Intro to Filmmaking, an online course covering filmmaking, film history, and film analysis, should be very popular with teens. Damon Evans is an inspiring teacher and presenter, and the inclusion of real-life teens throughout makes it very relatable. The outstanding production values of the course itself make it a great advertisement for Evans’ own filmmaking expertise.
The course is especially suited to a Christian audience since it promotes a Christian worldview. For example, the Jesus film gets a big mention right at the beginning of the first lesson, and the movie discussions often include one or more questions related to faith, such as these regarding the character Graham in the movie Signs: “How does Graham get his faith back? Is this an experience you can relate to?” (p. 24).
The course is taught with streamed videos, a textbook, photo and video assignments, and movies (which students need to access however they can).
The course is laid out in 18 sections, each with four parts. The first part of each section is the video lesson that students will watch online while completing note pages in the workbook.
This is followed by an assignment, although the type of assignments vary from lesson to lesson. Students have photo and video assignments beginning with Section 3. In Section 11 they begin preproduction on a video they will shoot.
The third part of each section, a film report, requires watching a specified movie, answering questions in the workbook, then watching a video discussion between Evans and some students about the film. Evans wants to introduce students to a variety of classic movies using films such as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, War Games, Searching for Bobby Fisher, and Life of Pi.
The final part of each section, the Fun Film Fact, is a brief presentation about something interesting from the history of film. These are both entertaining and instructive.
A brief quiz at the end of each section asks questions about key information that students really should remember. So quizzes are important reinforcement tools as well as assessments.
Some early sections don’t require a great deal of time. Watching the movie might be the most time-consuming part of a section. However, in Section 4, students will need to shoot photos from ten different camera angles, a project that could take quite a bit of time. When students begin researching their equipment in Sections 9 and 10 and doing preproduction work in Section 11, the time required ramps up significantly. From there, they will be putting lots of time into shooting their film and editing it. In Section 15, Evans’ lesson demonstrating editing takes much longer than typical lessons, and student work on editing will also require much more time. However, even though time demands increase, students are likely to be highly engaged in the process and are unlikely to mind. My point is that you are probably going to need to schedule extra time for some sections rather than stick with a consistent schedule.
Students will need equipment. Presenter Damon Evans stresses that students can use nothing more than a smartphone—even for the editing process—if that’s all they can manage. However, he discusses and demonstrates many different options for cameras and sound recording plus some simple ways to work with lighting. A little later, he discusses editing programs and platform options comparing editing on an iPhone, an iPad, and a laptop.
While students need tools for creating videos, this is not a heavily technical course. Evans well understands that his audience is mostly teens with minimal technical expertise in this area. He teaches them some essentials but is careful to keep from overwhelming them. However, students are responsible to figure out which equipment and editing program they will use and how they work—a lot to learn if students have never created videos before this.
A PDF version of the textbook is available for free, but students may purchase a printed book for $30 if they wish. The PDF textbook should be printed out and kept handy just as you would with a printed text since students will fill in note pages as they watch each instructional video. They will be answering questions and completing other assignments in the textbook as well. The course is laid out step by step, so that it should be easy for students to work independently. Both the textbook and the online lesson menu serve as course organizers, directing students to watch videos, take photos, watch a movie, answer questions, and complete other course assignments.
While students can complete much of the course on their own, they are going to need subjects for some of their photo assignments, and they will need actors and a crew for their video. While the script is provided, students need to do everything else as director and producer or enlist the help of others. It seems like a group of teens working together through the course might do well helping each other out to some extent. But other friends and family will be needed since each student needs to produce his or her own short film.
Intro to Filmmaking surprised me with both its quality and content. I thoroughly enjoyed working through it, even though I cheated by not creating my own video. I expect that most teens will love it, and I wouldn't be surprised if their families want to be involved too.
Note: You might want to check out Evans' YouTube for Teens video course as well.