Last week, I watched my son's group Filmmaking summer camp final project, along with another twelve or so groups. These kids (ages about 7-13) were charged with writing and acting a script (or stop-motion filming figurines), editing, doing voice-overs and other 'tricks', like slo-mo), creating websites, credits, movie posters, etc., in anticipation of this red carpet event.
You know what struck me? The repetition of what these kids are seeing in mainstream movies. And do you know what they're seeing in mainstream movies? Fight sequences and action heroes. Or school-based popularity dramas. So all of their storytelling models - when asked to create their own - default to these depictions. And it doesn't make for very deep, entertaining, thought-provoking or - frankly - intelligent - stories.
Yes, yes, I get that they're kids. But that's actually my point: if what they're exposed to is primarily this type of filmic storytelling, then where is the opportunity for growth? Like my previous posts about how our brains react and connect with speaking and storytelling, and how storytelling is immersive in nature, my observations about these film projects also reflect this pattern. It's kind of like nutrition. Who doesn't like chocolate or chips or candy or ice cream or soda? BUT NOT FOR EVERY MEAL.
Film is a (potentially) VERY powerful medium for storytelling. I'm no purist here - interesting stories, well told, are welcome at my table any day of the week. The problem arises when what is served at the table is junk food, posing as a home-cooked meal. What these kids showed me (and what I guess I knew, anyways) is that kids are being fed junk food, so when they're asked to do the cooking, they make junk food, too.
There was one film, however, that really exploded paradigms, and it was by far the most enjoyable. Much like Monty Python did for sketch in the late 60s/early 70s, this group took what the norm was, spun it, flipped it, and then made fun of it. And it was brilliant.
My hope is that, having seen what can be done in peer-group filmic storytelling, these budding auteurs will re-imagine the possible in the future. But it also begs the question (and the responsibility) we have (as the would-be grown-ups) for exposing kids to diverse forms of storytelling on film - not everything is Marvel or Disney. Or, at least, it shouldn't be. Just like with printed stories, we should care about the images, themes, messages, and the like, that we expose our kids to.
I am far, far from telling anyone that film should be banned - I admire its storytelling capacity, and I encourage us to engage in storytelling in all its myriad forms. I would no more reject film than I would food, in a general sense. And I understand that film (and other story-forms) are potentially (and happily, in many cases) escapist. But are our kids escaping to the same place every time? Just a thought.
Hello! My name is Donna, and Raconteur is my Studio. Words are my passion - especially beautiful, powerful words, beautifully and powerfully shared. I never planned to be a Spoken Arts instructor, but I was lucky enough to have fallen into the work 23+ years ago - and I have never really looked back.