Case Study A: Cinémathèque / BFI Project

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The Cultural – “made through our minds”

The boys describe their film as an exploration of ‘small man syndrome’ and it was part of the Cinémathèque brief to cut out a significant scene of the film at the end, so as to create an enigma and play with constraints. Interestingly, the boys had chosen to lose the fight scene even before this part of the brief had been revealed. This is significant because when the LNS boys started their filming activities two years ago, whilst elaborating the theme of camera movement they enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to film explicit fight sequences in the BFI corridors. Their decision to cut such a scene and leave it to the imagination of the audience could signal progress in terms of a more sophisticated and subtle approach to film making. See Tim’s edit, which was screened in Paris (4 minutes).

It could be that through critical viewing of film clips throughout the project (for example, the Cohen brothers, “No Country for Old Men”, see blog post and the direction of film maker, Emma Sullivan, their output was influenced by the stylistic qualities of independent film-making as distinct from the conventions of mainstream Hollywood movies or TV drama, styles of output which, according to Alain Bergala, overtly show everything. The electronic sampling that makes up the soundtrack, however, was Tim’s own personal choice – an indication that he enjoys the bass driven beats of contemporary dub-step. The coupling of external cultural influences and internalised popular culture is constitutive of Williams’ “lived culture”.

I started this Cultural section with an examination of the style and content of the boys’ film in order to introduce how Williams’ “lived culture” evolves into “recorded culture” and media education’s vital role in ensuring young people’s participation in that process. Drawing on Hodge and Kress, Burn & Durran also re-assess the “selective tradition” – the third dimension of Williams’ tripartite structure of culture – concluding that:

“culturally valued texts become so through a historical accretion of competing commentary.” (2007:10)

Far from being separate phenomena, the lived, the recorded and the selective are intertwined, even more so in the digital age, feeding off each other in a hybrid, undisciplined, barrier-busting manner.  As mentioned earlier, popular music seems to have found a legitimate, celebratory route to genre-bending, most recently seen and heard in the collaboration between the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and Dubstep/Drum n Bass outfit ‘Nero’ but when it comes to the educational sphere, it seems there are too many diverging agendas, value structures and competing forces for progressive media education to gain smooth passage.

At certain stages of the Paris project various tensions manifested themselves: disparate discourses scraped up against each other likes tectonic plates. Emma, the teacher/film maker, was concerned about how much input to give the boys and how much latitude? How much re-editing of imperfect work versus letting it be? How much to consider professional reputation – given the context of its distribution – set against autonomous student-empowerment? How much teacherly order as opposed to relaxed spontaneity in lessons? How much technical teaching and how much independent experimentation? For the CLC evaluation submitted to Paris, Emma commented on some of these tensions:

It is always tempting to improve their work – but I think this would be a mistake. They have to learn that it is hard work and you have to be very organised and precise with film making. If I tidied up their edit and added better music/sound I don’t think they would have understood necessarily why it was better. This film was entirely of their own making, and I think therefore their next film will be better for it.

Bob, the self-elected student spokesperson, at first expressed dissatisfaction with the highly constrained parameters of the Cinémathèque film exercises – for example: ‘A passes through a space and gives something to B, all in close-up’ – interpreting the French pedagogical approach as mistrust in his and his peers’ versatility as young film-makers:

Bob: … they’re trying to direct us in the right way but in that I think they’ve got a low opinion of what we can, us as teenagers, can view in film and what we can create in film and by having that structure it kind of breaks down our imagination a bit … I think it would also be more personal to us cos it would be made through our minds.

Later however he contradicts himself by saying that perhaps they needed to fulfill the stringent briefs in order to nurture the creative empowerment that would fuel their future endeavours:

Bob: But if I hadn’t done this first then maybe I wouldn’t have had the perception to do something aside from action; but now that I have done it, I’d like a little bit more space … I’m glad we had those boundaries cos now we know we can do something more.

During the mid-project screening and the final screening, both in Paris, the audience asked questions concerning the students’ choice of sound. Over a couple of the UK films, students from LNS and St. Catherine’s – a Catholic Girls Secondary in Bexleyheath, one of the three UK schools involved – had lain a heavy electronic soundtrack. It was suggested by some that this sound choice might be less appropriate for the project as a whole which demanded more subtlety, artistry and editorial guidance. Jack Hayter, the teacher/film-maker at St. Catherine’s, was animated in his defence of the girls’ work, asserting their right to interpret the theme as they saw fit.

Similarly, Tim was defensive when asked to comment on his choice of electronic samples from the Garageband library, stating that “there wasn’t much time or much choice”. There seemed to be a clash between the French preference for a nuanced, more impressionistic style of film making and the British contingent’s inclination towards ‘freedom’ of expression – albeit drawn from the rigid parameters set by global software developers and informed by popular culture. Such are the more granular observations in relation to shifts in “lived” cultural trends, however, what may endure in “recorded culture” is the Cent Ans de Jeunesse project itself.

The Cinémathèque requires strict adherence to the “règles du jeu” – the stipulated filming exercises and an in-depth exploration of the year’s theme – as well as contributions to the French blog indicating progress. This traditional structured approach seems at odds with current media practices but is extraordinarily productive. Hundreds of young international film makers congregate, watch one anothers films to the same brief and discuss their work in a multilingual context: this is an arresting cultural achievement.  An achievement which continues to make full use of the Cinémathèque’s institutional gravitas and bring Alain Bergala’s annual vision to fruition. Perhaps only an institution with a sense of something to preserve would conceive of such a unique and ambitious educational project.

At the risk of extolling the redemptive powers of media production processes, it has been a privilege to trace a discernible path between the international teachers/film makers’ thematic input session in November 2010 (see Parisian lecture notes) and several months later, relate that to the social development and scholarly ambitions of a formerly excluded child. See simon_lambeth_interview.mp3 @ 27:40 mins. Email me for access to this full audio interview.

The Social – “a place to put all our feelings”

Marion Hampton, Head of the SEN unit at Lambeth Academy (LA), enthusiastically advocates media production specifically for those children struggling within the mainstream curriculum. She preferred not to be recorded whilst being interviewed and so I made notes on her comments and observations. It is important to point out at this stage that there were three main LA SEN participants on the film project – Simon, Paul and Stephen. Paul and Stephen had low-functioning autism and whilst it would have been a fascinating study to have exclusively focused on their particular engagement with media production, it is beyond the scope of this account to do diligent service to such a much-needed area of research.

I have however included in my film clip a short exchange with Paul whilst the others were editing, which offers a glimpse of their different levels of sophistication and engagement. See @ 5:12 mins > 7:19 mins. One thing I would highlight is Paul’s obsession with Hitchcock; he would routinely bring his paperback of Hitchcock synopses to the Wednesday sessions and allude to them over the weeks, never missing an opportunity for lengthy plot discussions with any new adult. This was sometimes tricky to negotiate because of Paul’s speech impediment, but it represented an enjoyable social moment for Paul, who found the universality of Hitchcock a useful communicative point of access. In fact he would much rather talk about Hitchcock or the TV drama ‘Waterloo Road’ than concentrate on any of the stages in the film-making process, which is an interesting comment on the scope for social learning inherent in all aspects of moving image literacy.

My discussion with Marion centered on Simon and his progress from when he first arrived in her unit to the present. In his primary years he had behavioural problems with fits of temper and anti-social tendencies which ultimately resulted in permanent exclusion. Interestingly, from an audio recorded interview I conducted with him within the unit, he is happy to talk about ‘the then and the now’ and looks back at himself as a different person who used to lose his temper but can now control it. Marion is convinced that sustained involvement with creative media projects has given him both a sense of belonging and a voice – an alternative means of self-expression that may otherwise have remained dormant.

I have chosen to concentrate on Simon in this social section of the data analysis for if ever there was an ambassador for the social aspects of learning, it is he. Although perhaps less articulate and less vocal than the LNS boys, his contribution to the group dynamic was always upbeat and fun. We see this in his decision to interpret one of the film exercises as a comedy routine with appropriately comic sound effects and music. See the last of the four Youtube clips listed here – whereas the LNS boys chose to work with the tropes of more serious thriller/mystery genres. He can also be seen playfully mucking around with the other boys ‘on set’ in between shoots, but would remain on task and focused when required. See photo with Simon on the right, checking out Bob setting up a football trick shot. See @ 00:15 secs.  His enhanced sense of sociability is also witnessed on his course evaluation sheet for Lambeth City Learning Centre.

Simon’s answers often reflect the social benefits of his involvement with the project and with the LNS boys. I asked him about his initial expectations:

Int: So what did you feel was going to happen?

I avoid the use of the word think in favour of feel as I think it is less challenging phraseology and more likely to produce rich commentary, especially at the beginning of an interview when he may have been feeling ill at ease.

Simon: I didn’t think there was gonna be another school there. So when I saw another school, I thought like…ooh, who are these people? So I got kind of shy when I saw them…

Int: Mm

Simon: I don’t like … like …. talking to people I don’t know.

… which is gratifying to hear in the context of a one-to-one interview with a Year 9 boy in an ethnographic study – I appear to have gained his trust. This apparent lack of confidence does however remain ambiguous as later in the interview, simon_lambeth_interview.mp3 @ 26 mins, (Email me for access to this full audio interview) he claims he would have the confidence to approach an outdoor film crew and ask what was going on. An indication that by the end of the film making process his confidence may have “grown” substantially. Indeed he finished my sentence for me when I asked him about it here: simon_lambeth_interview.mp3 @ 26:35 mins. (Email me for access to this full audio interview).

Int: But would you say things have changed now on that score?

Simon: Yeah, I think we’re mates now.

Simon appreciates being part of a group and it could be that he felt quite isolated within the Lambeth contingent because some of the others peeled off and lost interest. However, Simon successfully positioned himself in the group and maintained good relations with LNS and the boys from Lambeth with ASD.

Int: …. Er, what would you say are any other things that have changed, do you think, in that time?

Simon: Erm, I dunno …. Just the way I feel about that…

Int: Yeah

Simon: Like, it’s like, cos some people, like, Nathan and them people, Victor, they came for a couple of weeks and they stopped cos they thought it was boring.

Simon distinguishes himself from them people and is proud of his staying power. He mentions at various points the amount of sustained effort that is required to produce something of value. This suggests that his work with Marion in previous film projects has lain firm foundations as regards what can be gained from high levels of commitment and engagement.

Int: Right, yeah

Simon: But I’m interested in like all the stuff about it, like the practical stuff

A recurrent theme in media production is indeed the allure of the practical stuff, the pleasing latitude for hands-on craftwork. Sennett’s breakdown of the forces at work whilst crafting an artifact belies the utilitarian associations of ‘manual labour’ and ‘working with your hands’. Moreover, Merleau Ponty in his 1964 observations on painting, poetically exalts hand-eye co-ordination; formulations which can equally be transposed to the art of editing, as referenced  by Furstenau and Mackenzie (2009):

“‘ The eye is an instrument that moves itself, a means which invents its own ends; it is that which has been moved by some impact of the world, which it then restores to the visible through the offices of an agile hand.’ “ (2009:18)

Int: Would you say that you bring in any of your own experience, from your own life into it?

Furstenau and MacKenzie discuss the impact of the video editor through which “eye plus hand restores something to the visible and audible world.” (2009:19), so how empowering would it be if that something to restore could be sourced from your own experience. A chance to re-work and re-present raw, personal, unfiltered and unmediated experience.

Simon: … I liked to fight, liked to fight

Int: You like to fight or you liked to fight?

Simon: I liked

Int: You liked, past tense. Well you mentioned that actually… it was brought up on the football pitch, when we were doing the fight scene and you mentioned that you used to like fighting. Erm, so… you don’t … you’re not interested in that any more or..

I hesitate because I’m not sure how much he’s prepared to talk about this.

Simon: I haven’t had a fight in ages.

Int: Great!

Simon: Cos I’ve learned how to control my temper now.

Simon’s phraseology suggests that the potential for fighting will always be there, it’s a question of control. Indeed control and focus are fundamental to producing successful media texts – a dimension of film-making to which Simon surrenders himself willingly. Many of the LNS boys took more coaxing in this respect when it came to editing.

Int: Ah, interesting… and do you think there might have been periods over the past few months where you might have, I don’t know, somehow brought that experience into this process?

Simon: Kind of like.. er.. giving the… information like how someone gets angry, angry about what someone else is saying .. or what their actions are.

The boys made a film exploring ‘small man syndrome’: the sad, loner who seeks to join and be accepted by a group of footballing friends and gets frustrated and aggressive in the process. During filming, Emma tried to elicit how exactly the fight scene might commence. Knowing his background I glanced at Simon and gestured with my head that he might have something to contribute; he then physically stepped forward, disclosed to everyone how his fighting experience had led to exclusion and offered advice on how this scene might be choreographed.

Simon was able to de-centre and assertively direct both dialogue and action in the capacity of an expert adviser; his identity and his past behaviour had been positively recast in an instant. The scene re-enacted what previously, in real life, would have been fraught and chaotic.

Int: Yeah, you offered some suggestions, didn’t you, about how that might work, yeah, so er, it’s quite good, I think, isn’t it to bring your own stuff to the table, as it were.

Simon: everyone in the group has different views .. and like, they bring different stuff, so like, it’s a place to put all our feelings into one little film.

With democratic awareness, Simon again makes reference to the group and the value of everyone’s individual contributions. He is explicitly sensitive to film as a unique place to collaboratively articulate their feelings. This motif recalls Bourdieu’s notion of “habitus”, the territory where objective structures and subjective agency tussle to make meaning and also where pedagogy, as Burn argues (drawing on Buckingham and Sefton-Green), can be positioned as “a mediating force” (2009:11).

Int: Yeah. You’re absolutely right, and that makes it… what does that make it?

Simon: Group work

Int: Yeah, group work. I think that’s the other thing about film-making isn’t  it? It involves lots of people doing different things, erm… students and adults. What do you think about our group… as a group?

Simon: Erm, which group? It’s like we only met a couple of months ago but it’s like we’ve known each other for a couple of years now. It feels weird.

Group work has a ring of ‘school-speak’ about it and it may well be that he has picked this up in his regular Wednesday afternoon sessions off-timetable in Marion’s unit. Learning collaboratively without recourse to hierarchical grouping allows Simon’s sociability to emerge and despite its weirdness he seems to appreciate a sense of abnormal intensity. I watched Simon interacting with younger children in the LA SEN unit one morning and it is clear he enjoys his mentor status. He remains a shining example of what can be achieved with access to sustained media production practices, always bearing in mind that his anger has not necessarily been ‘cured’ but is being managed in an ongoing fashion.

Int: It’s that every week thing, isn’t it? I know it’s great that you’ve come every week, cos you don’t have to do you?

Simon: I don’t have to, but I just enjoy it.

Of the Paris trip:

Simon: My mum said can we come and I went ‘No!’, (laughs) I went “No!” this is my time!

Int: This is your what?

Simon: This is my time!

Int: Your time, well exactly, this is your special thing.

Going to Paris was always a significant draw for Simon. It was the first thing he mentioned at the beginning of the interview and we resumed the topic at the end. The above snippet indicates how empowered Simon feels over his film time. He exhibits a heightened sense of ownership in terms of time and place; the fact that Paris is one of those places raises aspirations and introduces an exciting cultural dimension for all the boys… and adults.

The Creative – “it has to flow”

Bob: um and I think when you’re editing, the decision you make, if you look back it has to like flow with the rest of the film, it has to flow with how the characters are, what their personalities are like, how do they act …

It is pleasing to hear Bob use the same conceit selected for my account in his description of flowing material. The boys are copying the conventions of continuity editing, which for some is an all-absorbing process, and for which the conditions for Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” are perfectly pitched. Bob implies that through a process of revision, the organic whole will coalesce, not just visually but also conceptually. This is despite his initial reluctance to get on with the technical task of editing his cut. See: @ 2:00 mins

… You gotta have it like mixed up with lots, you gotta vary it up, cos if you don’t in editing then it’s just going to be boring to watch with nothing to catch your eye… I think the most difficult thing in editing are the tiny decisions you make, not the decision to put this shot in, it’s like where to cut it, how long do you have the scene for,  I mean those little ones that we don’t think about as much are really difficult for me to decide cos I don’t know what’s perceived to be right, it’s like unknown.

Interviewer: So what have you got to rely on?

Bob: I think your gut helps a lot …

Here Bob seems to perfectly encapsulate Sennett’s notion of the “intuitive leap” (2008:209) outlined earlier in this account. It is the creative process of sequencing “twined presence(s)” (ibid) of at least two elements and making a series of tiny decisions based on gut feeling. His sticking point seems to be his capacity for risk-taking – to allow himself to feel the “surprise” (ibid) of a unique juxtaposition and the “gravity” (ibid), in the sense of ‘fall’, of a constraint. His potential for spontaneity possibly suffers from his desire to be thorough, as evidenced in the transcript and in the clip of him editing, see @ 2:30 mins. This is the facilitator’s cue to steer him through that unknown territory and encourage faith in improvisation.

Lyall’s clip was the most revealing in terms of learning progression and Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow”. An apathetic, seemingly under-confident, resigned attitude changed over the course of a few minutes to one of engagement and pride in his work, to the extent that he offered his edit as the one to be viewed by the class at the end of the session. See Csikszentmihalyi’s model of suggested levels of progression towards a ‘flowing’ state of productivity.

Coaxing Lyall into action could also demonstrate the Vygotskian principle of the externalisation of higher abstract thinking through guided experimental play. It may also be the case that talking and performing to camera facilitated Lyall’s passage from half-hearted, defensive group member (at this particular stage in the film making process at any rate, as elsewhere he made positive contributions and enjoyed the role of spokesperson) to assertive, creative and participative editor. See @ 22:10 mins.

The Critical – “more on your mind”

The LNS boys have had the benefit of two years of intensive production work with a professional film maker. Having produced 4 short films in total, they have an advanced awareness of the structure of film, the processes of production, the vocabulary and the realms of the cinematically possible. In comparison with many contemporary school film projects, theirs was privileged access. I wanted to discover what residual critical insights remained once the tripods had been collapsed, the final cut was carved and the applause had died down.

I interviewed the 5 main players in the library of their school asking largely unspecific, broad ranged questions. See interview transcript and interview schedule and a link to the full audio interview on Soundcloud.

The questions were designed to assess the way they felt about the production process. I also refer below to videoed footage of the boys whilst editing and have produced a 22 minute film (embedded link below) with time indicators for ease of reference. Often discussions around the affective were good pointers to both a heightened critical awareness and also to a puncturing of the rhetoric around some people’s perception of all young people’s inherent fascination with and aptitude for digital media representations.

When asked what they hoped to get out of the project:

John: I hoped that I’d be able to get some experience … not so much experience but erm sort of knowing what goes on behind the big films and stuff and such.

Furstenau’s concept of “access to the movie-dream” (2009:7) is in evidence here. A few of the boys mentioned ‘experience’ and ‘skills’ which to me suggests they have internalised ‘school-speak’ about good opportunities for job experience or “credentializing” (Buckingham, 2003:189); but he quickly reverts to a more personal motivation.

Lyall: Erm, I think I thought I was gonna learn a bit.. some more acting skills …yeah… maybe a bit more filming as well. I was intrigued.

For Lyall film is about acting and his preference for ‘top deck’ rather than ‘engine room’ activities is illustrated by the manner in which he responds to questions. Whilst being interviewed he seems to ‘deliver his lines’ rather than converse.

Tim: Um, I just wanted to make a film … so…..(pause)

Tim is comfortable with “synaesthetic experience” (Sefton-Green 2005:109), he displayed the attributes of a ‘natural’ audiovisual choreographer. It was his cut that was selected early on in the editing process for screening in Paris. He is a boy of few words, no gloss here, just the simple facts suggesting some organic impulse he doesn’t fully comprehend himself. Perhaps his talent is for assimilating and re-presenting cultural norms.

Interviewer: What inspired you to want to do that?

Tim: I dunno … I just….(pause)

Lyall: I think Tim means like, he was interested like by the film, I mean so he just wanted to see how it was like to make one,

Lyall interjects, assuming a spokesperson’s role and doesn’t really add much, except his voice to the recording.

Bob: I knew what I wanted to do, I think like, I wanted to gain experience from it I can use in later life,  even if I didn’t go into the film industry … I think in a way it helps you in all aspects once you’ve done it and I think it really broadens your perspective on life… your attitude on something … if n like your visual interpretation of stuff is different.

Bob is the most mature and articulate member of the group and assumed the role of Director from the start. Again there is a reference to gaining experience but qualified this time in relation to life. By using such words as perspective, attitude, and interpretation, Bob seems to have an understanding of context and the constructed nature of media texts. His father is a film-maker and so his confident manner may spring from his own family context.

Interviewer:: So what… how do you think this whole experience has er, might have influenced other areas of your life…?

Bob: Er, like, I think if I wanted to think of a certain image or something … I know I’d think of that image and then through the film workshop the mentors that we had would tell us how to do that or a shortcut to make it look like this and so it makes you think about your art more and what you want people to feel from what you’re doing, so…

Bob again displays intellectual acuity as regards the power of editing to influence audience perception. He suggests that guidance from film-making experts helps to realise his vision to affect the audience in specific ways. See Bob talking about the editing process and the audience: @ 2:45 mins.

lns_shoot_editing from Michelle Cannon on Vimeo.

This level of heightened awareness illustrates Buckingham’s notion of de-centering mentioned earlier as well as the value of time spent articulating and finding solutions to design problems.

Interviewer:: So the other person?

Bob: Yeah, also, I think like erm if I was to do English or something, just working with stories and stuff which make you … with your … more on your mind and so you might want to progress that further.

As well as influencing his art output, Bob mentions that film-making has developed his storytelling instincts in English. The phrase more on your mind is telling and illustrates what Reid et al transposed from the context of writing to that of editing: “the act of juggling a number of simultaneous constraints” (2002:76, drawing on Flower and Hayes).

Lyall: I think it makes me look at stories in a whole kind of new way by watching films and seeing how they’re made, it makes me understand like stories and films, just like, just that bit more and I kind of think like that’s a good skill to have.

Lyall echoes Bob’s comments and suggests that such a skill is interdisciplinary. I (audio-)interviewed Morlette Lyndsey, (LNS English teacher and lecturer at the Institute of Education) and she corroborated the fact that Bob in particular brought a filmic sense to his narratives using advanced visualisation to enrich his writing. See an example of his written prose which she maintains is substantially influenced by his involvement in film production. Their task was to put themselves in the shoes of a much older person recalling an event from the past in monologue format. Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4. She suggests that immersion in film production processes inspired an evocative piece of writing which reads like the opening voice-over of a film, where there is a strong cinematic sense to the rhythm, the nuances of accent, the detail and the description of a thirties New Orleans jazz club.

She encouraged him to read Zusack’s “The Book Thief” and its portrayal of Death’s perspective. She felt that he may not have been motivated to read over 500 pages without the inspiration and framing of a filmic point of view. Ref. morlette4april2011.mp3 @ 9:20 > 11:20 mins.

I asked them to tell me about how it feels to be editing:

Lyall: Me personally I dread editing … I’m sure probably that no-one here shares my opinion, but I just hate editing

Lyall makes clear his feelings about editing which in many ways debunks what is commonly perceived as a universal teen readiness to ‘get at the computer and start creating’. But this attitude has to be balanced against other possible contributory factors. It could be that: with extended access the novelty factor has worn off for him; he feels others in the group are better at it than him and so opts out; editing detracts from his identity as an actor; he enjoys contradicting what has been packaged as a positive experience or his level of self-direction is not as honed as the others.

Interviewer: That’s absolutely valid, give me why.

Lyall: I think, I’m not expecting it to be all action-packed, I just expect myself to be doing something like practical in the film, like I know editing is practical as well but I just prefer to be doing something like a stunt man or just being an actor, being an editor is just not my preferred position.

Interviewer: Could you be more precise about what it is that you just don’t like about it? I accept that you prefer to be in front of the camera…

Lyall: just the sitting down on the, you know, computer when you could be, you know, outside filming a shot again so it’s finally good and just.. I know this is kind of a stupid thing to say, but I honestly… I know that there wouldn’t be no film without no editing but I just don’t see the real fun in it.

References to stunt men and practical action may indicate a need for physicality but observation and research data recorded later in this account contradict this assumption. I feel that Lyall would benefit from a different pedagogic approach offering more guidance and encouragement which would focus his powers of reflection and embody it on the screen.

Interviewer: OK. Does anyone disagree? … (laughing) OK, go for it.

Mali: Erm, well, yeah, editing’s not really supposed to be fun, it’s just something you have to do in order to make the film look actually good, or stuff like that.

Mali’s agreement with Lyall is further evidence to suggest that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to media design processes. He needs more scaffolding than the software alone could offer and would have benefitted from concentrated one-to-one attention to move beyond mere sequencing of clips to adding more complex cut-aways, shot length variation and reaction shots.

Tim: Erm well I enjoy editing, some people hate it, yeah and adding in all the music and putting the film together

Tim makes reference to the composite nature of film and the pleasures of integrating the whole. There’s a marked difference between interviewing Tim at the interface and interviewing Tim … well… anywhere else. His increased confidence, sense of purpose and complete lack of self-consciousness in front of the screen is striking. See embedded link above: @ 4:14 mins

Interviewer: yeah and what do you feel when you’re actually in there, doing it, looking at the screen?

Tim: I just think of what could be done better, maybe we need to film that again or something.

Tim’s comment reveals the open-ended nature of the design process, the potential to keep on revising and refining. Tim’s speed of working is impressive and although he’s economical with his words he displays a dynamic, dialogic interplay with the screen. As Sefton-Green writes:

“digital software shows itself as an accessible social process locking a kind of ‘pedagogy’ into the relationship between screen and user .. a dialogue between producer and production” (2005:109)

Learners like Tim signal the need for a deeper understanding of the processes of selecting and combining from a database, in short, the anatomy of software and its impact on the imagination. Buckingham also raises the question of whether:

“the level of control afforded by digital technology somehow automatically encourages a more systematic approach” (2003:185See embedded link above: @ 4:30 mins

Interviewer: Right OK, and you know when you make decisions, editing decisions … what do you think informs whether it’s a good or a bad editing decision?

Tim: whether people like it!

Like Bob, Tim is aware of audience enjoyment and interpretation. Although this reveals a certain need for endorsement, over time and with mass accumulated approval this may well morph into confidence with his own style of output. The boys exemplify Jenkins’ assertion that:

“Media education needs to be framed for participants, a role distinct from yet closely related to both producers and consumers as they were classically conceived.” Jenkins (2011)

John: When you feel like it’s not, you’ve got to like be, you’ve got to have a mindset, when you’ve got to think you’re an audience member who’s watching the film, and you’ve got to think about that… is this gonna look really cheesy or is this gonna look decent when they’re watching it cos there’s some shots like .. like making people cringe…

John also articulates the complexity of achieving something original, plausible and engaging that avoids cliché and conventional cheese. Feeling when a shot looks decent whilst rationally maintaining the mindset of the audience is the ultimate aspiration of the editor. See embedded link above: @ 2:54 mins. Indeed this could be said of all creative media output.

Case Study A: Cinémathèque / BFI Project / Lambeth City Learning Centre

Boys from The London Nautical School (LNS) and Lambeth Academy (LA) took part in a pan-European (and beyond) film production programme originally conceived by Alain Bergala at the Cinémathèque in Paris where it has flourished for several years.  One of the distinguishing features of this film project was its focus on the language of film. A yearly curriculum centres on one aspect of cinematic ‘grammar’, be it camera movement, colour, light, depth of field or the more conceptual – hiding/revealing (montrer/cacher) – as was this year’s theme.  With professional film-maker, Emma Sullivan, as their mentor the students experimented with a few highly structured film exercises which were then posted on the blog and also on the French blog.

Ultimately, after two terms, the participating primary and secondary schools (from Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, the UK & Brazil) submitted a film of up to 8 minutes which interpreted and captured the relevant theme conceptually and cinematically. Over three days in June 2011 the films were screened at the Cinémathèque, attended by the students who made them. On many levels, the project is ideal for the purposes of examining the impact of media production on young people’s social and cultural participation as well as on their creative and critical engagement.

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