Filed under: Film and Acting Schools | Tags: Altamash Jaleel, Anmol Sachar, film workshop, ibdp film, International Baccalaureate, Kajri Babbar, oorvazi irani, Shrey Sheth, svkm, svkm ib school
My Journey teaching film at the SVKM IB School (Batch 2010 – 2012)
This is probably the only IB school in Mumbai that offers film as a subject
Introduction – What is IB
Before I talk about the subject of film and my journey I would like to share with you what is IB. The International Baccalaureate® (IB) was founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968 as a non-profit educational foundation. The IB works with 3,458 schools in 143 countries to offer the three IB programmes to approximately 1,043,000 students. And you would ask, how does this compare with the current system ? Of course, the current systems empower the child with sound knowledge, understanding and skills in all required fields, but their rote system of assessments pay larger emphasis on left brain usage. On the other hand, International curricula aim at developing and sharpening higher order thinking skills from an early age by involving all the functional areas of the brain. IB encourages the student to be a global citizen and understand and respect various cultures from all over the world. Being creative and original is greatly encouraged and to sum it up in the words of the president of SVKM( Shri Vile Parle Kelavani Mandal) Amrish Patel – “Where “education” goes beyond the mere cramming of pre-discovered facts and theorems and enters a realm where young minds, are designed to become inquirers, thinkers, achievers, communicators and above all Global Citizens with a conscious rooted deep in the Indian value system.
This kind of learning is exactly what I identified with and given an opportunity to teach the subject I immersed myself into it. For me as an artist and practicing filmmaker this was an exciting journey to be able to guide and mentor another young artist and keen student of cinema.
IBDP (International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme) Film:
So I started my journey with a young group of 4 students in the age group of 16 – 19 years who had chosen film as one of their subjects. I had a challenging task before me, but looking back it feels very satisfying to see them all succeed and enjoy the subject, Above all I am proud of their final student film “ “Takbir” which is sensitive and mature and is the pride of our school. The film was also projected by the school on various formal and informal platforms as a showcase which reflects all the values of IB and it felt really nice that the two years came to such a lovely conclusion. But making of a short film is just one of the projects that the students undertake and an important part of the project is the Written Commentary which includes the observations, experiences and reflections of the process of making the film itself which I think is very nice (but often neglected by students and has to be repeatedly drummed into their heads). Its as simple as maintaining a diary of records right from the day you started brainstorming about the idea to the day your film was complete but ofcourse in a format that is specified in which it gets submitted has to be adhered too,.
Film Syllabus Outline:
Given below are the three projects that the students undertake, however the making of the film along with the Written Commentary is 50% of the marks and is internally marked (moderated after that by IB) and the other projects are externally marked and moderated. The subject of film is offered as SL (Standard Level) and HL (Higher Level) (The differentials between SL and HL are both quantitative and qualitative. All my students took Film HL.
So as a teacher I had to guide them through all the projects, yet not spoon feed them. Discover the artists in them and also make them thorough with the history of cinema and understand the art and craft of filmmaking. Each class could not be theory but each class could not be just fun either and slowly we both – student and teacher found a meeting ground. But what was most important as a journey as a teacher was to be able to gain the trust of each student and the process was a learning curve for me too. Also each project helps them understand and execute the other projects, there is a learning that beautiful blends into each other.
Below is a brief discussion on each project:
The detailed study of film sequences
This project encourages the student to find the entire essence of the ocean in one drop, exploring the macrocosm in the microcosm. To be more specific a 5 minute extract is explored to discover the entire gamut of film theory and history and the language of cinema ofcourse in relation to the film and its specifications. I will not go into the details of the project but it was a nice way to engage the students directly with cinema and make them realize the importance of each scene in a film and that each part contains the essence of the whole. The presentation of this project was a audio recording where the student discusses the scene with a few prescribed areas but the student is not allowed to read the notes and thus it’ encourages an understanding and reflection rather than a mere cut paste attitude which many projects give way too like in school. Infact how many projects in school have been done by parents, neighbours, sibblings and not the student themselves, I feel this approach helps to engage with the topic and make the student personally participate.
Film theory and history
The study of films and film-making traditions from more than one country.
More than any other project it is here that students are encouraged to explore and understand various cultures from different parts of the world. Sensitizing them to different ways of experience and living. Here the format of presentation is an audio visual script with film clips from different cultures but under a topic that allows this exploration in film history/theory and cinematic language. The challenge in IB is always to be able to discover the area of interest of the student and then develop his exploration in a related field of cinematics. As doing a project should not be a mere exercise but something that excites the student to want to know more about. So if one of my students loved the western genre he probed deeper into it, keeping the language of cinema as a strong base to the study, another student was a sports enthusiast and no wonder the sports genre excited him, while yet another student loved literature and Shakespeare and thus that came to be part of her project topic, last but not the least was a student who loved the horror genre so I encouraged him to understand it deeper and was a beautiful medium to look at horror from the cultural viewpoint of different countries.
Creative Process (Film production)
The development of creative, analytical and production skills within film-making
This project is the most challenging and at the same time satisfying. It is the project that is the one main component that showcases to the outside world the 2 years gone past and if its good, its like a trophy in itself for the students and the teacher.
The film project can be made individually or in a group. They were a group of 4 students and thus since one wanted to be a director the others chose the relevant key areas of interest – script, sound, editing and the process began.
But the creative process could begin only when they knew their own voices. Very early in the course I started my small efforts in trying to discover the personal and creative world of the students as I had to discover with them their unique individual creative voice. It was during one simple autobiographical exercise session in class in which I discovered a very important aspect of the director student. I just knew without pushing it that this was a breakthrough that will come to use. When we latter had the brainstorming sessions I reminded him of this special incident and he acknowledged it but it was not really completely accepted. It was my duty to bring it to light and then see If the idea grows in him. The idea took birth and then died a silent death and then came back to life again now to be made into a reality. What is special about the student film “Takbir” is that’s it’s a film by an auteur. To confess, I was a bit nervous if all will go well and I did not believe it would turn out as good as it did, as I felt there could be more time dedicated by the students to the film preparation, but then it being another subject in school I could not be very hard on them. And I was always emotionally blackmailed for more time to complete an exercise due to heavy homework and deadlines from other subjects. But they proved to be more competent than I imagined and did a great job of working together inspite of the small quarrels off and on, in which I sometimes had to intervene. Interestingly film as a subject in IB, knows the nature of the artform being a collaborative process and therefore stresses that a healthy working relationship is very important and how as a team they achieve their film project and go through the entire process from making an idea into a reality.
I was clear that the choice of actors would be very important to make their film look and feel professional and saw to it that they got actors who with their presence and basic knowledge of theatre or cinema bring a touch of class and not make it look like an amateur student film. I helped with some key characters and I give them credit to be able to source the others themselves who were very effective too.
As usual the deadlines were close and they were still editing their film due to unavoidable circumstances and it was like a nail biting climax to a journey that was fun, challenging, and rewarding.
EE (Extended Essay)
One of the integral aspects and requirement of an IB syllabus is EE (Extended Essay) which is like a mini thesis according to me, as the stress is on originality and in-depth research. A student can select to take the subject of film for his EE and this was done by one of my students who was very sincere and dedicated and took up the study of an Auteur director. This project he says helped him immensely as a director too and for the first time he really understood the nuances of an auteur and what it meant as the essay is focused on specific films which are analyzed apart of the topic selected. It was though initially to come upon an original focus to his topic but we soon reached there and then all fell into place.
The assessment of all the projects are based on specific criteria which values research, originality, discipline, and a global outlook and understanding.
The Graduation Day:
That was the moment to take pride in – all our hardwork that we had done for the past 2 years was now coming to a conclusion. The struggle and ecstasy that we faced with each film class would now be no more but I promised to be in touch with them lifelong through my blog and thus this article is special and dedicated to each moment that we spent together.
Its said that the greatest way to learn is to teach and I too learnt a great deal ! And finally I graduated.
Infact its interesting that in my personal life I was not in a position to attend the graduation ceremony at the university and this indeed in literal terms therefore completes my education but in a very different context.
And the post is not complete without feedback from my loving students
Altamash, could not find words to express the film course and is waiting for inspiration, but in the meanwhile it suffices to share an experience from our Graduation Day. Altamash had been given the privilege to share his experience of IB and I was invited part of the faculty to witness the graduation ceremony. To my pleasant surprise Altamash spoke about the subject of film and me as a teacher with such warmth and respect that I was touched. In his speech he paused, located me with his gaze in the audience and publicly thanked me for making him a director. This pause and special attention was a mark of respect and love that I will always cherish as a special moment. And as I say that respect cannot be demanded, you need to earn it. And that made me feel rich !
Anmol has always been the first to submit all his assignments and projects and so with his feedback !
IB FILM – A JOURNEY TO REMEMBER!
When IB began, one of the worst feelings was experienced on Wednesday mornings. Why? Because I had to sit through a long, boring class of film which, made no sense to me. In my teacher, Miss Oorvazi’s eyes I probably was one of the worst student she could have got – always yawning, staring at the ceiling or sleeping with open eyes.
But a few weeks into the course and I began to get gravitated toward the subject. Gradually, the yawns turned into smiles, the staring into attentive nods and the sleep into intriguing questions. Soon I started to make sense of horrifying terms like ‘expressionism,’ ‘dollying,’ ‘auteur’ and so on, thanks to our teacher who was more of a friend who adapted a very amiable style of teaching.
As time went by, hours, days, months and a whole two years, I realized that I had transformed from just another boy who liked to shoot videos to a boy who has made a film which is already receiving a great response from the viewers. This journey has been a truly memorable and fruitful one and has certainly left an indelible mark on my mind.
I worked with a great group. Altamash tu toh apna Aamir khan nikla…kya perfectionist hai…couldn’t have had a better director than you. Kajri khuda zaalimo ka sath de na de mera toh saath deta hai ki tujh jaisi mahaan script writer ko humaare film ke liye assign kiya…u were too gud! Shrey buddy really imprssive work with the sound yaar…like the music really helps the viewer teleport into the world of ‘Takbir.’
Oorvazi Ma’am we certainly couldn’t have found a teacher matching your stature and class. The way you instilled within me the will to learn this subject, I doubt anyone could ever do. Thank you ma’am for your unparalleled guidance and support throughout this demanding course.
All in all it was a fabulous experience. Three words… WE KILLED IT!!! ;]
ANMOL THANKYOU DEAR FOR TRUSTING ME AND BEING THE GREAT STUDENT YOU TURNED OUT TO BE ! And thanks for submitting the feedback in time to upload as usual you are well in time for the deadline.
Her feedback was a beautiful sms and inspite of promising a further writeup, ( she is also finding the inspiration to do the same) I am sharing the sms.
“ You were more like a friend than a teacher and your classes were so warm, filled with love that you never made us really realize that you are a teacher and we need to be discreet. Mwah !
Actually I would chose you to be my bridesmaid ”
To gain the trust of a student to become a friend is a great achievement to value and you belong to their inner circle, what more can you want.
Last but not the least (and still waiting for inspiration like the others to write his experiences). Infact he was a student who was bright but was lagging behind on the projects and submissions but he surprised us all towards the end of the course when he decided to take things in control and gave it that final push. On the IB orientation for the new batch where parents were invited for a special event in school Shrey spoke about the subject of film and I would like to share that here. He did not say much but that one line was very special as I feel this was something that would be valuable to him the rest of his life and went beyond film as a subject and that I was instrumental in being able to make him realize that, it feels precious.
“ Oorvazi Mam always told me to think deeper and when I did I realized how important it was and what power it can unleash”
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