Silent Stories

storyboard for Silent Stories A Day at the Beach

Silent Stories
TEKS: 1(A,C,H); 2(D-F); 3(C); 4(F); 5(C,E,G)

Beginning actors are frequently overly reliant on dialogue.  Silent stories is an exercise to force them to use their bodies, gesture and facial expression to tell stories.  In the past, I had students create scenes and perform live to receive feedback from their peers.  However, using video opens up a whole new way for students to critique themselves and see what they really look like as they convey meaning.

Pre-Lesson warm-up*: for students that are not used to seeing themselves on camera, I would highly recommend filming large group exercises for feedback to desensitize them.  This makes it easier for them to focus on the way they use their bodies to tell stories instead of how they look on camera.   I’ve found it takes two to three experiences of seeing themselves on film to cut down on anxiety.

Session One: share your own video telling a silent story. Have the class work together to identify the elements of your story. Let your video be a little rough – if it’s too perfect, students will feel they cannot possibly create their own. I’m not advocating lowering the bar, but keep it simple.  The idea is  not to create elaborate films, but simple, silent stories, one to two minutes in length.  Have the class brainstorm ideas for silent stories. Assign students to a production team. Each team should agree on an idea for their silent story.

Session Two: Each production team creates a storyboard to plot out their storyline.  The easiest form is a piece of paper with 2 columns – one for shots/narration/music, the other for notes or images.  More elaborate versions look like a comic strip with a visual representation in each frame.  Teams should select music, locations, actors, costumes, etc.

Sessions Three-Four: Each production team films.

Sessions Four-Five: Each production team edits, adds in music, images, titles, credits, etc.  If this is the first time they’ve used editing software an extra session should be built in to cover the basic elements of using the software to edit their clips.

Session Six-Seven: view films and elicit feedback from peers.  Can the audience understand the story?  What were the clearest elements?  What areas could be more clearly defined?  Have students identify points where the use of gesture and body share information and how the actor chose to use gesture and body to convey story.

Sessions Eight: editing or re-shoots to improve stories.

Session Nine: review films again and note changes between original and re-edited versions.  Have students brainstorm how to incorporate awareness of body and gesture into their work as actors since the gestures they filmed were most likely overly dramatized.  How can they use gesture and body effectively without it being overblown?

*this lesson assumes the teacher has at least a rudimentary understanding of filming and using editing software.  If not, I would highly suggest using Windows Live Moviemaker and spending some time with watching tutorials and playing around with the software. Windows Live Moviemaker can be downloaded for free.


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