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Rock 'n' roll with teacher

An MTV-sponsored initiative is offering pupils lessons in the art of making pop music videos. Adi Bloom reports

Four boys sit on a bridge, strumming moodily on electric guitars. The sun bounces off one boy's medallion, flashing dazzlingly as a tube train rattles underneath.

At this point, Ian Patterson waves his hands enthusiastically in front of the rolling film. "That's the wow shot," he says. "That's what we want."

The head of performing arts at Canons high, in Edgware, north London, is helping 14-year-old pupils to cut hours of amateur footage down to a 60-second film.

The editing process forms part of a new national curriculum lesson in how to create a music video.

"Kids spend a lot of time passively watching TV and music videos," Mr Patterson says. "But a lot of them miss the subtlety and craft. We want them to start thinking, what makes a successful music video? What lighting? What camera angles and zoom techniques?"

The lesson is part of a nationwide initiative, sponsored by MTV, the cable music channel, which hopes to encourage pupils to develop an interest in pop music beyond head-banging sessions in their bedrooms.

Teachers interested in the project are invited to attend a training session in using the software needed to create and edit a video.

So far, 500 secondary teachers have attended 28 national seminars.

They then teach pupils the basics of storyboarding, filming and editing.

Teenagers are given six contemporary music tracks which they can work with, copyright-free.

James Scroggs, MTV marketing director, says: "Music videos are a blank canvas. You're free to challenge preconceptions of form and film grammar.

It's a personal expression.

"A 13-year-old's response is very different to, say, a 28-year-old's. But it's just as valid."

Since lessons began this term, Random Deficit, the resident rock band at Canons, has been scouring suburban streets and shopping parades for suitably cutting-edge locations.

The resulting footage shows them marching purposefully down leafy alleyways, and strumming guitars at the nearby underground station.

David Thomas, the 14-year-old drummer, insists that zone four of the London underground is as rock 'n' roll as America's Highway 61.

"You don't need special effects to make a video interesting. You just need a few good shots. And the story has to be emotional," he said.

And teenage guitarist Chris Monos denies that using a teacher as a storyboard consultant and assistant director undermines the inherent coolness of the project.

"It's not difficult to make music with your teacher there," he says. "You can still be rebellious."

* adi.bloom@tes.co.uk

More details available from the Boom! '05 Music Academy video site www.boomacademy.co.uk

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