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S2F2 2010: From the Classroom to the Big Screen

May, 2010
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The Shanghai Student Film Festival – S2F2, returned to the big screen at Shanghai Community International School in Hongqiao on April 23, 2010. Continuing the trend of guest appearances by industry experts and personalities, S2F2 once again delivered by inviting C.B. Cebulski, writer and talent manager of Marvel comics, Joseph Janeti, acclaimed screenwriter and screenwriting teacher at UCLA, Stephanie Auerbach, renowned expert in the art department, and many more.
IMG_1109The festival started at 10 in the morning when guest speakers hosted workshops at SCIS Hongqiao campus for students to expand their creative visions. These personalized workshops included creative marketing, set design and art direction, and one-on-one workshops with Joseph Janeti focusing on character and script development; providing industry exposure and practical training for student filmmakers.
After a morning of inspiration, the festival culminated with the official screening and award ceremony where hundreds of parents, teachers, administrators, students, and filmmakers attended the evening extravaganza at SCIS Hongqiao. 36 films from various categories including documentary, video art, PSA, and narratives were shown with the level of filmmakers ranging from elementary to high school. The screening was filled with laughter, cheers, and standing ovations, as it was more than just another film screening, but a showcase of creativity by some very talented student filmmakers. The entire screening lasted merely 1 hour and 45 minutes with a compilation of over 30 films shown, but an incredible amount of work, time, and preparation were put in by a long list of individuals in order to compile these 105 minutes of screen time and make it such a success.
The most revolutionary step for this year’s festival was that the films were no longer submitted with DVD and tapes, but all films were submitted via online submission directly to the web site. Thanks to the work of Chris McAnally and Steve Clark, technology coordinators at SCIS, an online entry system was established where student filmmakers could directly upload their films into the system online and the files will then be converted to the proper format for screening. Without the hassle of unplayable DVD’s and lost files, there were over 240 submissions this year, including over 20 international submissions from Korea and Taiwan for the first time. 
A pre-screening was done by the teaching committee to pick out the 10 most outstanding films from each category that will advance to the official judging panel consisting of Joseph Janeti and Danielle Connelly, director of theatrical plays in Shanghai. The Films were divided into categories in each school year level and loaded into a laptop for each teacher to watch and select. Most of the teachers watched from 5 to 10 hours of films and a lot of work went into the selection process as well. Choosing the films was not an easy task, especially coming from a teacher’s perspective.
IMG_1079“There’s a story behind every single film”, says Randy Girdner, a teacher from SCIS and one of the organizers. “They are all meaningful as every kid has a story and every teacher wants the student to tell that story, but at the same time we have to be objective and watch for the technical aspect of the filmmaking based on the rubrics given”. Finally, a condensed list was selected and presented to the judges for the official screening line up and nominations. The Box stood out from the very beginning”, says Randy. “We knew it was something special from the start”.
The Box, written and directed by Hearing Ko, a junior from Shanghai American School, won best cinematography and best narrative film with its catchy storyline, outstanding cinematography, and good directorial vision. “It took about a month or so to complete this film as it was really hard to manage the filming schedule around all the class time, homework, and after school activities”, says Hearing Ko. “But when you see the effort and so much work put in finally all come together as a work of art, it makes you feel relieved”.
Another film, Mr. Sensitive, directed by Sam Kane, a senior at SCIS, is a comedy about an overly emotional guy who gets dumped by his girlfriend. After taking one film class, Sam wrote and directed the film with a two men crew along with the camera operator. They used only four hours for filming but spent a majority of time in post-production.
IMG_1087“Editing was a tough task as we had to cut back and forth from various camera angles to keep it interesting while moving the story forward”, says Sam. “And casting was tricky. When you cast non-professionals, you must make sure the characters are close to their real personalities because they can’t stretch that much. But with actors, they are versatile so their characters can be more out there”. 
Freshman Year, written and directed by Lotta Lavanti, a freshman at SCIS, is another good representation of the festival because it is a film about the ups and downs of freshman life. Freshman Year was written originally as a narrative with dialogues but ended up as an innovative and cleverly edited music video. The film was shot in a day and edited in three hours. Lotta was quite satisfied with the finished work but preferred her original script. “It is important to have time to do things and not procrastinate otherwise you’ll lose your whole story”, says Lotta.
“When we created this festival, one of the things we set out to do was to challenge the students to build video literacy skills that would help them tell meaningful stories and communicate their ideas in a powerful medium”, says David Gran, film teacher at SAS and the organizer for last year’s S2F2. “This year the students have raised the bar even higher. Its amazing to watch them challenge themselves and get better at every level”.
As the curtain closed with applause and a standing ovations, Randy Girdner and fellow teachers were already working on organizing an Asia Regional Film Festival, a traveling film festival from cities to cities, and a “48 hour film festival” where the filmmakers are given certain requirements to complete the films in 48 hours.
“It is just so inspirational watching the elementary kids making their films”, says Randy. “Just their raw creativity is amazing”. When asked what his advice would be for these young and upcoming student filmmakers, Randy responded. “Don’t let anyone impede your desire to make something and just continue to create”. As we can see, hard work pays off in the end, so let’s look ahead and expect more great films to come in this soon to be annual tradition in Shanghai.
By Richard Chung
Making Movies Elementary: Film Making and the Curriculum
Gaining an understanding of the ‘craft of filmmaking’ is an important tool for the 21st century learner. A year ago I was so inspired by students’ creativity in ICT class and also by the community spirit of the Shanghai Student Film Festival that I decided to introduce film making as a key component of ICT and encouraged students to work towards entering S2F2 in 2010. 
A year later, my pupil Jonas Vogt won top prize in the Elementary Film Award category for his documentary About Me, and the Year 5 team won the Public Service Announcement category for their film Convenient Conserving, directed by Karis Tai.
YK Pao School integrates ICT across the curriculum as we aim to develop the student profile of a 21st Century learner. My vision for elementary students at Year 6 is that they are equipped with a solid set of skills that are transferable, flexible and able to help them embrace the world in which they live.
My challenge has been to find a way to integrate ICT across a subject-based bilingual elementary curriculum. Technology is always advancing, and machines and networks are still evolving to encompass child-centred learning needs. Gone are the days where ICT class was about learning to word process. ykp-louise-sIn my curriculum ‘film-craft’ has become not just another ‘tool’ but also a way to teach students to have a broader appreciation of their ‘aural landscapes’. We should all embrace this rapidly changing educational area as a vehicle not only for technical skills but also for creativity and innovation.
By Louise Johns, ICT teacher, YK Pao School


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