American Film Institute- A first person account

Welcome to guest blogger, Herman Bautista, a DEN member from Santa Ana, California. Herman writes us his account of a recent DEN event:

I was lucky enough to win a spot in one of AFI’s Screen Education classes. As a sort of “thank you” for allowing me to attend, I’ve agreed to provide a guest blog regarding my experiences with the program. It’s my hope that you’ll be inspired by my ramblings or at the very least, be more willing to be creative with the inner-director in you.

AFI Screen Ed. is a program geared toward 9th through 12th graders and K-12 teachers. It’s intent is to demystify the video production process. In essence, it crams the very basics of film school into one or two days.

I was confident that my skills as a cameraman/director were good if not better than average. Since falling in love with iMovie a few years ago, I have dabbled in making videos for family and school purposes. In June of this year, I won an award in the teacher created video category of the 41st annual Student Media Festival for a video entitled “The Star View Experience” . As an “award winning director,” what more could I learn?

In a couple of words, a lot…

Our AFI Screen Ed. instructor, Frank Guttler, is a master of his craft and took great pains to teach us the technical aspects of camera work and editing. He put us through the same lessons that I will be teaching my students in an afternoon GATE enrichment class. This includes a lesson where students take a camera and, with very little instruction, shoot a film sequence about a person opening a door while hearing a frightful noise. This of course is followed by a critique of the sequence and a discussion of what could be done better.

I was taken aback from how much I did not know about making movies. My sequence seemed to have a lot of comments from Frank about how things SHOULDN’T be done. I heard for the first time terms such as “garden hosing” and “lack of use of a dolly shot.” (Not good things in film speak.) In retrospect, the fact that so many of my fellow classmates looked like REAL film students with $2000 video cameras should have given me a clue that I wasn’t in a classroom full of novices. So much for an award winning director.

The most important thing I learned was something that was conveyed in class but never directly said: a videographer uses the camera to make videos; a film maker uses the camera TO TELL A STORY.

That being said, I took in all I could from the remaining four lessons of the class and will implement them and others with my GATE students.

It is my hope that I will report many good things to you in the future.



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One Comment;

  1. Joe Brennan said:

    Well said! And you hit the nail right on the head by saying “a film maker uses the camera TO TELL A STORY.” That is the whole point of the 88 page manual and 2+ hours of the “Lights, Camera, Education!” videos available from Discovery Education streaming. It’s all about good writing applied to visual grammar that leads to good storytelling through video. Readers, you don’t have to spend a day with Frank (or me) to get the benefit of the American Film Institute’s Screen Ed program. Log into your streaming account, search on “afi” and let Sean Astin lead you and your students through the process. Herman, keep us posted on how your GATE students do.

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