The Magic of Moving Image

I’m still buzzing after spending the weekend in the company of some very creative, interesting and really decent folk at Scottish Screen’s headquarters in West George Street, Glasgow. The occasion was a two-day training session for new lead practitioners, expertly hosted by Scott and Adam, as the organisation continues to build a nationwide team of facilitators who are able to support schools, teachers, trainers, or anyone with an interest in developing Moving Image Education. The case for MIE is easily made, as it is the medium with which all young people are most familiar, even before they enter nursery school, and which continues to engage us throughout our lives -when did you last hear anyone say they don’t ever watch film or indeed like it? – and the publication this week of the new Literacy and English framework in the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence redefines “text” in a way which recognises that the primary texts in most people’s lives are visual rather than printed text;-

“Pupils bring to school a wide range of ways in which they make sense of the world and interact with others. They are surrounded by a text-rich environment where many of the texts they encounter will be multimodal. Multimodal texts are texts that combine print, sound, graphics, moving images and gesture.  Picture books, websites, graphic novels, posters, books, video games, and film can all be classified as texts that require interaction from the reader for the message to be communicated.”

All the more reason that we need to teach young people to watch critically, which can be achieved by supporting them to make their own films and by using film in the classroom to help them develop a basic film literacy, where they have some understanding of how a film is constructed and the choices the filmaker has made.The role of the lead practitioner is to support the teacher or trainer as they introduce the language of film and build the critical capacity of the young people while engaged in making their own film, or as they develop their literacy skills by engaging on a deeper level with moving image texts.This is a key point for me, that MIE is not only about learning about film, but it is an effective means of developing the “traditional” literacy skills of listening, talking, reading and writing, particularly with young people who might otherwise never engage with printed texts. In future posts I would like to explore in more detail some of the best techniques for developing film literacy but for now here are a few tips to keep in mind if you decide to take the plunge with your students:-


Making Your Own Film

Making your own film has become an option for almost everyone nowadays, since most mobile phones have a video button, and it is perfectly possible to make a decent film using only still photographs and Moviemaker or iMovie. There are many examples of films on YouTube which are made on the most basic equipment but which attract thousands or even hundreds of thousands of hits. If you have a restricted budget. Flip cameras are a good option, producing fairly good quality images for under £100. These are easy to use as they plug in directly to your PC via a USB connection.

When setting out with young people to make a film it is worth remembering the following hints, as suggested by screenwriter, producer and Scotland on Screen Project Manager David Griffith;




  • Go with what they want to make, even if it does not work out in the end
  • Don’t impose your ideas, however wonderful they might be
  • Keep it simple and do it well. The simplest ideas often make the best films
  • Always write up (eg on a flipchart) what is discussed. Then you can refer back when necessary
  • Develop a list of key points in the narrative in chronological order. These can later be teased out further
  • Ask them to think of other stories they have seen
  • Remind them that there needs to be an “opposition” or conflict (what gets in the way?)
  • If film has characters, how can you engage the audience? What is there to like about them?
  • Develop basic storyboard/shooting script and take it with you when you shoot
  • You don’t need to be able to draw to produce a storyboard


  • Begin filming scenes even before you have decided the ending
  • Don’t move the camera unless there’s a good reason. Put it on a tripod if possible
  • Don’t use zoom unless there’s a good reason
  • Don’t pan (move camera horizontally) unless you want to reveal something
  • If you use dialogue, don’t learn lines but say, “I want you to say something like………”


  • Edit scenes as you go and repeat process
  • Finally, remember that every film has a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order!

An excellent screenwriting guide and other useful information can be found on the First Light website. Further resources can be found at, and



Before long your students could be making films like this one, which was produced by the young people of Islay, supported by the Strangeboat Film Company, and was nominated for a “Best Documentary” in the First Light Movies awards 2008.


 And its Goodbye to Care from First Light Movies on Vimeo.


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