Telling a story

I’m on a jury for a short film festival, so today I spent quite a bit of time looking at lots of entries, mainly by young people. Some entries were extremely good, but most were so bad that they were startlingly bad. I found myself asking “what were they thinking?”

And that started me thinking … shouldn’t the basics of visual storytelling, effective construction of dramatic or comic narrative, character arc and development, building of audience involvement, anticipation, pacing, timing, use of camera, focus, lighting, montage — be a part of today’s core educational curriculum?

After all, we now live in a world where the means of production — even high quality production — are within easy reach of any child with access to a computer. Consequently, the ability to express oneself in a visual narrative medium is a skill that can make the difference between success and failure in many fields, and the importance of that skill will continue to increase rapidly as the technical and economic barriers to entry continue to fall away.

Just as, in an earlier time, parents understood that a child who cannot read has no real chance of success in a highly competitive world, shouldn’t parents of today realize that the ability to put together an effective short movie to communicate one’s viewpoint and ideas is a necessary skill for their child to master?

And shouldn’t we be addressing that need in our K-12 curriculum?

2 thoughts on “Telling a story”

  1. Some K-12 schools do this. I’m not sure how prevalent it is or whether it covers as much as you have in mind yet. For example, my daughter’s (private) middle school had the kids make a “public service announcement” video as part of their art curriculum. It is, admittedly, a more tech-savvy school than many, and located in Silicon Valley. Video production classes were also featured as optional activities at some of her summer camps. Probably as more schools have the necessary equipment (minimally, video cameras and laptops?) it will become more common.

    Of course, even though we teach all kids to read and write, it doesn’t mean that they are all able to write engaging novels or fascinating works of non-fiction. Talent and interest still need to be there. Learning about how films are constructed should at least teach them to be more aware consumers of the medium, and give the ones with an inclination a chance to try their hands at it.

  2. Yes, completely agree. I think a student as early as middle school could benefit from mocking up a visual on a- for example- history lesson. It would have good value as a mnemonic device- for example, a student visualizes and creates a short story board for the signing of the declaration of independence. Also, it would passively impart a knowledge of flow and presentation in the medium of film.

    It is more or less an updated concept of the storybook with no words, just pictures. Basically the teacher or the book provides the key actors and the students fill in the details and the sequence. Most schools should have the resources to do it digitally.

    A wonderful and woefully underdeveloped concept. Interesting.

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