Aiken County teachers give filmmaking a ‘shot’ at workshop

July 28, 2017 GMT

Some Aiken County teachers will be bringing a little Hollywood magic to their classrooms this fall.

For two days, more than 30 teachers participated in the Aiken Film Alliance’s first Filmmaking in the Classroom workshop at USC Aiken.

Cinematographer Austin Smoak, an Aiken native who now lives and works in the film industry in Los Angeles, and Amber Kaul, a film director working in Atlanta, led the workshop instructing the teachers on all aspects of filmmaking from screenwriting to framing effective shots to using cameras.

“As we all know, kids are making videos, and increasingly, film is being used as a medium of teaching, as well,” said Diane Mangiante, a volunteer with the Aiken Film Alliance’s Education Committee. “We want to give teachers of all age levels and all disciplines the opportunity to learn about filmmaking so that they are the expert in the classroom.”

Zeke Miller, who teaches English and advanced composition at Aiken High, said his students have analyzed films but never made their own in his classes. Now, Miller said he plans to apply what he learned in the workshop to have his students create a film during the upcoming school year.

“I learned a lot about the technical aspects of filmmaking,” Miller said. “It’s all new information for me. It’s going to be a learning process for me and my students.”

Miller said English literature and filmmaking naturally complement each other.

“Film is basically visually storytelling, and the kids are all about visual storytelling these days,” he said. “You might as well use a medium they’re familiar with because they know so much about it. I think the kids are going to be super excited about doing it.”

Francesca Mackie, who teaches media technology at Midland Valley High, said the workshop helped “refresh my memory.”

“I have a background in television news, but there are things I didn’t remember from college and things I had never learned about,” she said. “Now, I can take everything I’ve learned back to my classroom.”

A visual arts teacher at North Augusta High, Rachel Polvadore helped guide teachers through the film workshop and offered a teacher’s perspective on using film in the classroom.

“I facilitated helping to make the connection between this big film industry to our lives as teachers and making those connections to the classroom and making it more meaningful for our students,” she said.

Making those connections and learning how to incorporate film into their classrooms excited the teachers who participated in the workshop, Polvadore said.

“Teachers love to be excited. Teachers are eternal learners,” she said. “Every time we learn something new like this, we get so excited. We want to run back to the classroom and teach our students and inspire them.”