Getting Your Kids Into Moviemaking
In this column I
have spent much effort talking about the effects of media on children, so this
time I want to look at the effects of children on media! Specifically, how you
can get your kids away from the television and instead encouraging them to make
their own movies and TV shows.
If it sounds way
too complicated and time consuming, you may be surprised. All you need is an
idea, some very basic video equipment, and a modest computer. Of course, if you
wish to spend more money, you can explore high definition video, stereo sound
and many other "high end" options. But my point within this article is to simply
get you started.
Recently I spoke
with kid movie-making expert Shelly Frost from
Make-A-Movie Studios. She offers services in
the San Francisco Bay area where she will come to a kids birthday party and film
a movie in an hour and a half. Admittedly, she says, that efficiency comes after
nine years of experience.
says families and friends can create a short 10 to 15 minute movie within one
day of filming. After that, assembling and refining the movie can keep an
aspiring editor busy for yet another day or two.
"For every hour of
footage that you shoot, there's about three hours of editing time," explains
Shelly, adding there are many benefits to sitting in front of the computer
creating a movie versus playing games. "Editing video footage is a highly
creative process because you are making millions of decisions and it's all off
the top of your own head. It's creating and building something that's all your
As for equipment,
if you check around your home there's a good chance you have a camera that's
able to shoot motion video. If you don't have a dedicated video camera (some of
these take tapes, while newer ones record to an internal hard disk or a
removable memory card) you likely have a still camera. Virtually every point and
shoot still camera has a video mode -- and some of the newer ones offer
surprisingly good video quality. If you have an SLR digital camera (the type
with a removable lens) you may be out of luck, unless your SLR was purchased
within the last couple of years. If that's the case, the newest SLRs are able to
shoot video footage that is on par with some professional film cameras.
the picture is the more technically complex part of the equation, getting good
sound is often more challenging. Virtually every camera that shoots video is
equipped with a built in microphone. These may work adequately for close-up
shots, or single person setups, but if your subject is farther away from the
camera or if you are filming where there is noise from traffic or wind you may
need to find a way to use an external microphone. Most dedicated video cameras
offer a plug to attach a microphone that is on a cord. If you can do this, I
highly recommend it. This will allow someone to hold the microphone and point it
directly at your actors. It also minimizes any noise coming from the camera and
provides one more very important job for yet another eager crewmember. If you
don't have a microphone (few people do) you can purchase one at a store that
specializes in photography and video. Better yet, rent one from an audio/visual
supply depot or large music store. In my area, I can rent a professional
"shotgun" microphone (a long, thin microphone that's great for picking up sound
from far away) for about $10 a day. Take your camera with you so you make sure
you have the necessary adapter to plug it in.
earlier, is perhaps the most technically challenging aspect. However, recent
developments in consumer editing software makes the process of removing bad
takes and assembling together a finished project easier than it used to be.
Apple Mac computers are especially adept at this as they all include software
called iMovie that is particularly easy to use. Windows Movie Maker,
while not quite as simple or capable as iMovie, is also including on most
Microsoft PC computers. You can also purchase other editing software, like
Adobe Premiere Elements.
Of course there are
many other areas where you can keep kids busy. A script is the best place to
start your project, but is often the step of the movie making process kids hate
the most. Suggesting they put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard may return a
incredulous look with a comment similar to, "It's summer, and we have to
who sells scripts ready-to-go at her website,
says a good place to get some easy script ideas is the storybook shelf in your
home. "Many of your kids' picture books might make a great storyline to base a
movie on," says Shelly, adding any books your children are reading can make a
good movie script by simply adapting and using limited lines of dialogue. "Also
check your local newspaper. What stories jump out at you? Maybe something funny
happened in your hometown that could be re-enacted," she suggests.
Depending on the
nature of your movie, you may need costumes, props and simple sets. Check used
clothing and furniture stores in your area for some of these items at low
prices. When it comes to sets, see if you can find a suitable filming location
where the set is already created for you.
forget the big premiere party! Shelly says this first showing of the film can
become a neighborhood event.
neighborhood of kids who have put together their movie. If it's summertime, they
may want to premiere it at an outdoor neighborhood party," says Shelly -- who
encourages parents and kids to think even bigger and better. "They may want to
make it a fundraiser. They could do ticket sales and donate it to a cause, which
provides an opportunity for kids to be altruistic with their created movie."
With these ideas in
hand, getting your children into the moviemaking business may provide a terrific
way to keep them busy doing something fun while socializing with friends. Just
don't tell them they are learning -- that's a bad word during summer vacation!
Besides writing this column for the Parents Television Council, Rod Gustafson authors Parent Previews® - a newspaper and Internet column (published in association with movies.com) that reviews movies from a parent's perspective. He's also the film critic for a major Canadian TV station, various radio stations and serves on the executive of the Alberta Association for Media Awareness. Finally, his most important role is being the father to four wonderful children and husband to his beautiful wife (and co-worker) Donna.
and the Media by Rod Gustafson
Television Council -
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