Saturday, January 19, 2008

A piece of non fiction I wrote back in 2005.

I'd been on this film course as part of London's Gifted & Talented. Anyway, here's the article:

Whilst everyone else was appreciating the hot weather and free time in their holidays, 45 individuals from all over London went back to school. But this was school with a very new twist – a week in the study of Film Archetypes, that incorporated Film theory, filmmaking, and good, old-fashioned film watching.

With four very diverse films selected for our viewing, as well as a range of clips and exercises, there really was something for everyone – the boys had their eyes glued to the screen during Star Wars and the girls blubbed through Ma Vie en Rose. The leaders ensured that it wasn’t all play and that we did learn something, through the discussions after each viewing, whilst the films were still fresh in our minds. Their insightful questions helped us with our understanding of the films as well as archetypes in general.

Topics we were given talks on include archetypes in stories, narrative structure and subversive elements of cinema. Even for those who felt they knew everything they could possibly know about films, these talks were a breath of fresh air, and taught us to look deeper than we currently were. Best of all, what we learnt could be applied to more than just films – the hero’s journey was about the pathway a protagonist went through out of anything, whether it be a book, play or TV programme. So the information we picked up here would come in handy for all those going into year 11 and facing English GCSEs.

Mythology was one of the running themes throughout the week and every student was given an old tale to read and deconstruct. We saw how some of the themes in stories from thousands of years ago were still evident in the films of today, and in fact, that is why we love them.

Another one of the things that we looked deeply into was narrative theory, which incorporated ideologies such as "Marxism" and "feminism." It was quite hard to understand for us students to grasp at first, but the lessons we received were undeniably informative, and at the end I felt at home with any of the things we learnt.

Towards the second half of the week, we received the opportunities to try our hand at some filmmaking ourselves. This included scripting and storyboarding. We were given instructions and a brief outline on how to structure it, and the rest was up to us. I particularly enjoyed this process, because it was a chance for me to boss three kids about and pen my thoughts into a very self-indulgent film script, that was surprisingly, chosen as one of the best!

But the history and theory of cinema wasn’t all that we were getting lessons in – many of us improved our social skills, whether it was through making friends with people from other schools, or working as a group to formulate our own screenplays and storyboards. At one moment three of us were also receiving a (rather stern) lesson at how not to disturb everyone else during the screening of a film…

Socialising, films, heated discussion, films, air conditioning, films… this was paradise for me, and I feel I have definitely benefited from it. The next I watch a film, I won’t just be watching it for entertainment, or even solely to criticise; I will be looking out for archetypes in characters, plot structure and narrative. The London GT activity has definitely been a success. Whilst I enjoyed myself through the power of cinema and the new learning experiences, it was also a chance to meet new people, many of which were lovely, and the ones who weren't - well, they knew their films

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