Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Moving Like Clockwork

With my regular "Walter White Wednesday" feature winding down as the Next Big Project (Mark this space! Coming mid-September!) gets running, I decided to shift gears for this post and discuss my ongoing film class, which involves both challenges and triumphs.

This class - a basic Introduction to Film course - came about suddenly. Very suddenly. So many monkey wrenches were thrown into the mix that it started to resemble an elimination challenge from Top Chef, only with film instead of quinoa. Take the class off-campus to a local high school as part of a Broadcast Technology track. Compress the class into six weeks. Ditch any kind of textbook. Have wonky Internet connections. Not sure how many students there will be, but we'll keep it under thirty. And the kids will probably be set up to use the college's educational platform by the end of Week 2, which is one-third of the way through the class.


How in the name of D.W. Griffith was I going to pull this one off? I mean, this was crazy. Nuts. Insane. Bonkers.

Fortunately, cooler heads than mine prevailed. Breathe, and pull focus. Take another look, sharpen the view, and see what's there. So after some re-vamping of an existing syllabus (that felt a lot like slashing-and-burning), I had a Plan and part of the Plan was to build in some flexibility. High schools run differently than colleges and sometimes they forget to tell me stuff, so my class will be cut short some days, or I'll have extra time that I didn't know about, so I don't get to the school on time.

Flexibility and a sense of humor will get you far in this life, Grasshopper. I just wish I could remember that more.

At any rate, they've (turned out to be a tiny group of bright, eager students, so much yay! there) learned some basic terms by now and have seen their first film. For that, I selected Fritz Lang's Metropolis because I don't have time to fool around. I gave them a little background and let the film do the rest. Perhaps they're being polite (I doubt it), but they really seemed to enjoy the challenges of watching a full-length silent picture. Yes, they had a few issues with the exaggerated acting style and some of the jumpy scene cuts (I use a restored version, but it's still not completely complete, so there are a few jarring edits). And - far more importantly to me - they picked up on the themes with minimal prodding from me.

We'll see where this goes. Tomorrow, they start Proyas' Dark City, which I think will be an excellent counterpoint to Lang's elegant Expressionism. Ah, neo-noir, with your hard-boiled detectives, throaty torch singers, cars that go on forever, and languid cigarette smoke. You're a tough style to sell, but when you're beautiful, you're show-stopping.

And, in both, so many clocks! What could they mean?

Hmm.  I'll have to wait for my students to tell me.

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