Film as experience and inspiration

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Discovering point of view

In my latest trainers training workshop (two and a half days in Kassel, 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 proposed to me and 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 will be presented in the YouthDocs manual in July 2016, an Erasmus plus project that dealt with video and drama in teenage productions.

Obviously there is no given methodology to face this so I was challenged to look back both at my familiar set of tools 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, even when we are talking about documentary film or verbatim theater, is a transformation of reality into something else. This representation and transformation requires the use and manipulation of the basic elements of these languages. Thus in terms of form I wanted to indicate how useful is a focus on the close up and soundscapes. Why? Because these elements may condense narrative, point of view and atmosphere.

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A new way of using a tablet as a camera: on earth level

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: how the cultural experience of film has developed and affected audiences, in relation to “masters” of the medium and drama itself. Selected extracts from “The man with the movie camera” by Vertov and “A bout de souffle” by Godard, offered a series of visual incentives to show how elliptical narrative may develop and how differently movement and human presence can be portrayed.

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 as film is definitely both a complex art form and experience, exemplary clips should present this multiplicity. I wanted to propose that each one of the elements within the whole of a film could provide inspiration for drama scenes. I once again found interest in destructuring this medium in its essential parts. Through small extracts, I aimed to offer incentives about 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.

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Visual close ups take a different meaning in relation to a real pose

However theoretical aims and intentions, when they become part of a training, need to be embodied in practical processes and outcomes with and through the group. So I also aimed to gradually build a common language in relation to my perception of images. Meaning, how images and the tools of cinema are conceived in the broader spectrum of film and media literacy. 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 force of feelings, action, body which they were familiar with towards 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 and attitude. Open mindedness, quick reactions and experience flourished in a creative dialogue. I believe this is exactly what is missing from the training field.

Visions of a space through mobile apps

Collage with caption "TIME"

Time

One of the interesting things I see about certain apps on mobile devices is that they can become an introductory or concluding space for media literacy and expression. The central role of still pictures in many apps which use images and the possibility to manipulate, organise and add elements of text or other symbols, may very well lead to narrative structures and conscious choices as long as there is room for dialogue between content and form.

What we are interested is a process of choosing a point of view for our work, no matter how “small”, “short” or “ephemeral” the result may be. Apps’ possibility to function relatively quickly and directly from shooting to “editing” minimize the maturing process from idea to (audio)visual text . This offers aspects of entertainment, appropriation and a feeling of solving a riddle which engages audiences and – especially young- users. Of course this same speed, usually neglects deeper thinking and possibilities for synthesis. Could we thus grasp the graphic and expressive qualities of such creativity, even though it may be evanescent and evaporating in the mobile device environment, and turn it towards further narratives and critical thinking?

Signs in close ups

Signs and arrows showing the way

Here are some examples of such a pilot project with “Photo Collage” and “Pic Collage” during an adult workshop that I offered at the Media Meets Literacy conference in Warsaw (22/23 May 2015). In relation to media education work such apps lend themselves to pluralism and possibilities for both group work and solitary expressions which are important to both young and old. In addition I find particular documentary qualities in “playing” with these apps, as “point and shooting” with our mobile phone cameras has become almost a trivial habit for almost anyone. The challenge is to turn an often meaningless gesture of “clicking” -which however is charming enough to happen in millions everyday all over our planet- to a thoughtful choice.

The participants here, worked in pairs or three and were asked to reflect on their impressions from the venue of the conference. We had a short discussion which, in a normal workshop would follow a more detailed brainstorming session. The important documentary element was to guide participants to switch point of view on the space they have already been all morning without thinking about a specific interpretation. The should come back with a collage version of their vision of the space. Pictures could serve a way of thinking or rather a way of LOOKING.

Female details

Female details

Collage with a focus on windows

Window idea

Humans and patterns

Humans and patterns

Although we lost some time in technicalities which are still inherent with such uses (who has what device, which platform, free and payed versions, adapters, transferring materials etc) the feedback about the process was that it was both absorbing and entertaining and the results have a visual quality one can built both meanings and feelings. It is worth remembering that our initial inspiring question was the space itself and our vision of it , a purely documentaristic or street photography question. The interesting thing is how the interactivity of the app affects form and leads us to new scenarios. Imagine that we almost didn’ t have the time to touch upon the layer of adding text and captions, leading us thus to a more complete narrative. In addition we would like to have more time to compare how the same space inspired different approaches, and to discuss the narratives that occurred.

Objects trigger images

Participants thinking over the exhibition

Participants recreate stories from observing their objects

One more “object based brainstorming” session for a Media and Theater workshop this time. It is a very interesting technique we practiced with Andreas Treske for young documentarists at the North Aegean Narratives project on the theme of identity and immigration. Later I applied it again for beginner documentary makers to trigger images for the very special heart of Athens. This time personal identities in the spectrum of public life were targeted.IMG_1078 IMG_1084 IMG_1085 IMG_1086
As always, little surprises occur both from the selections of objects people make and their associations. A big surprise was a “live” object which was carried in our small installation: a child was brought to join memories and secret objects or bureaucratic items.

A child next to other items.

A child stands next to other items as proof of a life cycle.

Here at the Theater in Education 2014 Seminar in Pilion, Greece, the workshop is collaboratively done with N. Govas and Ch. Zoniou, two excellent theater pedagogues.

Film literacy for librarians

On the occasion of the publishing of my subtitled interview on the media language workshop for librarians I also post a few words and photos.

Interview for the Future Library workshop

The Future Library program gave me the chance to work with 100 people who are surrounded by books, who work in a space full of words, jumping out of pages. Who currently search for new ideas and paths to approach their visitors (and their books). Our photo-stories, built from images and story lines proved a great tool, handy and accessible for short and longer term methodology, for younger and older, for digital and paperback!

participants taking photographs

Creating characters and perspective

An imaginative team played with figures and sarcasm

Participants looking at each others work and photostories

Always important to share and comment

 

 

 

A colored object was the starting point for our stories each time, following the overall theme of colors in books and literature. In 2,5 hours the tams had to grasp the idea of creating a story with images and words and produce it!