Lights, Camera, Action!
Have you ever seen a movie or television program and wondered how they were made? It’s really not that hard, and lots of kids are learning how to make their own movies—with the help of their local library.
Last summer, the Centerville branch of Alameda County Library in California taught moviemaking to kids at a two-day Library Camp program. Participants shot video during the camp, and the library staff showed them how to use Windows Movie Maker to turn the clips into a movie. “The kids added music and transitions and other fancy things,” says librarian Chien Chang. “They loved it!”
Kids also learned how to use websites like YouTube to share their videos and how to protect their privacy online. After Library Camp, some kids went home to make their own videos and post them on YouTube. A few weeks later, the library hosted a program where everyone could show those videos off and watch each other’s creations. Plus, the video part of Library Camp was so popular that the library scheduled some more in-depth moviemaking classes for families.
In New York, the Queens Library’s Woodhaven branch has weekly movie making classes where kids can work together to make their own short films from scratch. They’re working on their third film now, which librarian Ken Gordon says is “kind of a bizarre story involving kung fu and dinosaurs.” Two more movies are finished and have been posted on YouTube: The horror film Haunted Library and a live-action version of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
The classes cover every part of making a movie, from coming up with the story and writing the script, to making props, to acting and filming, to editing all of the pieces together.
The library provided the camera equipment, and some of the kids brought their own costumes. They used items around the library for props, or else they built their own. “Most of our special effects are made out of cardboard,” Gordon says. “It’s like an arts and crafts program mixed with filmmaking.”
Lots of TV shows and movies are animated cartoons, which are made by showing a sequence of drawings, one after another, so they appear to move. But there’s another kind of animation called stop-motion.
In stop-motion animation, a filmmaker uses actual objects rather than drawings. They take a picture of the objects, then move them just a bit, and take another picture. When the pictures are shown one after another, they seem to be moving. Popular films like Chicken Run, James and the Giant Peach, Coraline, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox were all made with stop-motion animation.
The Laramie County Library System in Wyoming has an animation station where kids can make their own stop-motion movies. It includes a computer, a monitor, a camera, and a place to set up the objects that the filmmaker wants to animate. They can work alone or with their friends or parents, and they can save their work and even use the videos in school presentations.
“It’s just fun,” says County Librarian Lucie Osborne. “Even though kids are learning, they are mostly having fun and enjoying something they don’t have access to anywhere else in Cheyenne.”
If you’re interested in making your own movies, start by checking with your librarian to see if there are any classes or programs on movie-making at your library. And even if there aren’t, librarians can help you find books or other good sources information on how to make films.
I Want to Make Movies
by Mary R. Dunn
Learn how directors, writers, animators, cinematographers, and actors all work together to make a movie.
Attack of the Killer Video Book: Tips and Tricks for Young Directors
by Mark Shulman and Hazlitt Korg
Sound advice for would-be moviemakers, with plenty of useful definitions and wise advice on the importance of planning.
by Frances Ridley
A look at Hollywood special effects magic. Photos and text show the men and women at work behind movie monsters and car chases.