We had a very productive reflective meeting today at BFI for schools from Lincolnshire/ Nottingham and London. Legsby, North Summercotes, Brierley Forest, St. Vincent’s, Vittoria, Tyssen, and Highfield Junior School in Bromley. We looked at Exercises 2 and 3, and I’ll share a couple below.
First, special mention to Emma from Brierley Forest in Nottingham, first time on the Cinematheque programme, and shared with us this pair of Exercise 3 films, whose brief is to film the same situation in two different ways, bringing out different emotions and dimensions in each. Emma’s group have a child who is using a wheelchair at the moment; an extra constraint, chosen by the children, was to ensure the films both gave her a role, and enabled her to participate. The results are two very powerful pieces of film, but with fascinating contrasts. We noticed how in the second film, with the children playing basketball, the group were so absorbed in the activity that they forgot to ‘act’. Their performances are more natural for being set in a real activity. We remembered ‘real/fiction‘ from a few years back, where one Exercise required children to carry out a real activity (tying shoe laces; washing dishes; playing football) while in a story. In the first Brierley Forest film (Exercise 3 Part 1) the children are ‘play acting’, rather than playing a real game.
And two similarities: both films start with beautifully framed close- or medium close-ups, with the sound of other children enjoying themselves offscreen: our protagonists are already isolated. Second, we had been talking about the tendency in children’s stories/ films for conflict to be resolved (in a hug, often), and how children seem to want to resolve stories in this way. Brierley Forest chose a more realistic – or just sadder? – resolution, in which friends don’t make up, loners don’t get asked to join in. In fact in Exercise 3 Part 2, the movement out of frame of our heroine, unnoticed by the group, is quite devastating.
We had quite a discussion about music – when to use it, when not to, what it adds, what it subtracts/ distracts. How it’s most powerful when children devise and perform the soundtrack themselves. Leo, from Legsby Primary, has been soundtracking their cinematheque films for what seems like years. He gets given the film on a laptop and asked to improvise, then record, a soundtrack to go with the film. We like what he’s added to Legsby’s two tales about odd shoes.
Legsby’s film also prompted discussion about the challenge this year of children creating situations that conveyed emotion – and then how to perform and film those emotions. One of the hardest – but most powerful – to convey is ‘shame’, or ‘la honte.’ There is a special section in the CCAJ Vimeo channel on shame this year, and we looked at the end of the Bicycle Thieves. Legsby’s two films – ‘Odd Shoes’ – creates a sense of shame in their characters, but we also noticed how putting shoes centre frame liberates the camera height and angle.