Making movies and media literacy

I love movies. Whether I’m in a dark movie theatre, crammed in my car at the drive in, or sitting on my couch in my pjs, I love them. I think they teach empathy and love and freaking life skills, guys. Like how many of us know not to run up the stairs if a killer knocks on your door thanks to horror films? Main floor and out the door ya’ll.

But screen time and all that crap. I really do believe kids need to be up and moving and playing and pretending and outside as much as possible. But I also do believe everything in moderation. And I really try not to vilify stuff because that only makes it cooler. Plus, I really love stories in all capacities, and movies are such a great way to tell stories.

So a few weeks ago when K asked if Dogman was a movie, I told him it wasn’t but that he could make it one. We have played around in iMovie before, but I don’t know if it would have occurred to him that he can create his own movie. I think it’s important for kids to see the people behind the scenes: the authors, the scientists, the musicians, the actors… just today we were talking about how radios work and how there’s a DJ in a room playing the music we were listening to. He’s been writing stories for over a year now, we make art, we build legos, so making movies just seems like a great addition to our creative endeavours.

The first thing we had to talk about was logistics. Dogman has some pretty far fetched cartoon humour. So I suggested we try to do some animation as he enjoys the drawing tutorials in the back of the book. He decided that was way too much work. Thank goodness because there would have been so many tantrums I don’t think I would have survived. The other two options were claymation – but that required making clay or play dough and I really, really didn’t feel up to that; and good ol’ live action. He wanted to bust out my sewing machine for costumes but I mean, I’m a good mom, not a crazy one, and told him we could make do with much less work. Of course, doing live action meant we had to talk about our limitations of what we could actually pull off.

So we made him a costume and created our set. And then he learned patience like only a film set can teach. He is not one to do things more than once, so I think it was good for him to learn that mistakes happen, and practice never killed anyone. Even if you thought it was perfect, there’s always the possibility that the next take will be better.

We then sat and played with editing. We added voice overs, music, and sound effects. We added credits because you always have to give credit where credit is due. And he learned that all of this takes a long freaking time, even if your movie is only a minute and a half long. Luckily, iMovie is pretty straight forward. He was able to help a lot, and we were able to sit on the couch with the iPad for the afternoon while we edited.

I think in this day and age especially, media literacy is so important. Movies, books, music, art, the internet… everything is a construct that someone created. It’s been manipulated. It’s one person’s take on something. It’s our job to understand that not everything we read or see or hear is true or representative of reality. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for fairy tales and make believe, but I think it’s good for kids to be able to sort fact from fiction in some ways. Unless they’re questioning the authenticity of characters in Disney World in which case STFU that is Mickey Mouse.

I think this is the type of learning that is really starting to catch on. It’s interdisciplinary and fun. He read a book, enjoyed it, and wanted to create something from it. We had to do some problem solving to figure out how we could get our version of the story, or a piece of the story, out with what we had on hand. And now he has a better understanding of what he sees on the TV and internet. That my friends, is priceless.

I am so in love with homeschooling because we have the freedom to do these sorts of projects. There are so many ways to learn, and so many things to learn, and we’re lucky because we can pick and choose which ways and things work best for us. Some days that’s sitting down with a math book. Some days it’s a nature walk or a visit to a museum. Other days it’s just fooling around. And then sometimes we take on projects like this.

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