A taste of Chocolate Films

Children at St Mary’s school working out camera angles for their film scenes

Cultivate Routes is the strand of the Cultivate programme that supports careers education, focusing on creative roles and opportunities related to place-making. One in every six jobs in London is in a creative sector, and this is likely to grow, so it’s important for children to know what is possible in their own futures. A big part of Cultivate Routes are workshops that will be available for primary and secondary schools all around Nine Elms, led by creative and place-making professionals. The idea is that pupils can have a direct and friendly encounter with someone doing interesting, inspiring work, who can challenge them to try out a task they typically face in their jobs.

We have just piloted two of these workshops. One was led by Reece Lipman, a film-maker with Battersea-based Chocolate Films, working with a class from St Mary’s Primary school.

The St Mary’s children found out about the different roles involved in making a film, then undertook an activity introducing them to pre-production tasks, how to craft a story and techniques for shooting. Their task was to make a film with only 5 shots, which had to fit within a genre such as romance. They began by watching a film called For the Birds, analysing all the different camera angles and what each shot revealed and concealed. They then explored how a typical story has a basic structure where a hero encounters an obstacle on a journey. Working in teams they made their own storyboards based on this. They used cardboard frames to contain their actions within their scenes, and posed behind them for each of their 5 shots. The session concluded with questions for Reece about how to become a film-maker, and some reflection on what they had learned.

When asked what they enjoyed, most said they liked having a go at acting and getting their hands on a camera. Some said they enjoyed the elements where they were listening and watching, for example, learning from Reece about film-making and analysing the shots in a film. Some liked the team work: “I enjoyed acting and watching movies and getting together and doing things we would not usually do.”

When asked what they found out, most mentioned the practical learning about story structure and technique, but many also commented on the life and role of being a film-maker, for example, “…being a film maker is much cooler than I thought it would have been”, “there are different stages in film life and you don’t just do it all at once” and “no matter what you get you have to make it into something you love.” Framing this practical activity within an awareness of what it could involve to be a film-maker in future seemed to work well to situate their learning, and empowered them to consider themselves as potential creatives.

A scene captured through a frame

Feedback from the teacher Luke Doyle was positive, “the day was an excellent opportunity for the children to learn about the available careers and to get hands on.” He felt the pupils produced some good work, and it was especially good to see boys really enjoying making romantic narratives. He had contributed a lot to the content of the workshop to ensure that it would meet literacy outcomes. He suggested that future workshops should be designed to have less talk from the front, and more practical activity.

Reece reflected on the challenge of meeting the children’s needs for learning in literacy, while also delivering the brief of giving children an insight into a creative career. We will look at ways to adjust this pilot workshop to ensure that this balance works as well as possible for primary children, delivering what teachers need while also extending the experiences of children.

Cultivate is delivered by Enable Leisure and Culture for Wandsworth Council and the Nine Elms Vauxhall partnership, with coordination provided by Flow Associates, culture and education specialists.

Funded by A New DirectionWandsworth Council, Lambeth Council and Nine Elms developers and is one of seven projects in A New Direction’s London Cultural Education Challenge.

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