At this moment, a teenager is likely dozing off in an English class some- where, bored, no doubt, by a teacher reciting Shakespeare or extolling the merits of The Great Gatsby.
For some kids, that won't cut it. That's why Rainbow Media's IFC (Independent Film Channel) has arranged its own course to teach youngsters the ins and outs of filmmaking. IFC launched Film School last November, with a curriculum that ties into English classes nationwide. It consists of a six-part lesson plan that encourages kids to read, write and, ultimately, create short films based on literature.
IFC worked with consulting firm Topics Education to develop a curriculum that would inspire students but would also be embraced by teachers and parents. Film School was developed to meet the standards of the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.
IFC Executive VP/General Manager Evan Shapiro, a former instructor at NYU's school of continuing education and theater counselor at the Jewish Community Center in Marlton, N.J., says IFC recognized that teachers and schools sometimes lack educational materials of any sort.
“Teachers in this country are under siege,” he says. “They have students who are barely paying attention. And the resources oftentimes aren't there, so they are digging into their own pockets. So, when a corporation comes to the table with a well thought-out, dense learning tool, they don't only react positively, they are overwhelmed.”
IFC offers the Film School curriculum on its Web site for free. The network also visited schools in Toledo, Ohio, and Bucks County, Pa., to share the lesson plans and donate cameras.
“The curriculum is very thor­ough,” says Kathy Housepian, an English teacher at Perrysburg High School in suburban Toledo. “It integrates literature with technology very well, which all school systems are trying to do right now.”
A new approach
Film School was inspired in part by the short-lived IFC series of the same name, but creating a curriculum is a new tack.
Evan Fleischer, IFC director of marketing and promotions, says the second phase of Film School will kick off in about a month, with an enhanced curriculum and Web-site component. The films will also be made available to IFC affiliates for video-on-demand and may also be shown on its cable channel.
Says Fleischer, “This will enable students to upload videos they've made by participating in the curriculum to our Web site, where they can be viewed by students all over the country.”