Should every high school have a film club?

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jbuck919
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Should every high school have a film club?

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Jun 08, 2018 2:17 pm

Yesterday I was substituting for a social studies teacher. Exams are over and most classes are killing time until the literal end of the school year, which invites worst expectations regarding behavior for a sub. But I've gotten pretty good at this, and with basically good kids things rarely go wrong. This class was watching the movie Gladiators, which is entertaining enough but contains almost no real history. (Read the Wikipedia article for a critique.) Joaquin Phoenix, who plays Commodus, was obviously using Marlon Brando as his model (unfortunately the worst, mugging Marlon Brando). So knowing that Marlon Brando might as well have been a character in Shakespeare for all these kids would ever have heard of him, I tried to elicit his name indirectly by working my way to a movie they might actually have seen on DVD. Eventually I got to The Godfather, which at least yielded Al Pacino.

Movies bridge the generation gap if any cultural form can, so it saddens me that these young people have not had exposure to The Waterfront or A Streetcar Named Desire. They'd enjoy it, I'd enjoy it, it would provide points for an interesting discussion, and maybe the school could spring for the popcorn.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

jserraglio
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Re: Should every high school have a film club?

Post by jserraglio » Sat Jun 16, 2018 7:39 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 2:17 pm
Movies bridge the generation gap if any cultural form can, so it saddens me that these young people have not had exposure to The Waterfront or A Streetcar Named Desire. They'd enjoy it, I'd enjoy it, it would provide points for an interesting discussion, and maybe the school could spring for the popcorn.
Yes they should. My school is lucky to have:

-- an extracurricular film club (that's how the curricular process began about 15 years ago)
-- an English dept. film studies elective course (I designed it from scratch and have taught it for more than a decade)
-- an IB Diploma Film SL/HL curriculum focusing on history and production, now beginning its seventh year
-- an intro to film history and production course for non-IB students
-- a standalone film department with two full-time teachers

-- BTW, Streetcar, good as it is, is flawed by the fact that it softens the edginess of TWs dramatic masterpiece. The fact that the Grey boy's "offense" in the movie is writing poetry like Tom Wingfield instead of cheating on Blanche with an older man blunts the impact considerably.
Last edited by jserraglio on Sat Jun 16, 2018 8:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

John F
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Re: Should every high school have a film club?

Post by John F » Sat Jun 16, 2018 12:49 pm

If the initiative comes from the students, if they want a film club and will make a commitment to it, then the school should back them. My various schools had no such thing, but all three had a theatre club and put on at least one show every year. (Once it was Clifford Odets's "Golden Boy.") Seems to me much more worthwhile; doing theatre is active and you learn things about public performance and indeed about life, while watching movies is passive and depending on the movies of course, the students could spend their free time more constructively.

Of course if the film club had some faculty guidance and instead of the Harry Potter and Terminator movies the kids watched Bergman, Fellini, Truffaut, Lean, Kubrick, then they would learn something they couldn't get in their local movie house, unless it's in New York. :) But that might kill the club. But one showing of "Persona" or "Cries and Whispers" and the kids would probably stop coming.
John Francis

jserraglio
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Re: Should every high school have a film club?

Post by jserraglio » Sun Jun 17, 2018 8:22 pm

John F wrote:
Sat Jun 16, 2018 12:49 pm
Of course if the film club had some faculty guidance and instead of the Harry Potter and Terminator movies the kids watched Bergman . . . . But that might kill the club. But one showing of "Persona" or "Cries and Whispers" and the kids would probably stop coming.
Clubs like ours are led by freethinking kids in no need of a steersman to keep their ship clear from the Scylla of "Harry Potter VI" and the Charybdis of "Terminator II".

Watching a movie is passive if you compare it to putting on a play, just as watching a play is passive when compared to producing a film from scratch. And making a film is probably just as fulfilling as creating a new play, and arguably a lot more creative than simply staging somebody else's. Students today have the wherewithal to do both.

Belle
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Re: Should every high school have a film club?

Post by Belle » Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:59 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Sun Jun 17, 2018 8:22 pm
John F wrote:
Sat Jun 16, 2018 12:49 pm
Of course if the film club had some faculty guidance and instead of the Harry Potter and Terminator movies the kids watched Bergman . . . . But that might kill the club. But one showing of "Persona" or "Cries and Whispers" and the kids would probably stop coming.
Clubs like ours are led by freethinking kids in no need of a steersman to keep their ship clear from the Scylla of "Harry Potter VI" and the Charybdis of "Terminator II".

Watching a movie is passive if you compare it to putting on a play, just as watching a play is passive when compared to producing a film from scratch. And making a film is probably just as fulfilling as creating a new play, and arguably a lot more creative than simply staging somebody else's. Students today have the wherewithal to do both.
Couldn't agree more!! Your school sounds like a very good one. Since film is the modern equivalent to the novel for most young people it stands to reason that they ought to be able to 'read' them and understand what's going on. More importantly, they need to be able to identify when they're being propagandized and manipulated.

I absolutely refused to show my students films they could see themselves at the Megaplex. In year 10 I showed a middle-bottom class "The Man with the Golden Arm" when our unit was exploring drug addiction. The reason I chose it was because of that brilliant scene with Sinatra having severe withdrawals - in no way did it 'glamorize' film addiction (none of them had ever heard of any of the actors). One girl complained, "miss; this is old and in black and white". I replied, "no fooling; I thought it was colour! But seriously, we can spend the lesson doing written comprehension if you didn't like the film".

"Oh no, miss - it's OK". Towards the end of the film that same girl (hardened and streetwise) turned to me with concern and said, "is he going to be alright miss?". It was then that I realized that if kids trust you then a teacher can show them anything at all and they'll go the extra mile.

Jbuck; that end of year after exams etc. is a nightmare not just for substitute teachers. I used to show (older) films and explore themes and techniques. One year I showed "El Dorado" - a cheesy western with John Wayne. The kids didn't have much exposure to westerns and I tried to explain to them that, despite the guns, they're really costume dramas. One dear young man said to me, "I loved that music in the film, miss" and another came up to me after the class and said, "miss; I think this is the best lesson I've ever had in my years at this school - thank you". They caught on to the values expressed in the song at the film's beginning. Howard Hawks: an absolute life hero of mine! Leigh Brackett wrote the screenplay for "Rio Bravo" and she complained to Hawks that she was actually writing the exact same story for "El Dorado". Hawks looked at her and said, "Oh well, if they don't like it tell 'em they can have their dime back!".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwF-vbvgvgE

So, yes, bring on the film club!!!

John F: those art films you mention would be aversion therapy to the average high school student. I only set "Roshomon" for Year 12 (matriculation) and a unit called "Comparative Texts: Telling the Truth", getting away with it by the skin of my teeth.

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Re: Should every high school have a film club?

Post by jserraglio » Fri Jun 22, 2018 5:04 am

Belle wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:59 pm
John F: those art films you mention would be aversion therapy to the average high school student. I only set "Roshomon" for Year 12 (matriculation) and a unit called "Comparative Texts: Telling the Truth", getting away with it by the skin of my teeth.
Agreed. The film club at our school, however, does screen films like the Bergmans that JohnF mentioned. Those kids are genuwine film buffs.

For my part, I take a middle path between art-house fare and escapist fare in the intro course I teach to 16-18 year-old boys. I once screened The Seven Samurai as an experiment (intending to pair it with The Magnificent Seven), but their eyes glazed over. Fortunately there was a bright red STOP/EJECT button on the playback machine. The students rate every film I show, thumbs up or down, and review every other film, (they are screened in pairs or triplets). Any film they overwhemingly 'diss' is consigned to the dustbin of history in the next course cycle, no matter how much I might admire it. I am able to find plenty of other good films of some substance that are suitable for their age and level of experience.

This fall, for example, I will begin by screening two very recent movies: Black Panther and Get Out. We will discuss a bit of filmic technique, the audience aimed at and the social context of each film. Afterwards, each student will write a review in proper format in which he evaluates one of the two films. Then, in groups and using standard filmscript format, students will be asked to collaborate online and create a scene to be inserted into one of two films. Finally, that online scene will be printed out and the contributing members of the group will present a dramatic reading. I have never tried basic storyboarding before but I might, if the group is receptive--the more advanced IB film guys are mandated to do that for the film shorts they produce for external assessment.

At the end of the course, the students will freely choose any two movies not already screened, defend their choices and in an essay persuade me to include their choices in the next iteration of this course.

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Re: Should every high school have a film club?

Post by Belle » Fri Jun 22, 2018 7:43 am

Sounds like you've got excellent things happening there with your students. I've done storyboarding with my students and they seem to enjoy that and learn to understand how film is constructed. Mine you, I have no experience in the digital media with cinema and have no idea how they're put together. Probably more like television; I really don't know. When I worked in television documentary film-making my job was continuity, script preparation, talent, contracts, locations...all that sort of thing. And I'd often sit in on the editing.

My most 'recent' films I studied with students were "The Birdcage" (back in 1999) with a boofy class of working class boys..."this is about poofs miss...". I told them to 'hang in there' and after 30 minutes they were hooked and absolutely love it. "Play it again, miss"!!! Then "Billy Elliot" with 13-14y/o - which they thoroughly enjoyed too. And another favourite of mine "In the Name of the Father" - again, the students were gobsmacked by the film. I did often think of holding after school film clubs but, honestly, the workload I had in those last years which included running the school debating team was unreasonable and ran me into the ground. When I left my senior class set up a screening of Hallstram's "Chocolate" for me because they knew I (then) liked Johnny Depp and they'd gone out to the wine district to buy handmade chocolates for us to eat during the watching of that film.

For me, with boys it was always the call to the emotions which was the biggest hurdle to overcome - same with literature. They pushed it away because they didn't want to appear vulnerable or emotional in front of their peers. But I've seen the toughest kids crack under the emotional strain of a simple anecdote I told them about the development going on around where I live at that time. Hundreds of trees were bulldozed and it was spring and all the young birds were still in their nests. The adult birds were frantically looking for their babies after the trees had been felled. The kids were brought to their knees by that anecdote!! "Oh miss, that's heaps sad", said one of the toughest.

jbuck919
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Re: Should every high school have a film club?

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jun 23, 2018 9:24 am

Belle wrote:
Fri Jun 22, 2018 7:43 am
Sounds like you've got excellent things happening there with your students. I've done storyboarding with my students and they seem to enjoy that and learn to understand how film is constructed. Mine you, I have no experience in the digital media with cinema and have no idea how they're put together. Probably more like television; I really don't know. When I worked in television documentary film-making my job was continuity, script preparation, talent, contracts, locations...all that sort of thing. And I'd often sit in on the editing.

My most 'recent' films I studied with students were "The Birdcage" (back in 1999) with a boofy class of working class boys..."this is about poofs miss...". I told them to 'hang in there' and after 30 minutes they were hooked and absolutely love it. "Play it again, miss"!!! Then "Billy Elliot" with 13-14y/o - which they thoroughly enjoyed too. And another favourite of mine "In the Name of the Father" - again, the students were gobsmacked by the film. I did often think of holding after school film clubs but, honestly, the workload I had in those last years which included running the school debating team was unreasonable and ran me into the ground. When I left my senior class set up a screening of Hallstram's "Chocolate" for me because they knew I (then) liked Johnny Depp and they'd gone out to the wine district to buy handmade chocolates for us to eat during the watching of that film.

For me, with boys it was always the call to the emotions which was the biggest hurdle to overcome - same with literature. They pushed it away because they didn't want to appear vulnerable or emotional in front of their peers. But I've seen the toughest kids crack under the emotional strain of a simple anecdote I told them about the development going on around where I live at that time. Hundreds of trees were bulldozed and it was spring and all the young birds were still in their nests. The adult birds were frantically looking for their babies after the trees had been felled. The kids were brought to their knees by that anecdote!! "Oh miss, that's heaps sad", said one of the toughest.
Unfortunately, Belle, though I have the time, it's not the case around here that I can just approach one or more of the number of schools where I substitute teach and volunteer to start a film club. There are issues of contracts, stipends, stepping on the toes of full-time teachers, etc. Anyway, finding it an interesting idea does not make me the most qualified person to do it. In recent years I've fallen way behind both in the backlog and in worthwhile current releases. Only myself to blame for that.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

RebLem
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Re: Should every high school have a film club?

Post by RebLem » Sat Jun 23, 2018 11:20 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 2:17 pm
Yesterday I was substituting for a social studies teacher. Exams are over and most classes are killing time until the literal end of the school year, which invites worst expectations regarding behavior for a sub. But I've gotten pretty good at this, and with basically good kids things rarely go wrong. This class was watching the movie Gladiators, which is entertaining enough but contains almost no real history. (Read the Wikipedia article for a critique.) Joaquin Phoenix, who plays Commodus, was obviously using Marlon Brando as his model (unfortunately the worst, mugging Marlon Brando). So knowing that Marlon Brando might as well have been a character in Shakespeare for all these kids would ever have heard of him, I tried to elicit his name indirectly by working my way to a movie they might actually have seen on DVD. Eventually I got to The Godfather, which at least yielded Al Pacino.

Movies bridge the generation gap if any cultural form can, so it saddens me that these young people have not had exposure to The Waterfront or A Streetcar Named Desire. They'd enjoy it, I'd enjoy it, it would provide points for an interesting discussion, and maybe the school could spring for the popcorn.
Not to mention "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
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jserraglio
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Re: Should every high school have a film club?

Post by jserraglio » Sat Jun 23, 2018 11:46 am

RebLem wrote:
Sat Jun 23, 2018 11:20 am
Not to mention "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
I teach both Virginia Woolf and Streetcar every year, the plays along with the movies. Once taught Streetcar to 9th-grade failures in summer school. They liked it a lot.

Belle
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Re: Should every high school have a film club?

Post by Belle » Sat Jun 23, 2018 6:04 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Sat Jun 23, 2018 11:46 am
RebLem wrote:
Sat Jun 23, 2018 11:20 am
Not to mention "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
I teach both Virginia Woolf and Streetcar every year, the plays along with the movies. Once taught Streetcar to 9th-grade failures in summer school. They liked it a lot.
Both good films but they'd never pass muster at the comprehensive school where I taught. Or most in the surrounding district, come to think of it. But I taught "The Red Shoes" to a Year 11 preliminary matriculation class in a unit I devised called "Appropriating Texts: the Make-over". We started with Ovid's "Pygmalion and the Statue", then Rameau's "Pygmalion", then Shaw's "Pygmalion" then films along the same thematic lines. "Vertigo" and "The Red Shoes". Only 5 bright students (1 of them a male) in the class and absolutely no complaints.

jserraglio
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Re: Should every high school have a film club?

Post by jserraglio » Sat Jun 23, 2018 6:20 pm

Belle wrote:
Sat Jun 23, 2018 6:04 pm
Both good films but they would not pass muster in the comprehensive school where I taught
Where I teach, which until very recently was a comprehensive school not just college prep, one group and only one sets the curriculum — the faculty working collaboratively thru their departments. No one ever talks about academic freedom, we just assume we have it and act accordingly.

Most of the movies I screen in my film course are R-rated, parents are given a list of them everytime I meet with them and they must sign a permission slip for any child under 17 who signs up to take the class. In 12 years I have never had a parental complaint. Next year I will teach the class to about 40 students, in two sections.

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Re: Should every high school have a film club?

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jun 23, 2018 8:18 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Sat Jun 23, 2018 11:46 am
RebLem wrote:
Sat Jun 23, 2018 11:20 am
Not to mention "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
I teach both Virginia Woolf and Streetcar every year, the plays along with the movies. Once taught Streetcar to 9th-grade failures in summer school. They liked it a lot.
Those films are based on play texts that are works of literature in their own right. (I have read two versions of how Edward Albee felt about the film, one in which he liked it and another in which he did not). There is nothing wrong with that, but of course a cinema program would involve more than filmings of stage masterpieces. One might even start with The Wizard of Oz. I learned the hard way once that kids don't have one of the greatest movies of all time memorized the way you and I do.

As for your next comment, j, you refer to a "comprehensive" school, I assume because Belle is a citizen of a BC country. I'm sure she knows that we call that a public school in the US, while the Brits reserve that term for what we call a private school.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

jserraglio
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Re: Should every high school have a film club?

Post by jserraglio » Sat Jun 23, 2018 10:49 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Sat Jun 23, 2018 8:18 pm
Those films are based on play texts that are works of literature in their own right. (I have read two versions of how Edward Albee felt about the film, one in which he liked it and another in which he did not). There is nothing wrong with that, but of course a cinema program would involve more than filmings of stage masterpieces. One might even start with The Wizard of Oz. I learned the hard way once that kids don't have one of the greatest movies of all time memorized the way you and I do.

As for your next comment, j, you refer to a "comprehensive" school, I assume because Belle is a citizen of a BC country. I'm sure she knows that we call that a public school in the US, while the Brits reserve that term for what we call a private school.
Several points I'd like to make —

1. I teach Streetcar and Woolf, the plays and the films (they are transcendently brilliant plays but somewhat flawed movies in my view), in IB & AP English, not in Film Studies where I actually exclude films based on canonical works of lit. IIRC, in the Eighties Albee revised Woolf, tightening up the end of Act I and reinserting the f-bombs that were censored out of the text as printed in the Sixties.

2. I start Film Studies with Get Out (2017). And far from having it memorized, I have never seen Wizard of Oz all the way thru. I tried to do so for the first time about a month ago. I liked what I saw, but wouldn't be likely to include it in my film course. I did like the book as a kid: it and Animal Farm helped shape my politics.

3. Film Studies is not focused on film history. Most of the films I show date from the present century, and the course agenda constantly shifts as new worthwhile films surface. Silence of the Lambs is the oldest flick I show. Any student at our school with an interest in film history will take the IB film course sequence which mandates the study of cinema history.

4. By 'comprehensive', I meant a school that was not exclusively college-prep. That's how that term is used in Grover's Corners where I live. And our school is private, not public.

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