Absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with journalism…

Here’s the link to the movie my students made for the 48 Hour Film Project competition in San Francisco a few weeks back.

Addendum June 22 – the link above isn’t working. I have to make the movie private on youtube because the 48 HFP rule state the only place you can post your movie is on your website. youtube posts to the world. I’ll have an alternative by this weekend.


Appealing to the audience…


This posting comes to you courtesy of a confused mind. A combination of blog-hopping, too much time gardening in the sun, and physically and mentally wrapping up a contest my students entered.

So Mindy McAdams had a great blog and link to a Christian Science Monitor article by Robert G. Picard (any relation to THE Picard I wonder). That stewed around in my sizzling brain as I hemmed and hoed in the garden mulling over why my clan of volunteer videots had so much difficulty with climax and resolution in writing their script for the 48 Hour Film Project.

Stories. Storytelling. What does the audience really want – do you give them what you think they want? Do you re-hash the same old/same old? That was a big part of my students’ dilema as they brainstormed and came up with plot after plot for a movie script. The deadline was for real – 48 hours to write a script, shoot and edit a movie and hand it over before the ticking clock cut them off.

The headline over Picard’s article pissed me off at first: “Why journalists deserve low pay.” Like a momma pitbull, I protect my craft. But before I could attack and sink my teeth in, his argument reached my logic center. Dammit.

Wages are compensation for value creation. And journalists simply aren’t creating much value these days.

Summarized: In the past there were not a lot of content providers. Only one or two newspapers and three or four TV and radio stations per market. So what was produced had value – the audience wanted it; craved it. The providers could get their asking price from both audience and advertiser.

This scarcity raised the economic value of content. That additional value is gone today because a far wider range of sources of news and information exist.

Not only are there more providers…there isn’t much enterprise to make up for the glut of information, so there is a lot of duplication. Tune into any TV news program, newspaper (virtual or on paperstock), radio station, website – however you get your daily fix – and it’s just one big story chasing its own tail. I love Picard’s assessment – basically that journalists today are experts at sifting through and finding information – but not at creating new, original content that will satisfy their specific audience.

…the real measure of journalistic value is value created by serving readers.

He sums it up in three words: ADAPT OR DIE.

Read the entire article – concisely written and worth both the read and the time spent mulling and then returning for a second read. Picard is pointing us in the right direction – and it isn’t looking backwards, but honestly talking with the audience, getting to know them, and keeping up this conversation as we cover OUR community.

So what does this have to do with my movie-making moguls? Lots. After hours of plotting, they began to realize they were just re-hashing every bad (or good) movie they had ever seen. They realized they had to break away from the trite, the predictable and not be plot plagiarists, but take a risk and be original.

The result is a simple short story that has all of the elements of plot (forgive the English teacher for reiterating: exposition, conflict/rising action, climax, resolution/falling action) AND is delightfully original and unexpected. I’ll post a link to my VJ Classroom after Tuesday night when we see the screening of the movie in San Francisco.

Oh – and yeah, bloggers (my guilty hand is in the air) are often the worst when it comes to original content. Too often we take other’s ideas and (as in this posting) review and present to our own audience. Although I do like to think (1) spreading information is not a bad thing and (2) most of my postings are my own demented creations.

48 Hours done…

No need to be dramatic about this – we missed the 48 Hour Film Project deadline by 15 minutes. My goal was to have my students take part in a real challenge – make a movie in two days. That we accomplished. And there were lessons learned…mostly by me, but also by them.

They learned how to use prosumer cameras properly. How to use the manual iris, focus, and white balance. They learned how to improvise when plans had to be changed. They learned that making a movie is a LOT of work…but there is fun to be had along the way.

I learned that a two hour trip into San Francisco is not a good time to finish editing the movie. Adam Nino got motion sick.

We couldn’t export our final movie to tape after numerous tries, so exported as a video file. Now you know and I know that five minutes of video takes up one gigabyte of hard drive space. Sure – it doesn’t. Our final video was about 4:57 – and 1.3GB.

At 7pm we went for a quick cut – took about :10. Still too big. Finally whittled it down to 4:35 and an 857mb file that would fit on a 1GB flash drive.

On delivering our movie, we found out we weren’t the last – there were still six or seven teams still out. Elena Cruz, the San Francisco coordinator, said about 20% of films come in late on average.

So the bad news – we were late and can’t really compete.
The good news – our movie will still be shown in San Francisco in a week to a real live paying audience AND we are still eligible for the audience choice award.


48HFP…last day…

Adam and I are staggering…we got to my place around 3:15am this morning after a full day of shooting and editing (and trying to find stuff in the school storeroom). But no, we still weren’t done – we edited most of the movie.

Still a movie with no name though.

What have we learned so far? Well, next year I won’t have construction crews all over my studio, so I can get in a few days beforehand and get all my gear lined up.

Always have food – these are teenagers and if they aren’t constantly fed, they slow down. Mentally and physically.

Be adaptable. What you planned doesn’t always work. We thought our breakers would all be there at 2pm so we could begin shooting…the last one filtered in around 6pm.

Don’t change your script too much…be adaptable, but stick with the plot.

Willfully independent teenage daughters can surprise you at 2am with near perfect readings of their portion of the script.

The quiet students turn gregarious once they feel comfortable with the group. And this group did bond. We worked through our barriers, shots that weren’t as visualized, always running late schedule and left on better terms than we began on Friday night.

So Adam and I will continue. My husband pulled me out of bed (ugh) at 8am. Adam beat me to the kitchen and had already slid into the edit chair, where he was fine-tuning some scenes.

It is now 10:36am. We have a screening for parents at noon. Thank the skies above we not only found suitable music…but the title of the music has become our movie title. Some days things just work out.

Late tonight I’ll post the final on this.

48 Hour Film Project/take one…

I know…I’m a journalist. But I think everyone who’s held a camera at one point or another has wondered if they could shoot a movie…yeah, right. (Just as every reporter has a book inside them.)

So tomorrow the great experiment begins. I’ll be blogging along as my students and I work together to create a movie for the 48 Hour Film Project. We will be gathered together in San Francisco tomorrow night to draw our genre, get our line of dialogue, prop, and character(s). Then it’s back on the road for the two hour drive home, with students brainstorming and writing the script. Hopefully that will be completed tomorrow night.

We’ll be shooting Saturday and Sunday…and editing furiously at the same time. I have a small crew of about six students from broadcasting plus a tight-knit group of break dancers and other students who made the mistake of talking to me at the wrong time.

Stay tuned…and remember, we are not out to win…we are out to be winners.

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