Sunday, November 16, 2008

Activating the Screen Ed Process: The Door Scene

I'm starting the new Lights, Camera, Learn! blog by re-posting the blog entries I made for the official AFI Screen Education blog.

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Question: When do we usually see video cameras? Weddings, births, birthday parties, school and sporting events come to mind. Now ask yourself how often you actually sit down and watch those videos. How often can you get someone else to watch? Are these videos interesting? Do all those long continuous shots, wild moves and dizzying zooms make for compelling viewing? This ‘default mode’ for shooting video create the visual equivalent of a run-on sentence. This is because most people use their home video cameras to document an event rather than tell a story.

The irony of this situation is that most people living in western culture during the last 50 years have learned to decode and understand a nearly continuous and increasingly sophisticated stream of visual information. Visual language, with its unique vocabulary and grammar, is effortlessly comprehended by even the youngest members of our society. So, with all the prior knowledge and experience gained from years of watching TV and movies, why do most home movies look like home movies?

It’s a matter of literacy.

Although we quickly learn to read the visual language around us, “writing” visually (by accessing screen vocabulary and grammar to communicate rather than to just comprehend) is a skill typically reserved for highly trained media professionals and enthusiasts. The AFI Screen Education process begins by bridging that visual literacy gap in a transformational way. By accessing prior knowledge, and engaging as a group to construct and define criteria for what makes good visual storytelling, Screen Education teachers and students bridge that visual literacy gap—a first step in engaging with filmmaking as part of mainstream curriculum.

It begins with The Door Scene.

Resources and instructions for using The Door Scene and all of the LIGHTS, CAMERA, EDUCATION! series can be found at, the Screen Ed website and by searching “AFI” on Discovery Education streaming .

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