Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Filmmaking from the First Directors

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Do you have a student who is constantly enlisting and directing friends for the next video creation to upload to his or her YouTube channel? With inexpensive cameras and the easy and accessible video features of iPhones, it seems like many are dabbling in filmmaking.  However, are your kids interested in taking it a step beyond filming the family dog’s latest trick or the antics of the pet cat?

One of my kids has been dabbling in creating short videos, but also has a clear interest in film production and broadcasting in general. However, there simply isn’t much available to homeschoolers for study in this area.  Therefore, I was thrilled when Filmmaking from the First Directors became available earlier this year.


Filmmaking from the First Directors, taught by Thomas Purifoy, Jr., is available through Compass Classroom and teaches the basics of filmmaking and early film history.  The course is intended for ages 13 and up and can be used as an art high school credit. Mr. Purifoy, who wrote and directed Compass Classroom’s Modern Parables, Economics for Everybody, and Seek Social Justice is upfront that he’s not an instructor nor an expert, but simply someone who has been self-taught through experience.

The 15 lessons are delivered through an online portal.  What this means is all of the materials for the course, which consist of recorded lectures, PDF files, film examples, and a communication area, are available through an online account.  When students log into their account, they can see how far they’ve progressed in the course and also go back and review lessons.  The course is self-paced, though typically will take one or two semesters depending on the student.  Students can start the course at any time and are able to interact with other students also taking the course through comments on uploaded assignments.  The instructor will also occasionally comment and give feedback on assignments, especially the final project for the course.

Each lesson has a similar structure and includes four parts.  The first part is the Big Picture and covers concepts, history, film grammar, and key elements.  This portion is presented through a lecture.  Next, several film examples representing the main concepts are available for viewing, along with instructor commentary on various portions of the examples. The Production section covers the nuts and bolts and the Assignment section give the details and goals for that lesson’s assignment.  If students have a question or comment while watching the material, there is a message field under the viewing area to leave a note. Each lesson has some sort of hands-on flimmaking assignment, usually a film a couple of minutes long in the style of the film examples from that lesson.  The final project is an 8-10 minute short film.

There are no quizzes, exams, or grades in this course.  The main point is to learn through taking in the information and doing the assignments for each lesson.  This sets the tone for the students to take ownership of their own learning. Each lesson area is broken down into a “step”, which is assigned a point value upon completion if parent's are needing to show percent completed as part of issuing a parent grade for a student's transcript.

A list of lessons detailing the content is available.  I really like that the instructor de-emphasizes sound and has the students focus on action and image.  Many of the example films have the sound removed entirely so students aren't distracted by the emotions of sound and music and can instead focus just on images. A sample lesson is available for viewing.

The required equipment isn't too extensive and you may already own some or all it.  Use of an iPhone isn’t recommended, but there is also no need to purchase expensive equipment. The software needed for film editing comes with most computers. It should be noted that the course does not teach students how to use the equipment or software, so if they don’t already know how to do so, this should be added on to the time needed for the course. Students are given instructions to set up a Vimeo account to upload assignments and share with others.

One thing the instructor emphasizes is that this course will take a lot of time in general.  The lessons don’t take a long time to go through, perhaps an hour for each, but filmmaking, even short films, can be very time consuming.  Students will need to plan their film, prepare the location, and film the shots.  A film of just a few minutes may require ten times that amount of footage going into the editing process. If your student doesn’t have sufficient time to steadily work on the assignments, this course may not be the best option.  Filmmaking is satisfying, creative, and challenging, but definitely isn’t a rushed process.

Overall, I really, really like Filmmaking from the First Directors.  Even though I was reviewing the material for future use for my student rather than any personal interest, I found the material to be engaging and interesting. It made me want to get my camera out and start creating! Not only is the content of the course unique, but the structure is as well.  I like that there isn’t a focus on quizzes and tests but rather practical application through a hands-on approach.  And while there aren’t grades given and this is a self-paced course, there is still interaction between students and instructors not normally available with courses under a similar format. I think my future director is really going to enjoy this course and will learn much from it.

Filmmaking from the First Directors is a bargain at $99.  Be sure to also check out the other courses offered by Compass Classroom.

I was provided a copy of the above product in order to provide a fair and honest review.  No other compensation.  This review contains affiliate links.

I am very excited to announce that one lucky reader will be winning Filmmaking from the First Directors!  See below on how to enter.

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