In my latest trainers training workshop in Germany, (March 2016) the participants, experienced theater pedagogues themselves, were aiming to get inspired and implement our practice with their drama youth groups in schools. The theme of the workshop was quite special: “Film as cultural experience and as an inspiration point for youth productions especially in theater with the aim to combine video and drama”. I will give here a short account of my concerns and some solutions I proposed. A more developed description is already presented in the manual of “YouthDocs” , an Erasmus+ project that dealt with video and drama in teenage productions, 2014-16 and can be found here.
Obviously there is no given methodology to face this so I was challenged to look back both at my familiar set of tools from “reading and writing media” and reconsider qualities of film and theater that would help build upon. Thus, my planning involved specifying certain common issues: characters, theme, story-line. setting and the fact that what we produce is always a transformation of reality into something else. This representation and transformation requires the use and manipulation of the basic elements of both these languages. Thus in terms of form I wanted to indicate how useful a focus on the close up may be as well as the importance of sound. Why? Because these elements condense narrative, point of view and atmosphere.
I was also searching for a more theoretical concept which would underpin the above. I found this in the notions of “engagement” and “alienation”, as both film and theater have done in the 20th century (e.g. through the ideas of Brecht and Godard). This was a “bridge” that helped me connect content and form with history.
Furthermore I felt that I had to help participants become aware of how “young” film is as an art form and how quickly it evolved in its short life: I wonder if we could ever compare 2000 years of drama to less than 200 years of still and moving image?
Finally, through small samples and extracts, I aimed to show how human creation around media has developed:
From photography to moving images.
From very short clips to full-length movies.
From B&W to color.
From static camera with slow funny walking of the 1900 to speedy editing.
From silent movies to sound design.
From cinemas to mobile device watching.
However, when theoretical aims and intentions, become part of a training, they need to be embodied in practical processes and outcomes with the group. So through hands on exercises we gradually built a common language in relation to images and sounds as meaning bearers. At the same time this particular workshop had to keep a strong connection to the way drama approaches communication and help participants reflect on drama through (the accuracy of) media. This means that we would use the power of feelings, actions and body in connection to the language of images and the way they create meanings.
I think that the special characteristic about this workshop for me was not only its intensity or richness but that a mutual exchange was happening unconsciously. Some of my techniques and learning modules became a field for propositions, instinctively and quickly happening due to the theater pedagogue mentality of the team. Open mindedness, quick reactions and experience flourished in a creative dialogue. I believe this is exactly what is missing from the training field.