Class is Now in Session

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Today was the first day of class and everything seems to have gotten off on the right foot. The room was full, my lesson plan was tight and everyone was engaged throughout. We have a new hand-painted BFC banner, T-shirts (courtesy the Sam Group in Ottawa), and a number of volunteers who were helping me with attendance and presentation notes. Things were, dare I say, professional. Or at least that’s what I’m told.


Papy used the introduction to warn that we can’t have more than 35 students in the class. He also said that homework assignments and attendance records will be used to eliminate people who aren’t serious, and that these strict rules come from the “Canadian” – so be prepared. It’s the same “bon cop, bad cop” routine that helped us set the tone in 2007, a strategy many of the students later told us they appreciated. Making films is truly a team effort, and having people not pull their weight can really drag down a production. So we make a little noise early on to see who gets rattled.

The students this year, however, seem to have a lot more experience than in 2007. Once again, we went around the room asking everyone to tell us about themselves and give us a sense of their skill-level. Almost two thirds identified as a “cameraman”, which I should have expected based on the type of people who have contacted me over the years asking to participate. But there are also a number of novices, actors and a few journalists again, which should make for a nice mix.

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All the preparation I had done in collecting French books and lesson plans has also been a huge relief. I was honestly learning half of the technical film terms the day before I’d teach them the first time. Now, with the benefit of not only having taught everything once, but also having worked on at least half a dozen bilingual TV commercials in Montreal, I’m fairly confident in sharing the basics. So today, we started from the start – the different types of films (fiction, documentary, animation, experimental), the major steps of creating a film, film genres, and a number of other general overview points to get everyone on the same page. Even the volunteers were often scribbling down notes, enjoying both the refresher and probably the new clarity I brought to the material.

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We ended with once again watching the South African film Tsotsi, an Oscar-winner that I really believe is, structurally, a perfect film. Tomorrow I’ll explain to them why, and then start them on tips and tricks for writing a screenplay. I’m guessing I’ll also have a few more students by then. When class was done, a volunteer came up to me saying he overheard a few people calling their friends telling them the class is really good, they should try to get in. Too much interest is a problem from 2007 I won’t mind having again.

Christopher Redmond