Film as experience and inspiration

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Discovering point of view

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.

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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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Giving shape and form to ideas.

Disregarding the overall pessimism, the end of the year brings some positive feelings. One of which is about giving shape to ideas. About giving form to a project with a collage technique.
It’s  been more than a year that I felt the need to share the theoretical and methodological discussions on media literacy I have been having with my good colleague Menis Theodoridis. Every now and then we would sit, enjoy a coffee and design a workshop or share thoughts about some project or curriculum aspect. And there were other professionals I’ve met during recent years, from various related fields, that we rarely had the chance to put in practice our ideas. More so, there was no chance to take the time to evaluate our thoughts.

An imaginative and open minded thought: already recognizing media literacy in 1925

An imaginative and open minded thought: already recognizing media literacy in 1925

So, something had to happen with these rich but fleeting and often incomplete opportunities. My belief that media learning is cross disciplinary, should always balance lecturing with hands on experience and that teaching is an artform itself, was also seeking a space to express its self.

Shape in shape: the person as part of the artwork

Shape in shape: the person as part of the artwork

Some serendipitous encounters gave me the decisiveness and shape I needed: first, a discussion with Mark Reid (Head of BFI Education) on Harvard’s Project Zero. (Funnily enough this useful chat was done while leaving La Ciotat, in France, a city indeed related to the birth of cinema). Then the clarity brought by a great new colleague, Nina Trifonopoulou, who saw that a recurring event was needed, if we were to meet the training requests from educators and other adults.

The fruit of these thoughts became the “Sunday coffee time with image and sound”. Here are the ingredients of this coffee blend:

More than a mug of cofee

More than a mug of coffee

The afternoon coffee, almost a ritual in Greece, gave us the warmth and cosiness we wanted for the event.

A 3-hour session every second Sunday of the month gave us a specific time capsule within which our ideas should fit. (And in any case there should be a limit to voluntary work!)
A space for cultural workshops, rented affordably from a friend working in animation, gave us an interesting space in the heart of Athens.

The financial crisis gave us the belief that it should be as cheap as possible to make it easy to join, either once or every time.

The stress of  city life led us to plan independent meetings, with no obligation to follow the series.

Our workshop experience with challenging groups led us to take a flexible, developing structure around key themes. Although events are self-contained, this approach is fruitful for series participants, and create meaningful connections for us as designers.

My impulsive personality allows for experimentation with both old and new participants. Using my  preparation, I can think aloud and bring new elements in modules I have already been working on.

A strong belief in the value of other people’s perspectives led us to invite insights from informed professionals from different fields who had become “media curious”. A ritual of “secret guests” was inaugurated already from the second workshop with enriching results. A strong disposition to discuss among us, participants and “secret guests” alike, promotes a pluralistic way of learning for all.

Finally, Theodora Malliarou, a young but systematic colleague, records proceedings and offers an external viewpoint while Nina keeps an eye on the flow of the content in each session.

Raising questions about watching films

Raising questions about watching films

The themes so far?
1. How to watch a student film and 2. Collective brainstorming techniques
Next themes to follow:
Psychology meets media over a still frame, Young children’s digital micro-worlds,

The results?
The very first time, in November, we had few but dedicated participants who ALL returned for our second meeting in December. The number actually doubled: 22 people left the room excited, and more experienced than when they arrived.

Small groups work on small ideas and present them to the whole team.

Small groups work on small ideas and present them to the whole team.

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Collective storytelling based on personal memories

The future?
We will be making a report of the highlights and the structure of the meetings for further reference. The aim is to create a small Think Tank among media professionals, educators, and others who are interested in using media when interacting with groups of other people.
Blue sky thinking?
To strengthen the structure, make it sustainable and develop international meetings.

The "Violence 3ptych" from the "Collective brainstorming" session

The “Violence 3ptych” from the “Collective brainstorming” session

Being resourceful with short storytelling

Being resourceful with short storytelling

A 3-day workshop

Educational Radiotelevision (EduTV) organised the MEDEAnet workshop “Developing documentaries in schools” on 5-7 April 2013 in Athens, Greece and invited me to be the lead speaker. The workshop was dedicated at Primary and Secondary level teachers who already have a prior experience in video production, basic knowledge in ICT, and Web 2.0 tools.

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Preparing draft ideas

 

Frame and meanings

Frame and meanings

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Hands on and fun

As a film director and media educator, my aim was to focus on methodologies related to documentary, exploring how various tools and resources can be used to enhance creativity in schools and finally understanding how documentary can be a multi-modal, effective, informative and expressive medium. During the 3-day workshop the 24 participants learned how to refine their shooting and editing techniques, to enhance their creative techniques, and focus on methodologies and educational content that could make teaching exciting and attractive to young people.

Documentary training

On edutv_logo5-7 April 2013, I shall be running an intense training, aimed at primary and secondary level teachers who already have a prior experience in video production, invited by the Educational Radiotelevision , EduTV (Ministry of Education) and the MEDEAnet Programme. This 4th workshop of the programme is focussing on developing documentaries in schools. The workshop will take place in Athens, Greece, will involve a lot of hands on experience, a teleconference with teachers form other countries and its outcomes will be presented via EduTV.