Using film to teach Expressive Arts

04 May 2017 BY Samantha Clarkson in Using Film to Teach...

6 mins
still from Bill
still from Bill

It has long been understood that young people require a well-rounded education, and pursuing subjects in the STEAM family (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) to a high level can help prepare them for life in a competitive job market and play an active role in society. The emphasis placed on Expressive Arts (art and design, music, dance and drama) in the recent Donaldson Report, and the proposed reorganisation of the National Curriculum for Wales both further recognise the cultural entitlement of all young people, whether with an eye to pursuing a career in the arts or creative industries, or to simply continuing artistic pursuits for a healthy mind and body.

Film naturally overlaps and reflects the subjects, topics and skills in the Expressive Arts family. It is an excellent vehicle to share and showcase creative outputs in front of or behind the camera, or as a stimulus for creative work.

The hills are alive with the sound of music

Maria, The Sound of Music (U, 1965)

Separating the soundtrack from the images as the first introduction to a new film text is a fantastic way for students to unlock the powerful meaning communicated through music and sounds, and understand how the soundtrack is as important as the editing, the actors' performances or the script.

Activities to explore theses ideas, such as 'sound on/vision off', 'character compositions' and 'soundtracking with Foley', can be found in our Spotlight on Music Primary and Secondary resources.

Foley sounds, created using everyday objects, are added to the soundtrack to enhance sounds in the film. Our soundtracking with Foley activity encourages students to focus on the details of the film text and use sound with purpose and precision, which can then be translated into a feature of written work with accurate and precise descriptive language.

Introduce the concept of Foley sounds to your students with our interactive video with Foley artist Peter Burgis, and watch this brilliant example of soundtracking with Foley by pupils at Chaddlewood Primary School in Plymouth, using the silent film Artheme Swallows his Clarinet (1912).

Analysis and creation of film sound and music provides a framework to develop literacy skills. For younger learners in particular it can help develop understanding and use of grammar and punctuation to create the desired rhythm in their writing and speech, and a use of higher level vocabulary for accurate and engaging descriptions.

Developing the analysis of sounds and their inferred meaning helps students to visualise images in written prose. Writing from a piece of music or creating a composition in response to a piece of prose supports increased engagement with written text.

I wanna take pictures. Make art.

Mason, Boyhood (15, 2014)

Creating films is artistic expression in itself. Activities to explore the concept of 'Film as Art' and the depiction of artists on screen are available in our Film as Art, Art on Film resource, which includes ideas to analyse and create experimental film.

Animation, in particular, can be a fantastic medium for learners to bring together a range of art and design skills, and utilise filmmaking to share ideas - particularly on topics that can be challenging to articulate, such as mental health, anti-bullying and healthy relationships. Animation facilitates students' ability to 'go anywhere' and 'be anything', making it an ideal project for any curriculum area. In addition, an animation project encourages students to use and develop communication, organisation, teamwork and problem-solving skills. 

Stop Motion Animation requires planning and a degree of sequencing discipline, but the range of easy to use apps including Stop Motion Pro, Animate-It, Lego Moviemaker and iMotion, facilitate experimentation and learning through trial and error, with professional results possible for even novice users.

The below examples of Stop Motion Animation, combining different techniques such as photography, painting, paper cut-outs, textiles, pixilation (the animation of people) and green screen, demonstrate how a film can be created in a relatively short time in a classroom setting.

Let's face the music and dance

Mike, Sing (U, 2016)

The recent La La Land phenomenon and the popularity of the Step Up and Street Dance franchises highlights the symbiotic relationship between dance and film.

Taking inspiration from a film soundtrack, genre, character or setting can be an excellent way to tie together cross curricular work and include PE in a scheme of work. Simple filmmaking integrating ICT and creative skills can be used to record dance performances for critique or assessment. Tools and templates to support learners to plan and record dance sequences can be found in our new resource, Spotlight on Dance.

Here are some recommended dance sequences within film to get your students moving and the creative juices flowing:

  • Bill (PG, 2015) 'Tudor Dance' time code {01:23:05 01:24:20}
  • The Jungle Book (U, 1967) 'I wanna be like you' time code {00:32:45 00:36:31}
  • The Fits (12, 2015) 'The bridge' time code {00:30:04 00:33:11}
  • Pride & Prejudice (U, 2005) 'Lizzie and Mr Darcy' time code {00:37:23 00:40:01)

Drama is life with the dull bits cut out

Alfred Hitchcock

Many young people pursuing drama qualifications may aspire to work in front of or behind the camera in the film industry. There are many transferable skills and career cross-overs between film and theatre, including lighting, set, costume and props design. Our new resource Spotlight on Drama provides support materials and templates for students to plan and create these aspects of a production, and plan the filming of a performance to share, critique and for assessment.

Samantha Clarkson

Samantha Clarkson, CPD and Resources Coordinator, Into Film

A qualified teacher, Sam works with teachers, educators and professional bodies to research, deliver and evaluate training for educators of 5-19 year olds, enabling children and young people across the UK to learn through film and filmmaking.

This Article is part of: Using Film to Teach...

A series of articles that highlight how the medium of film can be used to teach a wide variety of subjects and themes.

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