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Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

View from the Director’s Chair Part II: Narrative Filmmaking by Lynette Pitrak

Since its inception in the fall of 2014, Downers Grove Public Library’s teens have been busy creating in our Media Lab! Teens have created documentary films in our Viewfrom the Director’s Chair workshop, photography in our Viewfrom Behind the Lens workshop, and music demo recordings in View from the Sound Booth. The creativity, passion, and talent of the participants has been so inspiring each time! In response to requests from teen patrons, IT staff member and filmmaker Ed Bromiel and I created a new filmmaking workshop, focused on narrative films. This workshop began in June and has continued for ten weeks this summer.

View from the Director's Chair Part II, Myself and Instructor in Media Lab-1

Throughout these ten weeks, Ed and I have taken the teen filmmakers through the steps involved in creating a narrative, fictional film from start to finish. We began with camera basics such as aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings and artistic concepts such as rule of thirds, horizon line, and contrasting colors. We then moved into lighting and sound; Ed had each student practice setting up three-point lighting and camera microphones while I sat as a practice model and interview test-subject. That was a fun exercise, because I was able to answer questions about my favorite Harry Potter character and go-to meal to cook while the students set up lighting equipment around me!

One of the most fun and inspiring classes was our scriptwriting session. Ed and I created three short exercises which would allow the students to practice scriptwriting:  writing dialogue; writing a one-paragraph scene from either a horror, romance, or comedy movie (complete with lighting, sound, and stage directions); and writing character descriptions as if for a casting call. The teens were so inventive and their writing absolutely came to life on their pages. Once this session was finished, it was time for students to get into groups to begin writing their own final scripts. The class divided into four groups of three to write and then storyboard their own original film scripts. The result has been the following amazing scripts: an action-comedy, a horror-comedy, a science fiction thriller, and a psychological mystery. These scripts are unique, imaginative, and polished—more amazing examples of the talent middle school and high schoolers have for creating works of art!

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The groups had the last three weeks of classes to shoot and edit their films; all put in a tremendous amount of work both in and out of classes. At our final class, we screened their rough cuts, discussed as a group, and gave the teens one more week to make any final edits. Then, four films were screened on our library program room’s big screen. We had food, drinks, and a fun photobooth complete with props such as feather boas and fake moustaches. Best of all,  the audience was given a chance to ask the filmmakers questions at the end of the screening.

The students have shot all of their films on Canon EOS Rebel DSLRs and are using iMovie, Final Cut Pro, and Adobe Premier to edit their films. For a full list of our library’s Media Lab equipment, please see our website. To view all teen Media Lab projects, visit our YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/DGPLnews. For any libraries interested in creating a workshop like View from the Director’s Chair, please feel free to contact me at lpitrak@dglibrary.org at any time. Thank you for this opportunity to share!

Lynette Pitrak is the Teen Services Coordinator at the Downers Grove Public Library. Reach her at lpitrak (at) dglibrary.org

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