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Filmmaking Lessons: Teaching Advice & Film School Lesson Plans

filmmaking lessons

Whether you teach filmmaking in college or in a summer camp, you should read our filmmaking lessons & teaching advice to help you plan your curriculum.

No matter what the economic climate, the movie business is rolling in profits.  It seems that one splurging expense that Americans simply cannot cut out of their lives is a rewarding trip to the local movie theater.

Young students are taking note of the seeming impermeability of the filmmaking industry. 

More and more recent high school graduates are determined to make their mark on society by joining the throes of people who are directing, writing and producing films and television shows. 

If you are a filmmaking instructor or workshop teacher, you’ll need to prepare some quality filmmaking lessons to slake the insatiable thirst of this new generation.

Teaching Quality Filmmaking Lessons

Lessons in filmmaking are fun to teach and even more fun to experience. 

Teaching a film class does not require you to be a famous director.  Movies are designed for the masses. 

Unlike highbrow art such as gallery paintings and sculpture or classically composed music, movies can often be taken at face value. 

Movies and television are some of the only art forms created for sheer mindless entertainment

(although there are countless movies made that require in-depth, analytical thought). 

As such, breaking down a movie into its various elements for instructional purposes is not difficult if you know where to begin and where to go.

Sample Filmmaking Lesson Plans

The first rule of thumb when planning to teach a filmmaking workshop or short-term filmmaking class is to avoid lecturing your students. 

Hopeful filmmakers are a creative bunch of individuals and are best stimulated by engaging and creative forms of teaching. 

Here are some ideas to get you started in planning your filmmaking curriculum:

  • Have your students brainstorm a list of the best and worst movies.  Have students present the top three best and top three worst movies to the class and explain to the class what criteria was used to create the list.  Encourage debate and discussion amongst students.  Press the students to discuss more than just the acting or the story.  What good elements are there in a bad movie?  What bad elements are there in a good movie?

  • Consult a published list of the best or worst movies ever made.  Show clips of these movies or one or two full movies to the class and have them take notes.  Discuss which elements worked or failed for the movies in question.

  • Have students choose an independent film company to research and explore.  After thoroughly researching the independent film company, the student should present his or her findings to the class and detail what is special or unique about that filmmaker.

  • Assign a different film genre to groups of students.  Have the students research the most famous or renowned films from each of those genres.  What elements of these movies make them fit into that genre?  Are there any innovations in cinematography, story, costuming, set design, lighting or soundtrack that are specific to this genre?  Some suggested genres would be horror, thriller, documentary, historical fiction, romance, romantic comedy, screwball comedy, etc.

  • Have the students view a famous documentary and discuss the differences between movie journalism and movies that entertain. What elements are necessary for a great documentary? What elements should be excluded when making a film that will act as a documentary?  Have students brainstorm a way to make a successful mainstream documentary film.

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