collaboration + creativity through the arts = accelerated learning


kate's leg


It has been a phenomenal year of facilitating the arts at the awesome Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry.  I have learned so much – especially about making films.  We humbly began here, and within one iteration, we have taken off (see films below).

Of course, there is still so much learning to do.  Overall though, these students worked incredibly hard to put together high production value art on almost no budget.  Indeed, the goal is to make it to the pros and generate revenue.  This will take various forms next year and the skills that we have acquired making these productions has us on the right trajectory.  I can only imagine where we’ll be in a few years time.

Working on a giant production with so many moving parts is a tremendous vehicle for learning important cognitive processes and competencies as well as a great deal of professionalism.  The key to a successful future is being able to accelerate learning and build a team of incredible talent who are super nimble that can stay ahead of the giant changes that are happening in the world.

Please watch these films below.  They are proof of how far students can push and accelerate their learning if given the opportunity.  I am honored to have been embroiled in the creative and collaborative process of making art with these talented young artists.

Recently, The Bag made it as a finalist in the Highway 61 International Film Festival. Congratulations!

The Bag:

Hey Blondie:


  1. Dearest Jake, the film has been a long and exiting process in which I have learned much- mostly though working with other people. When I am actually passionate about something such as this, I find myself quite opinionated while everyone else has different opinions on the matter, and that is how I have learned to bend and see reason in other people’s opinions.

    My favorite part of the production was definitely the choreography. We found that there is a large difference between realistic and cinematic aesthetic which at times was an odd thing to deal with but in the end I think that it turned out quite nicely.

    The most difficult process of the movie were my few lines. Acting is a skill that definitely needs a lot of practice. After trying to act, I have a lot of envy for actors. It is an amazing talent.

    Thanks to everyone who helped in this process.

  2. Fight Scene Two Reflection
    Our up in coming film, with a working title of “The Bag,” set to be released early July, has been an extremely valuable learning experience for everyone involved in the project. Below is an in depth analysis on the creation of our masterpiece, but first, a massive thank you our wonderful educator, mentor, and massive driver to this entire learning experience, Jake West.

    I started this process as a cameraperson on the first fight scene because Jasmine was unable to help at that moment in time. I end this process as Director. It was an amazing transformation where I learned about managing people, ensuring all equipment is operational and the shots are looking good and we are making sure that we are framing them properly.

    As Camera Two operator, I simply followed Avery’s, the Director, advice and put the camera where he told me to put it. There was little regard to FPS, Exposure or ISO. Those are lessons we learnt over time. As Avery was in some of the scenes in the first fight, I occasionally got to “direct.” I loved those minutes where I got to decide where the cameras went and everything. It took a couple weeks to film the first fight- and not much longer to edit. The editing was fairly simple; there was only one camera at most times and no sound being recorded. We could shout all we liked. This was all to change. As we had no foresight to do any practical effects, all the blood was done in Adobe After Effects, and looked incredibly cheesy. I learned that it is extremely difficult to get blood effects to work using pre-comped effects found on the internet and that for the next fight scene, we needed to use practical effects.
    As we finished the first fight scene, we moved on to the second. This time, we began by writing an outline of what we want to happen, turning that into scenes and real world locations, and then turning that into a script with full dialogue. We expected that converting the outline into a script would take as long as the dialogue. We were completely wrong- the outline was transferred in about two hours, as a nice shiny Celtx document that was properly formatted and all. The dialogue took significantly longer. As we wrote the lines, we faced issues about how much our actors would be able to remember and how some longer lines would fit into character. Longer lines for some actors we cut because they either wouldn’t remember them or they were too out of character. I was scripted to be the mastermind for the “good” team, the one who runs the show without getting their hands dirty. Sort of like M in James Bond. However, as the script progressed, it became apparent that in the end I would be getting my hands dirty… and being the only one to survive. The script at one point had to be swapped around because one parent noticed that all the girls died within the first five minutes. Of course we had no intentions of doing so, but had to change it anyway.

    With the script completed we were already nearing the end of the year- and this was a major problem. Actors and crew had exams and other important deadlines. We urgently began our rehearsing the fights, but no one thought that actors would also need to practice lines, which became an issue later on.

    With time not on our side, we began filming as soon as possible, which ended up being the girls scenes because they were the most prepared and putting the most effort into them. Our very first scene was Scene 11, in the Bastion Square alley. We were using our newly rented boom and shotgun microphone, which resulted in a happy Matt. I was doing my first shots on Matt’s homemade “fig rig,” a contraption made of PVC piping painted black to make it look more like real camera equipment and not a plumbing system. It felt precarious with Jasmine’s T2i on it, as the ¼ inch screw fastened to the device was not really fastened on, it was just kind of chilling there, waiting for the slightest breeze to ruin Jasmine’s $700 piece of sensitive electronic equipment. However, the fig rig has performed surprisingly well under the difficult conditions and is an extremely valuable device. Matt, the kind and caring boyfriend we all ought to be, decided to give Kate a heart attack by climbing on top of the small brick supports for an overhead walkway to record sound, even though it would have worked perfectly well from the ground.
    It’s a wonder we weren’t all nicked by VicPD and locked up.
    We got this scene done in an afternoon- we though “how hard can this be? This took only took a couple of hours!”

    That is not how it turned out.

    The shoots after all had more people in them. Some went perfectly- we turn up, get the shoot in a matter of hours and then go get a coffee. Some, such as scene 3.5, a 30 second scene in the movie, took more than 45 minutes to film because of continuity issues. Brigid was flipping her hood up and down between takes, so that we could choose which one we liked in editing. We didn’t notice until more than half the takes were done and informed Brigid that the Safety take is supposed to be the exact same, in case there is an unknown error in the first good take. This made us reshoot a whole bunch of seemingly unnecessary footage.

    Other scenes had other problems. Some were more complex, dealing with shadows, the 180 degree rule and continuity between days. Some were simply and only down to bad planning. Actors forgetting their costumes on several occasions. Not being able to shoot because people have other classes and other teachers are getting angry. We really learnt our lesson- make extensive schedules and make sure people follow them to the letter.

    Then came the editing. I thought “how hard can it be?” Turns out, very hard. Audio had to be synced for every cut. We quickly learnt that we needed to use the NATO phonetic alphabet to call out scenes, as b,c,d,e,g,p,t,v and z if you are American all sound the same on camera. Don’t believe me? Go outside and stand beside your local freeway. Say the aforementioned letters in a random order during rush hour. Then find someone else to try to work out what you are saying. It’s really hard. While I knew the answer was to call out “Scene One Alpha Take One” instead of “Scene One A Take One,” my colleagues were less than thrilled when I presented my “brilliant” idea. Avery didn’t know the phonetic alphabet, he claimed. Matt was on sound and didn’t do take calls, so he was exempt. Eventually I got it on set, but there are a lot of takes were the first bit being Avery and I arguing about what to say during the take call.

    On that note, there are a lot of takes of Avery and me arguing about pretty much every topic under the sun- and probably some topics above it, too. Jake says conflict is the best key to success, and it seemed like Avery and I agreed completely with that statement. However, it was beneficial to do so much shouting- we had a lot of different ideas and them all coming together was a major part of making both our fight scenes.

    Something we didn’t really consider was props and sets. Next year, we really need a dedicated person in charge of sets, costumes, and props, and all the other things that make the film work. We just kind of forgot about these seemingly minor details or pushed them to the backburner. I have learned that it is extremely important to make sure that sets are exactly as they need to be, and it is a good idea to sometimes go and scout them out before all the cast and crew arrive. Costumes are another important matter. Next year my personal recommendation is that we have a costume “bank” where we store all our costumes until they are required for filming, and have someone in charge of making sure they are all in an orderly condition. There have been numerous times when shooting has been canceled because costumes were forgotten at home, been in the wash, or otherwise unavailable for a variety of reasons. Jasmine once lost her shoes at home on an early morning scene, had an anxiety attack only for me to find them later chilling at the school. Props also require such attention, especially on a film as complex as fight scene, where we require guns, fake blood, and a load of other items to complete a shoot.

    Equipment is the most important part of making a film. It would be possible to make a film with no actors (BBC Life) or with no crew (use tripods, actors film), but recording is essential. We faced a variety of issues on the technical spectrum and dealt with them in many ways. Avery’s camera records 720p, while Jasmine’s records 1080. This created a challenge in Premiere, but was fixed by scaling Jasmine’s to frame size of Avery’s. We may have left the Zoom (audio recorder) on the roof of Jake’s car. That was dealt with by swearing a lot. Next year, we need to be on our game and always treat our equipment with the highest respect. Hopefully we will also have access to another 1080p camera.

    Overall, this filmmaking experience has been extremely beneficial to myself and others. On top of completing multiple courses required for graduation in the Province of British Columbia, I have learnt a lot about filmmaking and know that next year any films we make will be exponentially better, with more learning on the artistic side. I cannot wait to get going on more!


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