How to make an Into Film Award winning film

07 Nov 2017

8 mins
How to make an Into Film Award winning film

Each year the Into Film Awards seek to celebrate the breadth and depth of young filmmaking talent across the UK, as well as honouring particularly successful Into Film Clubs and leaders. Submissions for the 2018 Into Film Awards are already open, but to find out what goes into the making of a winning film, we caught up with one of 2017's winners.

Meurig Hughes is a teacher at Ysgol Cefn Coch in Wales, where a group of young filmmakers triumphed in the Best Live Action: 12 and Under category with their fantastic comedy/thriller Ysbryd (Ghost). Below, Meurig details the process of creating their film, and what both winning and attending the Into Film Awards meant to the young filmmakers. Want to be a part of it all this year? Get creating and enter the Into Film Awards today!

With no filmmaking knowledge, the task of creating a short film with a group of 10 year olds was fairly daunting, but it has been one of the most inspiring and fascinating things I have ever done as an educator. Like Alice entering Wonderland, I found a whole new world of adventure, intrigue and possibilities in the classroom. So, let's go down the rabbit hole and see how one teacher and a class of students were able to win a prestigious Into Film award on a low budget using an old smartphone and some green screen.

In the words of Alfred Hitchcock, "To make a great film you need three things the script, the script and the script." This was the cornerstone of our project. We took our time developing the story, looking at Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey, and delving into the characters and their back stories. The students collaboratively developed the script and once it was finished, everybody was assigned into groups based on their interests and talents.

We had a group of cameramen and editors, a group of visual effects artists, another group for sound and lighting, and another for costume and design. A group of directors went through and distributed the excellent filmmaking resources provided by Into Film. They also scouted for locations and held auditions for the acting roles. Our cameramen and editors watched clips from various films, making notes on cuts and transitions and taking pictures of any interesting camera movements and angles.

The special effects team researched software and looked for tutorials online on how to create the necessary visual effects. The sound and lighting team listened to movies and their scores and foleys, discussing how the sounds and colours made them feel and how this could be applied to our film. They also scoured the internet for royalty free music and sound effects. The costume and prop designers would collect recycled waste and turn it into prototypes for costumes and gadgets.

Next we all worked together on a storyboard, carefully crafting each frame from the ideas and expertise the students had gathered. Once the storyboard was in place, filming could begin. We worked through each frame and filmed over a number of weeks, usually after school when we had the place to ourselves.

When filming was finished, the footage was transferred to the editors, visual effects crew and sound designers, who put everything together and added the finishing touches. The film was then shown to the whole crew, who would make notes on any changes they thought necessary.

From the outset, the project encouraged hard work and creativity, with the children having a sense of ownership and togetherness throughout. Each individual had a purpose, every role was important and everyone felt needed.

The most fascinating thing for me was seeing the wealth of skills developed by the students and the way the project would delve into different areas of the curriculum. We used a virtual learning environment where students would constantly share ideas, pictures and links during and after school hours, discussing everything from the plot, characters and subtext to the music, tempo and mood. They would spend hours dissecting shot compositions and were riveted by the subtleties of lighting and foley. When creating visual effects in a three dimensional space they would chat about the X, Y and Z planes, and would happily discuss concepts like velocity, mass and gravity when creating particle emitters in a particle simulator. The list goes on.

Thanks to Into Film, children from a small school in Wales were able to make a film on a smartphone and get themselves onto the red carpet in London's Leicester Square, something they would never have dreamt possible a year ago. It has been an amazing experience where the students developed a wealth of skills and knowledge in many areas of the curriculum, gaining confidence while having fun on a journey they will never forget.

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