Evaluating Short Films – Introducing Cinema to the Classroom

Finding myself with two additional lessons at the end of the term, I went on a short film binge and discovered some amazing directors in hopes of crafting an introduction to this medium.

It got me thinking about how to share these wonderful films with my students. I knew that I didn’t just want to show them these videos with a mediocre discussion. I wanted some parameters – a lens for them to look at the film. With this in mind, I started to think about ways for them to evaluate the films based on their overall construction and execution.

Below, I have outlined a lesson which I taught using film franchises as a stepping stone to evaluating short films

I started with getting students to consider the similarities in aesthetics between Marvel film posters. While each film generally has a different director, they always seem to abide by an overall aesthetic or formula.

We started by talking about these commonalities:

Thereafter, we began to review the importance of filmic conventions. Students, at this stage, and already study filmic conventions during the term. A light recap was enough.

I then presented them with the scenario below. We are not just watching a range of short films – we are looking for the next director of Doctor Strange. Why? Because short films are a stepping stone to a director’s capacity in feature length films.

Students are introduced to this criteria that I found at https://causefilmfestival.org/judging-criteria. I found this criteria to cover a wide range of narrative and filmic conventions that would offer insight to students evaluation of the film. Below, I labeled each of the main parts of the table.

For each film, students would have to provide a score out of 5. They had to justify their score and use terminology from the table when explaining their response.

From here, we began watching each film and evaluating after each viewing. Students made brief notes in each box and used this information to create a score out of 5, which was then tallied on the whiteboard for classroom evaluation and discussion. What patterns emerged? Why were some films scored higher than others? What does the class look for in a short film? Would scores be different with other demographics? Offering these score encourages fruitful conversation about an aspect of the table/rubric.

Below, I have included the films that we looked at, however there are many more if you are willing to dig for them.

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