Media Literacy: Activity 4

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Movie content is affected by its writers, directors, producers, and distributors, among others. Writers are often advised to “write what they know,” and may easily overlook stories of people from dissimilar cultural or ethnic backgrounds. If producers do not think that a given movie idea is commercial (a decision often based on the way similar films have performed in the past), they may be less willing to work on it, and distributors may be less interested in distributing it.

Although certain filmmakers and members of the media make efforts to search out stories and characters from outside their experience, some viewers may approach these stories and characters with suspicion. They may feel that a movie portraying teenage Latina girls, for example, is less truthful or less real when it is created by older white men than when the filmmakers are closer in age and experience to their subject matter.

Have your students consider the values and tastes of their age and ethnic group. Ask them to identify movies or television programs that embody these values. Ask them to name movies that try to persuade the viewer to think in a certain way. Then havethem list movies that were made mainly to entertain. Ask your students to suggest a story they have not seen in the movies or characters they feel have been ignored. Have them identify any stereotypes they might use in their story. Ask them which genre would best suit their ideas and why.

Divide the students into pairs or small groups and ask each to research and develop one of their story concepts and write an outline or a treatment for a movie. Ask them to discuss their story’s message and to identify their movie’s intended audience.

Using their own drawings or copies of images from books, magazines, or the Web, ask them to put together a storyboard illustrating their story. Have them consider the ways that color, line, shape, and composition convey the mood and emotions of their story. What other techniques can they use to reinforce the story’s message?

Have each group present its storyboard and any other supporting materials to the other students. Ask the students to critique each presentation using the criteria in the previous activities. Have them consider how the story could focus on another message by being presented differently. Ask them how the story would change if it were developed in a different genre or were aimed at a different audience.

Extended Activity

Have your students write a short script for one or more of the stories they have developed. If you have access to a video camera, film the script and ask your students to discuss the result, covering some of the above topics.

Media Literacy: Reading Between the Frames

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Complete Media Literacy Guide (PDF)

Activity 1: Media Survey

Activity 2: Reading a Film

Activity 3: Subjective or Objective

Activity 4: Your Turn

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