Using Short Films to Analyze Story
I believe I've mentioned before that during the pandemic I got in the habit of tuning in on Wednesday nights to a Facebook Live group called Friends and Fiction. During the hour long show, the four author/hosts interview other authors. They have a recurring question I like so much that I've adapted it into my teaching. They ask each visiting author to tell what their book is about and then to tell what it's really about.
As a teacher, I've realized that question is a powerful tool for getting students to explore the difference between plot and theme.
I also like to teach using Pixar shorts. These short films have so much depth and tell incredible stories in a very short amount of time.
Today, as I was combining the two, I was thinking of how these would be good practices for us to engage in as writers.
Let's take this film for example.
It's really cute, so feel free to go watch. Then we'll discuss.
So what is it about?
Spoiler alert - A father and grandfather whose job is to create the phases of the moon take a young boy on his first trip to the moon. There is conflict between the father and grandfather who each want the boy to do things their way. But when a large star lands on the moon, it's the young boy who is able to solve the problem.
So what's it really about? - Finding your identity. Being true to your own self.
You probably know from my past posts that I love to deconstruct stories to figure out how they work.
These shorts are whole stories in under ten minutes. They're great to use with students because they give a fun visual explanation of elements of story structure. It's easy to construct a plot chart after watching a short movie. To answer that, we have to analyze the characters. It's amazing how well developed they are with no dialogue at all.
I've included two more of my favorites. I thought it might be fun to analyze why they work.
Who would like to join in? What enables these short films to capture and hold our attention?
PS - There are also some notably bad shorts (bad as in boring). I'm trying to be upbeat, so I won't link the ones with sagging middles because it's kind of bad to have a sagging middle in such a short film. Still, we can learn from analyzing the good as well as the bad.