Focus on film as art

25th October 1996 at 01:00
Media in Art by Tony Carroll, Education Pack Pounds 25, BFI Publishing, 21 St Stephen Street, London W1P 2LN

Don't underestimate the media in art, writes Martin Child.

The Sandman is coming, time for bed. How many times was that said when we were children? Sleep would not have come so easily if we had realised that the Sandman was the evil creature depicted in an animated film of the same name.

Bursting with dramatic and, to be honest, very scary imagery, this is just the sort of film to capture the imagination of young minds. It refers back to German Expressionism and also to early film, especially The Cabinet of Dr Caligari from 1919. Clips from this, along with the 10-minute film of The Sandman are featured as a part of this Media in Art package from the British Film Institute.

Like it or not, one of the biggest visual influences upon students is the media. Television, film and video have an extraordinary impact upon their lives, with much time spent watching it and conversation often revolving around it. As art educators, we have to recognise this fact. The positive aspect is, I would suggest, that today's students are more visually literate than ever before.

Channelling an interest in the media, to spark off creativity, is not always easy. The book and video aim to build on the interest which youngsters clearly have in the media, encouraging a better understanding, and developing ideas into creative work.

I am usually wary of "how to do it" books, as they can often be limiting. This offering is different, full of excellent starting points and stimulus, but not too prescriptive. I can't wait to try out many of the ideas with students.

The book is divided into three modules. The first, "Throwing Light on the Subject", suggests work based around drawings with strong lighting used for dramatic effect, linking this into film storyboards, graphic novels and chiaroscuro painting. Development work includes image sequencing which could lead to video or computer animation. An interesting video example, "Digital Still Life", links sequential still imagery with music.

"The Art of Film Design" is based around The Sandman. Through analysis of camera angles, colours, shadows and sound, students should gain much deeper insight into film techniques. Further development includes promotion of the film by designing suitably dramatic posters and constructing model sets. The first and second units are strongly linked.

"A Question of Identity" allows students to analyse a range of television indents (the short films between programmes which give a channel its identity - the escapades of BBC2's number 2, for example). There are video clips to give an understanding of these, students can then create indents and logos themselves, based on a television channel or MTV. A still image, computer animation or even a three-dimensional representation can be tried.

Aimed at key stage 3, interesting examples of student work are also shown on the video. Well presented, with a wealth of creative ideas, this impressive package represents good value and is thoroughly recommended to teachers. Although its main purpose is the introduction of media into art, its use in GCSE media studies courses has great potential. Students will enjoy work based around it - as long as the Sandman does not get to them first.

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