In May 2015, grade 10 Film Studies students from Earl Haig Secondary School participated in a 3-day workshop led by artist/novelist Martha Baillie and filmmaker Naomi Jaye, with additional mentorship from two artists from SKETCH, and Koffler Gallery staff.

Martha’s work was featured in the Koffler Gallery’s spring exhibition Erratics (April 16 to June 14, 2015), an installation that explored the tensions between memory and fiction.

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Day one: Martha and Naomi started the students off with an informal presentation of their work and creative process, with a focus on how they transfer the written word into film.

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Day two: Martha and Naomi divided the students into small working groups, and gave them 30 minutes to create a 1-minute tone poem — a visual response to one of these phrases: “Concrete Kiss? Ethical flatulence? Insignificant Bulge? Spherical exhaustion?”

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Using their iPads to shoot and edit, each team of 3-4 students had to roll a die to see how many words they would be allowed to use as their “script”. They were to assign one person as ‘actor’ from their group, plus they could use found sounds only.

“The amount of restrictions they gave us was very interesting. They forced me to think outside of the box and create short films I never would have thought before.” – Student

8Working in pairs, students shot their movies with the basic video application on iPads (“no fancy stuff”).

Additional discussions around soundtracking and providing silence for the viewer, offered new perspectives for the students to consider — “less is more”.

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“I learned that framing, and creating shots that show characters in an interesting way, is important” – Student

“I learned how to edit effectively without completely changing my main objective, and diluting clips with songs or shots which are unnecessary” – Student

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“The coolest thing I learned was how to create a tone film. I came up with my idea of juxtaposing the imperfections in nature and their beauty, and our negative look at them in society. This opened my mind and my imagination when it comes to filmmaking.” – Student

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Day three: Students screened their “tone poem” film projects from the previous day, and engaged in critiquing exercises, gaining clarity and confidence through discussion about each other’s work.

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“It was wonderful to get feedback from professionals and artists about my work” – Student

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“It is important to reflect on how a film makes you feel; physically, and emotionally” – Student.

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After students screened and critiqued their films, the class was given a new assignment. Each student received a postcard with a random phrase culled from the newspaper by Martha and Naomi.

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Students were to create a one-shot film that incorporated the image on the postcard, the statement written on the back, using two actors, while strongly focusing on blocking.

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“I learned to accept the different creative challenges positively, and learn the potential rights and wrongs of creating films” – Student

“I learned how to edit effectively without completely changing my main objective and diluting clips with songs or shots which are unnecessary” – Student

“I found this intensive creative filmmaking experience provided a place and space for the students to be exposed to narrative in a real and conceptual way. The creative formats and ideas Martha shared really seemed to challenge students to look at filmmaking in a new way” – Student

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“Naomi’s creative and technical challenge really brought out the best in the students. It forced them to be creative and thoughtful with very limited resources and the results were inspiring and profound. It was a very creative and educational experience for the class and me too.” – Kathy Yamashita, Teacher

“What they produced knocked us over. And this was just one of several exercises. They were wide awake, inventive, open, soaking up everything we threw at them about blocking, composition, the uses of silence, the language of conceptual art, narrative as sculpture. Working with them was a wondrous adventure. Their tiny films keep replaying in my mind…”” – Martha Baillie

[Originally posted on Facebook, May 12, 2015]