COCKATOO ISLAND FILM FESTIVAL www.cockatoofilm.com
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INTRODUCTION AND RATIONALE The Oovie Student Film Project competition calls for ideas a short film of 3 minutes long with “Island” as its theme. Students from schools across Victoria and NSW submit a short pitch with their idea. Four successful projects are chosen and the students are invited to come to Cockatoo Island to film their idea. These students will have film industry mentors including writers, directors, editors, composers and equipment to help them make their film. The final films will screen at a Gala Event as part of the inaugural Cockatoo Island Film Festival, Sydney in October 2012. Program Sponsors
FIRST STAGE SUBMITTING THE PITCH WHAT IS A PITCH? Before a screenwriter or filmmaker can make a film, they need to be able to convince a whole bunch of people that their idea is AMAZING. These people are producers, investors, actors and funding bodies. So always, the first step is to write a pitch that outlines their brilliant idea. The pitch is a brief summary of an idea for a film, and it is intended to intrigue and captivate – you want people to help you make your film! It is usually no longer than a page in length, and is often delivered as a 3-minute speech. A pitch is not a blow-by-blow account of a film’s plot – it should include a couple of key concepts, images and characters that are fundamental to the film, and leave the audience of hardened studio heads or producers wanting to know more…
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What to include? 1. Summary of the plot – what’s the beginning, middle and end? Remember it’s only 3 minutes! 2. How is the theme, Island, incorporated into the story? 3. Where is it set? 4. What time and place? 5. Summary of the characters 6. Does your film have a special meaning or message for audiences that give it a special edge? 7. Include that in the pitch! 8. What is the film’s audience? 9. You can also include an image that you think describes the style or feel of the film. Program Sponsors
Then all you have to do is send off the Entry Form and the Pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org by 29th February 2012.
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TEACHING NOTES FOR EDUCATORS Potential In-Class Activities: • Nominate an Australian film that all the students would know – Crocodile Dundee. Students are to spend five minutes writing a pitch for this film. Going around the class, each student will then stand up and deliver their pitch – in two minutes only. • The class is presented with nine large colour photographs. In groups of 4-5, students come up with a story drawn from these nine images. Each group then has to tell their stories to the class, using these nine photographs in any order that they wish. Program Sponsors
Discussion Points: • Which story worked best? Why? • Which group incorporated the photographs into their pitch in the most entertaining and creative way? • What distinguishes an effective pitch from an ineffective one? Homework: • Write a pitch for a short film and a feature film. The feature should include the same characters as the short but be an expansion of that story, that world. • Write a story (approx. 600 words) and then explain how you would tell this story on film – camera angles, music, locations etc.
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WHAT IS A FILM? Short films operate under many of the same rules as narrative features – the importance of character, structure, composition – but play out in a much shorter amount of time. The key to short-form filmmaking is the ability to capture an audience’s attention, clearly establish the film’s characters and context, convince an audience to fully invest and become involved in this world you have created on celluloid – and do it all in five minutes. Not an easy task!
The films that students will be pitching for the Student Film Project are to be approximately three minutes in length. This doesn’t leave much room for fat – everything in every short film (and therefore every pitch) should be specific and relevant. Anything that helps streamline a story is a good thing – everything that can be discarded should be! One of the most important tools in ensuring a short film is as taut as it can be is a good working understanding of script structure. What is script structure? A good structure is essential for every screenplay and every film. A strong structure provides a film with forward momentum, and makes characters and story clear to an audience. Think of good structure as like scaffolding – if it’s not solidly built, everything standing on top of it will crumble. The classic three-act script structure is handy to know, and is invaluable when writing any kind of film: short or feature length.
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Here is a brief summary of the three-act structure for screenplays: ACT ONE. This sets up the story, orientates the audience to the characters and their world and (hopefully) captures the audience’s interest. The first minutes of any film are vital – often the filmmaker uses images and music, without dialogue, to ease the audience into the film. A dialogue heavy-scene first off might confuse an audience instead of intriguing them! The first act of a film is when the CATALYST occurs and the film’s CENTRAL QUESTION is established.
CATALYST. the big event that gets the film off and running, and which effectively starts the film’s story (ie William Wallace’s wife is murdered) CENTRAL QUESTION. The key question, usually connected to the central character, that will be answered at the film’s climax (e.g. will Harry and Sally end up together? Will the man find his wife’s murderer?) INITIAL IMAGES + ORIENTING THE AUDIENCE + CATALYST + CENTRAL QUESTION
ACT TWO. This is the meat of any film – it is the section in which the film and its characters are explored and expanded (backstory, motivation etc). Though there is no hard and fast rule regarding where each act ends and another begins, a general indicator is the key TURNING POINTS that
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occur in your story. Each turning point in a film raises the stakes and adds a sense of urgency to a story as it hurtles toward its conclusion. Often a film’s SECOND TURNING POINT is accompanied by a LOW POINT shortly followed by RENEWAL. This is especially true of romantic comedies, where the guy loses the girl only moments before triumphantly reclaiming her affections in the film’s…
CLIMAX (ACT THREE). The climax to any film is usually followed by a RESOLUTION that ties up all the loose ends. Sometimes, of course, a film’s RESOLUTION works in a very different way, opening up as many new questions as it answers (Memento) or forcing us to completely re-evaluate everything we have just seen (The Sixth Sense). Conventionally, however, a film’s CLIMAX and RESOLUTION is where the central question is answered and the tension finally eases, thereby allowing the audience to experience relief or CATHARSIS. Potential In-Class Activities: • Many students have never seen, let alone made, a short film.Dungog Film Festival’s trailer (used to promote the 2007, 2008 and 2009 festivals) could be shown to the class as an example of a short film (three minutes long). • In groups of 4-5, students have to come up with an idea for a short film that incorporates the theme ‘Island’. Each group then has to present their idea to the class in no more than five minutes. Students should remember to talk about the images they want to present to an audience, not just the dialogue or plot. Film is a visual medium! • Turn your idea from an idea into a Storyboard or Visual Sequence, break it down into 5-7 storyboards.
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The sequence of images should convey a situation that develops a story and concludes in an unexpected but plausible way. The meaning should be self-evident and in no need of written explanation so rely on the visuals to show the story. Discussion Points: • What were the trailer’s strengths? Weaknesses? • What worked and what didn’t in the students’ pitches? • Was the theme ‘Island” used in an original manner? Was it a central part of the film or an afterthought, tacked on? • Which pitch held the audience’s attention most successfully? Why? Homework: • Each student should now have the tools to go off and write their pitch. GOOD LUCK! Program Sponsors
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VALUE OF THESE EXERCISES FOR STUDENTS Outcomes: (Drama) • manipulates the elements of drama to create belief, clarity and tension in character, role, situation and action • contributes, selects, develops and structures ideas in improvisation and playbuilding • devises, interprets and enacts drama using scripted and unscripted material or text • explores, structures and refines ideas using dramatic forms, performance styles, dramatic techniques, theatrical conventions and technologies • applies acting and performance techniques expressively and collaboratively to communicate dramatic meaning Program Sponsors
• selects and uses performance spaces, theatre conventions and production elements appropriate to purpose and audience • responds to, reflects on and evaluates elements of drama, dramatic forms, performance styles, dramatic techniques and theatrical conventions • analyses and evaluates the contribution of individuals and groups to processes and performances in drama using relevant drama concepts and terminology Outcomes: (Media Arts) • develops range and autonomy in selecting and applying photographic and digital conventions and procedures to make photographic and digital works • makes photographic and digital works informed by their understanding of the function of and relationships between artist-artwork-world-audience • makes photographic and digital works informed by an understanding of how the frames affect meaning
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• investigates the world as a source of ideas, concepts and subject matter for photographic and digital works • makes informed choices to develop and extend concepts and different meanings in their photographic and digital works • selects appropriate procedures and techniques to make and refine photographic and digital works Outcomes: (English) • responds and composes texts for understanding, interpretation, critical analysis and pleasure • uses and describes language forms and features, and structures of texts appropriate to different purposes, audiences and contexts • makes informed language choices to shape meaning with accuracy, clarity and coherence • uses, reflects on and assesses individual and collaborative skills for learning Program Sponsors
• experiments with different ways of imaginatively and interpretively transforming experience, information and ideas into texts • demonstrates understanding of the ways texts reflect personal and public worlds • uses, reflects on, assesses and adapts their individual and collaborative skills for learning with increasing independence and effectiveness
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