Hollywood at home

kids with camera filming home movies

Looking for something fun to do with your kids? Don’t just go to the movies, make one at home!

It has been a busy year at our house hosting movie premieres. This year, our exclusive screenings of “Oh, Oh, Crash”, “Up, Up and Away”, and “Fire, Fire” (the disaster movie trilogy) were a proud three minutes for our 4-year-old director/ producer/actor. Movie making may be big business in NZ now, but small Kiwi directors love producing films too (Peter Jackson started with low budget productions). All children, from preschool to high school, can enjoy the film making process, and making a movie will certainly keep them entertained for a lot longer than watching one.

Movie making is not only fun, but covers a huge number of skills as well. Your children will be discussing plots, organising their ideas into a storyboard, setting up scenes, acting or animating, using a camera, helping to edit, choosing background music and creating cute voice overs. Being able to use language in an imaginative way is what we are aiming for with our children (it means they have reached the language learning summit), so activities that boost imagination are essential.

what are you plotting?

When movie making with your older children, encourage and help draw out longer, more complex plots: brainstorm together, rewrite, and enjoy the back and forth process of scripting. With preschoolers, just see what they come up with and go with that, even if it’s a bit random. Initially, we made a pen and paper storyboard.

It was helpful to have a physical strip of squares (representing about 5-6 scenes) to show how a story can be put into a picture sequence, with a beginning, a middle and an end. There are some online storyboarding tools for kids to use. We quite liked using the tools at http://kidsvid.4teachers.org. They have some good tips for movie making too, including short videos about different camera techniques.

and “action!”

Encourage your children to refer to their storyboard as a guide, and then explore the best places to set up a scene. You might go to the park, film down at the shops, or just use the lounge. My husband, dressed as a pirate, once lugged a very heavy seachest (much to my horror) down to the local pond because our then 12-year-old was filming a water scene. We got a few strange looks, but, secretly, even I enjoyed myself and our daughter certainly did! For actors, the kids could rope in family members, use toys or puppets, animate playdough, draw pictures, or get friends in on the fun. Film it in short bursts on your digital camera to be edited together on the computer later.

then the magic bit

Some computers now come with a movie editing programme, but if you don’t have one, then Windows Live Movie Maker is free to download and easy to learn once you have had a play around. Spend a few nights getting to know the features yourself before trying it out with your younger children. After importing their movie clips, the kids can add special effects: transition between clips, change colour to black and white, zoom in, fade out, or make it look strange; record a narrative and voice overs, mute out sounds, or add music; and to finish it off, they can add a title and credits.

silent movie project

Introduce your children to silent movies (there are quite a few on YouTube) and then try making one together.

  • Find some instumental music and write a story to match it (make sure you can use the music in the movie editing programme).
  • Include lots of action in your plot.
  • Think of costumes, facial expressions and movements to represent different characters.
  • Edit it using the black and white and ageing effects to make it look old.
  • Mute the sound and add the background music.
  • Add written speech or comments (using titles in front of various clips).

More crafts from tots to teens:

Recycling Crafts For Kids

5 Super-Fun Rainbow Magic Craft Ideas

Giant Ice Balls

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