Student Shorts to Screen at Moving Mountains Symposium
by Jill Bockes
May 23, 2008 | 630 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TELLURIDE – Relinquishing creative material isn’t an easy thing for an artist to do. But filmmaker Jim Thebaut offered his documentary Running Dry – which screened at last year’s Mountainfilm – to Ouray County students to dissect and rework into their own one-minute short films. And the re-envisioned pieces will be seen this year at the Mountainfilm Moving Mountains Symposium Friday, May 23, at the Telluride Conference Center in Mountain Village.

Thebaut’s documentary focuses on the ensuing water crisis facing the world. Part of the project’s mission is to spread the word through education, so when former Ouray schoolteacher Ellen Shelton asked if students in Ouray County could use clips from his movie in a class she was helping to teach, the filmmaker readily agreed. His next project, The American Southwest: Are We Running Dry?, will even feature a school curriculum specifically designed to go with the documentary.

“The whole thing is about reaching kids,” the director said. So Shelton’s use of the work for her class is ahead of the game plan.

Because this year’s symposium topic is water, showing the Ouray student’s shorts fit the bill. Shelton wanted to design a curriculum that demonstrated film editing to students. But instead of asking kids to go out and shoot scenes by themselves, she opted for them to use professional footage and skip right ahead to the nitty gritty of film production.

Students took bits and pieces of the movie and restrung them. They learned about professional film editing software through the process of cutting and reconstituting scenes and images, interlacing frames of text, and adding their own choice of music. As a result, the viewers hone in on images because all dialogue is removed.

Running Dry offered a wealth of images, along with a strong message about the world’s water crisis. Shelton asked her students to take an interactive role by choosing what parts really spoke to them. “It’s a measurable way to see what they got out of the film,” she explained. By having to deal with footage again and again, the movie’s message really left an impression. “What really surprised me, what really struck me, was how compassionate students were,” she said. Lots of kids were fixated by the children portrayed in the film, Shelton said. When the audience sees the reconstructed shorts, they will be seeing what really stuck out in a teenage viewer’s mind.

Mountainfilm was able to assist Shelton in contacting filmmaker Thebaut to get the rights to his work. Shelton noted that teaching kids about respecting copyright issues was another important lesson to be gleaned from the project. And the filmmaker and the teacher aren’t the only ones excited by the many doors such a project opens for kids. Mountainfilm Executive Director Peter Kenworthy said the festival will budget for the project to be taught again next school year, and possible in Telluride, too. Because the film festival’s mission is centered on education, offering funding for the class meets Mountainfilm’s goal.

“It seems like a good program, it makes sense to teach children on several levels, including the issues,” Kenworthy said. “It’s hard to imagine them not taking an ownership interest in it.”

Kenworthy said professional filmmakers may latch onto the idea that allocating their work for kids to reconstruct can be a positive move. “It’s always rewarding for filmmakers and professionals in whatever field to see kids take an interest in their field,” he said.
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