Montessori Charter School students launch film fest
Laura Lash, photos by Lee Butterworth |
The first ever Chippewa Valley Montessori Film Festival features an already stunning roster of ideas and characters at play: Big cats, roaring engines, princesses, temples, birds, friends, Target, magic, love, banana slugs, and ideas so completely out-of-this-world they could only come from the über-creative minds of kids.
On Monday, June 8, the inaugural Fest screened more than 30 short films created by current E1 and E2 children (first through fifth graders) and alumni of the charter school.
Curated by teachers Jeremy Harrison and Jen Wiltgen, the festival showcases live action, stop-motion, illustrated, and green screen films.
When new iPads worked their way into the classrooms last year, students were ready to put them to a variety of uses. Then this spring, teachers were inspired by the initiative and creativity of students Eva Paulus and Julia LeBarron, who, in their extra time, had together created a stop-motion short film entitled Unicandycorn.
With such a brilliant example to build on, Harrison and Wiltgen were eager to get a film festival program launched to encourage students to dive in. According to Harrison, “All current students, along with alumni, were given the opportunity to write an original fiction short story and produce it into a film.”
Harrison kicked-off the process by screening fine examples of short films.
“I shared a few stories from last year’s writing activity and a small snippet of the original Unicandycorn story to the school as examples of what films could look like,” he says. “Most teachers spent additional time sharing a variety of clips/short films on YouTube. I shared a few written by other kids and some professional Pixar ones to help them identify plot, characters, setting, etc.”
Using iMovie on their iPads, students spent a month and a half producing their individual films during their “choice work” time in the classroom, as well as before and after school. Prior, each team had its story points and strengths dutifully approved by a teacher.
The finished products were submitted to their teachers through file hosting service Dropbox. Films had a maximum length of five minutes, including titles and credits.
Wiltgen said the event was designed to allow kids “to exhibit their creative writing, art, and technology skills.”
Ten solo filmmakers participated, as well as teams of two to five students; and participation was pretty evenly divided across gender. Approximately 76 students were involved.
Judges gathered at the Volume One Gallery a few days before the festival to view the entries, enjoy the high entertainment of independent film, and cast their votes for the top three awards. The jury consisted of “community members from the media, education, art, culture and technology fields,” Wiltgen says.
The festival was made possible by the support of the school’s teachers, school board members, UW-Eau Claire faculty, and creative members of the Eau Claire community. With generous sponsorship from Liz Lasker Falkner, each filmmaker received a film festival T-shirt. The donation also provides for a Best Film plaque to be created and hung in the school library, to be updated with each annual winner as the fest carries on.
The Three Banana Slugs by Maggie and Calder (both sixth grade)
E2 Winner (grades 4-5)
Pets Speak Out by Maya, Miles, Cameron, Lilly, and Eric (fourth and fifth graders)
E1 Winners (grades 1-3) – A tie!
Revenge of the Spork by Flint (third grade)
and Left Behind by Robert and William (both third grade)