School encourages budding film-makers

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Canterbury - posted Tue., Mar. 29, 2011
Canterbury Elementary School students in the after-school 'Movie Making for Kids' program catch the scene on their cameras. Photos by Denise Coffey.
Canterbury Elementary School students in the after-school 'Movie Making for Kids' program catch the scene on their cameras. Photos by Denise Coffey.

It’s hard to imagine an after-school class that is so popular that there isn’t room for all the students who want to sign up for it. Canterbury Elementary School has such a dilemma with “Movie Making for Kids,” a program for fourth-graders that meets Mondays from 3:30 to 5:15 p.m. So many students signed up for it this year that they had to hire an assistant instructor.

Sue Selvidio-Stanley, who founded the program six years ago, gives her students free rein in deciding what movies to make and how to make them.

“The kids come up with most of the ideas for the movies,” she said. They learn the technical aspects of making movies, as well as the process involved in going from story idea to creation – all while having fun. Selvidio-Stanley teaches the technical skills necessary, but in the process, her students learn much more, including how to collaborate and work in groups and with partners.

The students get to learn about the topics they are filming. For example, when they filmed a nature trail piece, the students learned about sediment and water erosion.

They also learn a lot about writing when they do voice-overs for the films. When they took a trip to Mystic Seaport, the class members split into groups, and each group wrote something different for the movie. They had to write three sentences on note cards, come to the computer and read them, taking care to time their reading to match the images on film.

And they learn about iMovieSoftware, digital cameras, microphones and the computers in the technology room.

The kids love it all.

Sierra Ings wants to make movies someday, and this class is pointing her in the right direction. “We get to do our own ideas,” she said.

Micah Spruance likes acting and making people laugh. While he isn’t sure he wants to be an actor, he does want to perform in high school plays, like his brother did.

Audrey Poehler likes to edit clips and put pieces together. “I like acting, too,” she said. Her favorite project was going outside in the snow this winter.

They students have completed six projects in this year alone. Their first documentary was about how to make a movie. In their follow-up project, the students took a look at camera angles and how they are used in movies. Their third movie was a ‘Getting to Know You,” a video with students interviewing new faculty and staff. The kids used puppets in the movie, added music to the script, and presented it to the entire school at an assembly. The fourth project focused on visual lies. “Visual Liar, Pants on Fire” used a lot of the same tricks that Alfred Hitchcock used in his popular thrillers, said Selvidio-Stanley.

The students came up with their own skits for the fifth movie. They filmed the skits and added special effects afterward. The sixth project is a “Send-off Video,” billed as a unique and interactive graduation video.

Selvidio-Stanley will be taking her class to Hartford soon. They will take their cameras to the Capitol building and the Connecticut Science Center.

The instructor has noticed some interesting things over the years. One is that all of her students eventually love being on film. “At the beginning of year, most students want the technical part, not standing in front of the camera,” she said. “As year goes on, they want to get in front of camera and act.”

The other thing she has noticed is that shy students grow confident in front of the camera when using puppets. Now she buys one or two every year and the students incorporate the puppets into the movies that they make.

“The puppets give them a different voice,” she said. “They have fun with them.”

They are so anxious to learn everything, Selvidio-Stanley said. “They can’t get enough of it. I love it. And they’re great with the cameras and computers and ideas. We have a lot of fun.”

The students learn about pre-production, production, post-production and screening. Job opportunities are good in the field, said Selvidio-Stanley. “It tells us that the future is bright for these kids,” she said. “They are smack dab in the game and ready to play.”

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