don’t need expensive cameras and huge budgets to make a great film. You don’t even need big crews, special effects or lots of time. All you need is your smartphone and/or tablet, a great idea and away you go.

Smartphones and tablets are equipped with high-quality cameras and recording equipment and it’s time we utilise these to create beautiful and professional quality films, and that’s what we here at SF3 are all about.

Angela was joined by Christopher Stollery, the winner of the S3F festival with his film, No Budget, which was exciting as he brought lots of experience and ideas to the table (and his film is terrific!).

I have posted before about ways to create visual content in museums and was inspired by work we did at the Australian Museum on a research grant, New Literacies, New Audiences (2005-2008), where staff made a series of short films, called Australian Museum Stories, which were also evaluated with audiences. Back then we used numerous digital cameras, complicated editing systems and lots of batteries to make these films (although they were done in two days!), but now we can do all this with our mobile devices, a few apps and some good ideas, as we discovered at the workshop (and instead of batteries we have numerous charging bits and pieces…).

Angela and Chris gave us lots of tips and ideas which can be found on Flick Fest’s website, and here are my quick notes and tips:

  • Where is the story being set?
  • Think about the character/s, their goals, and conflicts
  • Show, don’t tell, remember this is a visual medium
  • What engages viewers at the beginning is a question – what is this?? What is this about??
  • Find the hook that will keep people watching
  • When you know the answer to the question that’s the end of the story… (think Twin Peaks!)
  • Engage the audience with questions, then change it up – there needs to be twists and turns in the story
  • When holding the camera use the “pinch and pull” with your elbows tucked in
  • Shoot in landscape – that’s how your film will be viewed (usually)
  • Remember to turn recording on!
  • Use a second phone for sound
  • If doing a voiceover record directly into iMovie
  • Play sound back with headphones, keep checking the sound
  • Have an “atmos track”: record 15-30 seconds of nothing in the area you’re shooting (didn’t quite get this but seemed important…)
  • Don’t use zoom on your device if possible, be the zoom yourself, step in to the subject using the “pinch and pull”
  • If you see it, shoot it. Shoot as much as you can!
  • Remember the rule of thirds: imagine the screen is cut into three, meaning you don’t need to put the subject in middle, put them in first or last third
  • Don’t put people’s eyes in middle of the frame
  • Mix up your shot sizes
  • Visually map out the story or just sketch out a bunch of frames, helps you think about the viewer and what shots you need in order to tell the story – you can use a storyboard app (but I reckon a piece of paper and a bunch of Post-it notes will do just fine!)

While we didn’t get too far into the thorny topic of copyright, Angela suggested the following resources from the Tropfest Australia website as useful guidelines and tools:

We are having a screening next week so will upload some of our efforts after that. I know we’ll be continuing along this path, and from the Australian Museum Stories evaluation we also know that audiences like museum movies:

We really loved the idea of getting behind-the-scenes of the [Australian] museum. Who’d have thought that marine biologists worked there? It’s so interesting to find out how the museum puts an exhibition together. We want more, more, more!

And, if you want to run a workshop yourself contact Angela – I highly recommend it and you won’t be disappointed!


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