About Us
Our Team
Our Impact
Contact Us
Corporate Programs

Silent Films with a Flip Cam

Page Views: 8743

Email This Lesson Plan to Me
Email Address:
Subscribe to Newsletter?
Log in to rate this plan!
Overall Rating:
(5.0 stars, 1 ratings)

Keywords: silent films, flip camera, art, filmmaking, german expressionism
Subject(s): English/Language Arts, Social Studies, Photography, Biology, Writing, Technology, Video, Art, Science, Drama, History
Grades 4 through 12
School: Black Water Middle School, Conway, SC
Planned By: James Gorcesky
Original Author: James Gorcesky, Conway
1. Lesson plan name: Silent movies
Reasoning: Students will make a silent film that demonstrate basic story element, such as conflict, while learning about the characteristics of the filmmaker’s career

Objectives- the students will be able to:

Explore with a variety of film making and editing techniques in order to create a film that demonstrates basic storytelling concepts such as plot, conflict, and resolution

Analyze the subject matter and messages from silent films and the work of other students and discuss how technology helped to add value to that work of art.

Compare and Contrast the subject matter of the silent films with other artworks of it’s time

Identify the knowledge and skills needed in order to be a filmmaker

Evaluate your film and the film of another student.

Note: Even though the indicators are for 8th grade, there are very few differences between grades six, seven and eight as this lesson plan is suited for any middle school grade level and can be easily adapted to elementary or high school as well.
SC Visual Arts Standards:
Standard 8-1 The student will demonstrate competency in applying a variety of
media, techniques, and processes.
VA8-1.2 Select interpret, and apply the most effective media, techniques, and
processes to communicate their experiences and ideas through their
VA8-1.3 Use art materials and tools in a safe and responsible manner.

Standard 8-3 The student will explore content in art work.
VA8-3.1 Analyze and critique visual metaphors and symbols in an artwork to
convey meaning.
VA8-3.2 Analyze subjects, themes, and symbols in their work and the work of

Standard 8-4 The student will demonstrate competency in their use of the visual
arts in relation to history, cultures, and technology.
VA8-4.2 Analyze, describe, how time, location, climate, resources, ideas, and
technology give meaning and value to an artwork.

Standards 8-5 The student will analyze and assess the qualities of their artwork
and the artwork of others.
VA8-5.1 Compare various purposes for creating artworks.
VA8-5.2 Use descriptive, interpretive, and evaluative statements to make
informed aesthetic judgments about their artworks and those of

Standard 8-6 The student will make connections between the visual arts, other
arts disciplines, other content areas, and the world.
VA8-6.1 Examine the characteristics of works in two or more art forms that
have similar subject matter, historical periods, or cultural contexts.
VA8-6.2 Compare and contrast concepts and subject matter found in the visual
arts with those in other disciplines.
VA8-6.3 Identify and evaluate the knowledge and skills required for specific art

2. Procedures:
Students will view and analyze the first science fiction film, A Trip to the Moon and learn how Thomas Edison was inspired by basic toys that showed moving images and created a movie studio in New Jersey for his kinetoscope device.

Connections to previous learning and future content:
• Students will learn from and/or continue their knowledge of American Impressionism, German Expressionism and Digital Art within the art class based on the overall expectations of the Horry County Visual arts curriculum: Apply cognitive and metacognitive skills to the influences and relationships of various cultures, historical periods and including but not limited to styles of Native America, American Colonial,18th and 1 9th America, Ashcan School, WPA, Post War (50’s & 60’s), art of 70’s & 80’s, Contemporary, Computers and mass media

Teacher modeling/demonstration of learning:

Day 1 – Introduce the students to the Filmmaker’s roles website so that they may be accustomed to the various roles and duties of the filmmaker. I will then allow students to pick one partner, and they will then be randomly assigned to another pair. The groups of four students will then decide between the roles of: Writer, Director, Director of Photography and Producer. All students will double as actors/actresses and/or production assistants.
Students will then view a segment of the Charlie Chaplin film, The Circus where we will discuss the concept of plot and conflict.

Day 2 – Showcase Screenwriting page to the students and the correct format that needs to be used for writing the script for the film. If some students are still lost on their roles, they can visit this website, which has activities: http://www.learner.org/interactives/cinema/index.html (especially a good one for screenwriters and producers)

(Note: Students will be using either netbook computers or will need the computer lab for Day 2 and Day 3)

Day 3 – I will show students examples of Storyboards and compare them to the finished products of a film. I will also visit the website of professional storyboard artist Josh Sheppard.

Day 4 – Students will view and analyze the work of German Expressionism. First, I will show students some prints from artists such as Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, Paul Klee and Edvard Munch and they will be informed on what characteristics make up German Expressionism.

Day 5 - Students will become exposed to a segment of the very first blockbuster, The Birth of a Nation. Prior to showing the film, we will have an in-depth conversation about the controversial epic by D.W. Griffith and the time of America when it was produced. Although extremely racist, the film was one of the first to show such ground breaking work done by it’s director of photography, Billy Bitzer such as: ornate title cards, outdoor natural landscapes, many different angles, panning camera shots and still shots.

Day 6 – Students will analyze the five minute films that the students shot from yesterday. I will discuss with the students what I feel are “good shots” and which scenes are hard to watch. Each student will receive a sheet that analyzes the films based on what they could tell was group collaboration, acting, direction, film shooting style and if they feel the producer was able to abide by the guidelines of a deadline.
Today, we will spend a lot of time analyzing and focusing on acting ability.

Day 7 – We will watch a video (Japanese pantomime artist) on pantomime acting technique so that students will be prepared for their film today when they act with their bodies and not their voices. After acting is recovered, students will become aware of the power of the director and capturing the director’s vision.

Day 8 – Students will analyze their films from yesterday which showcase pantomime, character motivation group collaboration and how well the director was able to convey their message through an adapted screenplay.

Day 9 – Students will have an opportunity to share their dailies from yesterday and discuss what they were trying to accomplish and what they wish they could do better.

Day 10, 11 and 12 Computer Lab for film editting – Students will be introduced to the concepts of editing. They will be first asked: “what are the roles of an editor?” Students will visit the learner.org website to see the vocabulary and actions of an editor.

Day 13: Movie Premiere, showcase the student films and go over the rubric with the students.

Check for understanding:

Day 1: While we visit the roles of the filmmaker website, students will be exposed to a variety of analogies regarding the roles in regards to if making the movie would be like making a dinner.

Day 2: Index Card Summaries and Questions: Periodically, distribute index cards and ask students to write on both sides, with these instructions:
(Side 1)
Based on our study of (unit topic), list a big idea that you understand and word
it as a summary statement.
(Side 2)
Identify something about (unit topic) that you do not yet fully understand and
word it as a statement or question.

Day 3: I will show students a clip from A Nightmare Before Christmas to show them a comparison between the finished film and the storyboard sketches. Afterwards, I will ask students to post any/all questions either in a private question box in the room if they do not understand something on storyboarding, or they can view more information that I will have saved on www.edmodo.com so that they can access all of my support files there as well.

Day 4: In order to see if students understand German Expressionism, they will receive oil pastels and illustrate to me an emotion using only Lines, Colors and/or Shapes.

Day 5: I will ask students periodically around the room about photography: “Can you provide me with another example where a race is discriminated wrongly or misrepresented?” “How might this film been viewed from the perspectives of women and African Americans in 1915?” “What could have been other ways D.W. Griffith wanted to share his story?”

Day 6: Ask students for Thumbs up / Thumbs down if they understand what they must do when grading their classmates.

Day 7: I will ask students if they could show me ways that mimes might do the following: Trapped in a box, pulling/being tugged on a rope, or lifting something heavy over your head. I will then switch it up so that only the mime and myself know what is being performed and the classmates must guess if you are stuck in tar, walking on the moon, playing baseball/fishing, or an animal of their choice.

Day 8: Students will share their feelings on the films and writing on an index card. After analyzing the films, answer at least one of these questions regarding the roles and responsibilities of the director: “What ideas/details would you add to ____________ ‘s film?” and/or “How is ___________’s film similar to / different from ________________’s film?” or finally “what conclusions might be drawn from _______________’s film?”

Day 9: On big idea/major concept that I gained from yesterday’s filming or today’s viewing of dailies was: ______________________________

Day 10: Thumbs up / Thumbs down if the student understands the procedure or process

Day 11: Why do you think continuity is necessary in a movie?

Day 12: Summarizes how/why the director must work so closely with the editor

Day 13: Thumbs up / Thumbs down if the students understand how they are to grade their classmates and peers.

Guided practice or activity (student performs along with teacher guidance):

Day 1: After viewing the Charlie Chaplin film, the students will help me analyze the film and we will discuss what the Plot of the film, the Setting, the Characters, the Conflict and Resolution. We will then watch the Buster Keaton film of The Battling Butler.

Day 2: Students will watch the Harold Lloyd film of Safety Last. After students watch the film, I will guide them through the formatting process and we will try to re-write the film that we just saw.

Day 3: I will hand students a blank template of storyboards. Together, they will storyboard with me half of their story: “How they got to School.” I will showcase students that they should write the dialogue underneath the boards (if necessary), describe action, use color for emphasis and if there are any appropriate music/sound effects then where to label them as well. (Note: It is optional for the screenwriters to accomplish this step, but it is extremely important that the screenplay is completed by today)

Day 4: Students will then view the clips from Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to analyze the German Expressionism films. I will guide the students as we initially create a Venn Diagram that Compares/Contrasts German Expressionism art and film. If there is time available, students should wrap up the storyboards for their film.

Day 5: Compare/Contrast Birth of a Nation along with Within Our Gates and how the African American was portrayed on film.

Day 6: Students will work on their acting abilities through a variety of Theatre Games. The first one to be played will be “Anything Fabric,” to build on their imagination, afterwards they will do “Mime it down the alley,” which is a form of telephone but with pantomime. Finally, we will work on their motivation and improvisation by using, “Improvisation Starters.”

Day 7: The Director is in charge and responsible for all group’s work today. I will guide students through the basics of getting a film ready from the director’s perspective: 1) analyze the script with my writer 2)make sure that my director has a shot list or detailed plan of action for me 3)collaborate with my director of cinematography to see how we are going to do it and shoot it 4) direct my actors and tell them what I want and what I feel the motivations of their characters are, while still showing respect to the actors and crew. Once students can gather all of their information onto a concept web, they need to know on how the director will help create a five minute film today based on a pre-determined script.

Day 8: I will guide students on the set up of their film as they will have today and tomorrow to shoot all of their principal photography

Day 9: I will roam from group to group to check up on the progress with my students until I feel they have a firm grasp of the duties and objective of the film.

Day 10: I will show students a clip from the editor’s documentary: The Cutting Edge (off of You Tube until 3:20) and then get students started with the basic familiarity with the editing program.

Day 11 and 12: I will guide the students through a variety of techniques and procedures within Windows Movie Maker. As I assist students and they have a firm grasp on the material, they will then go through scaffolding to help out the other students.

Day 13: We will watch and analyze the first film together and I will lead students into some discussions such as: what was the conflict, could you tell the action of the actor, what could have the director done better, what do you think the message of this film was, could you tell what the motivation of the characters were, and how fluent was the editing?

Independent Practice (student performs on own):

Day 1: Students will independently analyze the Buster Keaton film and break it down into it’s parts: Plot, Setting, Characters, Conflict and Resolution.

Day 2: Each writer will receive a handout with the script format laid out and they will independently try to flesh out a prequel or a sequel to the Harold Lloyd film with the assistance of their partners.

Day 3: Students will independently complete their storyboard examples that show off their story of coming to school that day. I will come around the room to examine the students and provide suggestions on the pacing of their story. (Note: The screenwriters do not need to worry about this process, but instead need to get their screenplay written)

Day 4: Groups will collaborate to complete the remainder of the Venn Diagram while I play a segment of the German Expressionist film, Metropolis in the background. I will also have a separate meeting with the producer’s and go over their responsibilities including: developing a shooting schedule, securing props/costumes or anything to be seen in the movie, create a detailed plan of action of how the movie will be made. The producer is really the manager of the project and making sure that the director’s artistic vision is seen though to the end.

Day 5: Students will complete the Venn Diagram between the two films and complete anything necessary that the producer is assigning to be done.
I will have a separate meeting with the Directors of Photography to showcase them a two minute video on the Do’s and Don’ts of Fip Camera cinematography and techniques while the remainder of the groups completes their detailed plan of action as laid out by the producer.

Day 6: On the theatre games website, students will play the “You’ game within their small production groups.

Day 7: I will have a private meeting with the directors while the remainder of the group gets organized in preparation for a shoot and following the producer’s shooting schedule and a sample script from One Page Screenplays. The directors will watch How to Direct a Movie: Independent Filmmaking : Continuity Tips for Making a Movie in order to understand their duties to working/respecting the crew, directing the actors to show what they want to see as interpreted from the script, and making sure that there is continuity and enough coverage or editing the film will be a disaster.
Day 8: Students will shoot their films and fulfill their duties
Day 9: Students will complete the principal photography of their group projects. Again, it is the responsibility of the student and especially the director to get all footage necessary as students will be editing tomorrow.
Days 10-12: Once students have a firm grasp on the editing program, they will apply their own unique style to each cut and see what the final outcome will be in their group.
Day 13: Students will give a grade to each group’s film and they will also grade the work of their partner’s in their group.

Class discussion and/or group activity, etc.:

Day 1: Once students have a firm grasp on the basic story elements, they will work in their groups to come up with a story that features conflict and resolution. The screenwriter will start to gather ideas from the group and start to mesh out a plot, I will cover the actual writing process tomorrow.

Day 2: Each group will work together to flesh out a maximum of a two page written script that features conflict and resolution.

Day 3: Groups will work together to take their screenplays and start to sketch out a simplified storyboard using the handouts that are provided to them.

Day 4: Producers will return to their groups to analyze the completed storyboards and to create a detailed plan of action on how the film will be created. Producers should develop a shooting schedule for their scenes, make sure they have the right props and costumes in order to start shooting, who will the actors be and finally making sure that the director’s vision is seen on the screen.

Day 5: Directors of Photography will return to their groups with their new found knowledge and share with their partners what they must do in order to accomplish the director’s dream and the producer’s detailed plan of action.

Day 6: Once students are comfortable with their acting abilities, they will have five to ten minutes to come up with an original script with conflict and all four students should act in it in some fashion. If students are lost, they can use the predetermined list from the website’s “Improvisation starters,” or “Open Scenes.”

Day 7: Directors will return to their groups with their newfound knowledge. The directors need to create a film that demonstrates character motivation and pantomime through their actor’s movements. Students will have five minutes to plot out and film a movie based on their predetermined script from One Page Screenplays.

Day 8: Discussion of the challenges faced within their groups and what we can do to help solve it.

Day 9: Students will fulfill their roles and duties in order to get the film completed by the end of class.

Days10-12: Each student within the group will work and/or be assisted by their teammates until they have a firm grasp on the program. In the end, the groups will analyze and judge each other’s work until they have picked the one version of their film that they will render into their final cut.

Days 13: Once all of the films have been viewed, each student will share their thoughts on the films that they have seen. They can either place it in the Question box, or within an Edmodo discussion.

Closure of lesson that determines if goals/objectives(s) were met:

Day 1: “Something that I learned is….” Students will verbally express to me on their way out of class one thing that they learned today.

Day 2: Create a Venn Diagram that compares/contrasts the Plot of the film, the Setting, the Characters, the Conflict and Resolution between two out of the three choices: Charlie Chaplin’s In the Circus, Buster Keaton’s Battling Butler or Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last. )Note: It should be the homework of the producer to begin securing resources, whether it is costumes, props or anything that their team will need to complete the film.

Day 3: Pairs of students will split up to share and discuss their storyboard work. Students should analyze and critique their partners. This is a good opportunity to see if the filmmakers are conveying their message effectively through a visual medium. Producer homework: Continue to secure resources for the group so that filming may begin soon.

Day 4: KWL slip – What did you already (K)now about German Expressionism, (W)hat did you learn about German Expressionism, and what would you (L)ike to learn more about German Expressionism?

Day 5: Five Minute Film: Groups will have a total of five minutes from conception to completion to make a short film. In order to see if the goals are met, I will be analyzing on how well the groups work together, how well the producer can keep production going on schedule and the shooting style of the director of cinematography and ensuring that the DP sticks to the Flip camera guidelines.

Day 6: “Something that I learned is….” On their way out of class, students will verbally tell me one thing that they learned during their acting lesson.

Day 7: Students need to complete their concept webs from earlier in class, I am clearly looking for the relationships between all of the roles in their group and how they are inter-related.

Day 8: “I fulfilled my role as a _________________ today because I ________________,” I only wish that _________________________ would have been ________________.”

Day 9: “How did you make sure that all shots were covered?”

Days 10 and 11: “One skill that I learned to do with editing is….” And “something that I learned about the importance of an editor is…”

Day 12: Students will work within their groups until they analyze and judge which of their members showcased the director’s concepts best. Once they have chosen that file, it will be rendered and have titles added to it.
Day 13: Students will reflect upon their work and the work of others when they complete the rubric of the unit.

3. Assessment of learners’ achievement related to goals/objectives (including any performance tasks, rubrics, tests, etc.):
Student Name:
Assignment: Flip Camera Silent Films
Circle the number in pencil that best shows how well you feel that you completed that criterion for the assignment. Excellent Good Average Needs Improvement Rate Yourself
Criteria 1 – Student used a variety of techniques and their film showcased the basic story elements of conflict & resolution 10 9 – 8 7 6 or less
Criteria 2 – Demonstrated through research and experience that students fulfilled their roles and duties 10 9 – 8 7 6 or less
Criteria 3 – Effort: took time to accomplish tasks and wasn’t rushed. Good use of class time? 10 9 – 8 7 6 or less
Criteria 4 – CRAFTSMANSHIP: Created a film that is neat, clean and complete by exploring the craft of filmmaking. 10 9 – 8 7 6 or less
Criteria 5 – Did YOU analyze the A) co-operation, B) fulfilling their duty C) participation D) and being responsible
for each one of your partners in the group? A) B) C) D)
Total: 50
x 2 = 100
(possible points) Partners in Group
3) _____________________


6or less
6 or less
6 or less
6 or less

The rubric didn't transfer over so easily from my word document, but you can always feel free to email me if you'd like and I can send the word document.

ALSO, here is a much more extensive listing of all of my resources (including a large variety of You Tube clips):

Supporting websites -

German Expressionism in film:
Profiles and a timeline of the first filmmakers:
African Americans in Silent film:
Screenwriting Resources:
Storyboarding Resources:
Acting Games/Resources:

You Tube clips -

A Trip to the Moon / Le Voyage dans la lune - 1902 (You Tube 2009: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JDaOOw0MEE)
Charlie Chaplin – The Lion’s Cage – (You Tube 2007:
Buster Keaton – Boxing – (You Tube 2009:
harold Lloyd Safety Last – (You Tube 2009:
Nightmare Before Christmas - storyboard to film comparison – (You Tube 2009:
Cesare (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari clip) – (You Tube 2007:
Nosferatu (part 6 of 13) – (You Tube 2008:
Metropolis de Fritz Lang - Extracto – (You Tube 2007:
Birth of a Nation Clip 6 - (You Tube 2007:
UNDP Flip Video Training - FILMING TECHNIQUES – (You Tube 2010:
Within Our Gates – (You Tube 2009:
Japanese mime artist has some fun! – (You Tube 2006:
How to Direct a Movie: Independent Filmmaking : Continuity Tips for Making a Movie –(You Tube
THE CUTTING EDGE: the magic of movie editing (pt2) – (from You Tube)

Cross-Curriculum Ideas
The writing process and story structure from their ELA classes (SC ELA standard Standard 8-5 The student will write for a variety of purposes and audiences. Indicator 8-5.2 Create narratives (for example, memoirs) that communicate the significance of particular personal relationships.
• Learning how the eye receives images from their Science classes (SC Science standard Standard 8-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the properties and behaviors of waves. (Physical Science) Indicator 8-6.6 Explain sight in terms of the relationship between the eye and the light waves emitted or reflected by an object.
• 20th century American history from their Social Studies classes (SC Social Studies standard Standard 8-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of South Carolina’s development during the early twentieth century. Indicator 8-6.4 Explain the causes and the effects of changes in South Carolina culture during the 1920s, including Prohibition, the boll weevil, the rise of mass media, increases in tourism and recreation, the revival of the Ku Klux Klan, and the Southern Literary Renaissance.
Post your completed film onto You Tube or Edmodo

Comment on at least one student's film with one positive note and one critique
Links: Learner.org interactive website
Filmmaker Roles
The Greatest Silent Films
Techniques to Check for Understanding
German expressionism (paintings)
Materials: Internet Services, Sound Libraries, Video Tools, Screen Capture, Word Processor, Writing, Memory Cards, Batteries, Tripods, Microphones, Flip Video, Video Cameras, Integrating Technology, Cause and Effect