Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Teacher Versus Student


I was watching the news this morning and a story caught my attention. Generally, I listen with a grain salt all to aware of the spin that the media puts on everything these days. I listen and wait for the real story to follow days or sometimes weeks later, but by then it usually does matter what the truth is the media has polarized the people the way they want. Usually causing a major shit storm, but what ever, as long as they keep their rating up the truth doesn't matter. I felt I should share with you guys this one particular story do to my incite on the subject. Teaching. I teach a story class at CalArts in Velencia. It is a well known school in the film world, as a matter of fact many famous people have roots connected to this school.

The story was about a professor at another school that wrote a long scathing email to his students to inform them that do to their unacceptable behavior he was failing the entire class. On the list was but not limit to was a section their disrespect and their threatening behavior in class. He bailed on the class, the school stepped in and a replacement teacher will finish the year out, the failing grades were removed and will be reassessed at the end of the year.

Now, the reason I wanted to share this is because I have a perspective from both sides, the student and the teacher. I want to start by eliminating the extremes from both sides. From the over bearing bull teacher to the unruly student. In any given school you will find the a-holes on both sides and that the fuel that both of those extremes like to use. I don't want to get anybody upset on either side, again, I"m sharing this with the hope that it will give both sides some insight and maybe help in someway.

First, let me say that not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. I've had conversations with ex-teachers who quit teaching for the very reasons stated above.This is my take on it. A teacher or professor should not take it personal if a student or students are not responding with what they feel is the appropriate amount of attention that is require for what they are sharing in class. All students are different, my experience is that some of the ones in back are paying more attention than you think. First thing I share and teaching is about sharing, is that this is all about them (the student). As a student they have come to this school to learn something, from me in order for them to take that knowledge  and apply to the future. If they don't listen and gather they can't apply. I tell them that every time they miss a class, or don't do an assignment that they are hurting themselves, not me. I have a job, they want one and I want them to have one, I'm on their side. I'm not only there to share information, (this is very important to stress to our students), I'm here to share experience. I tell them that what I'm teaching they can find through books and other resources with great pain and difficulty but no matter how hard they search they cannot find experience. I can give them both if they will to listen. Second thing is I am brutally honest and expect that in return, (both sides honest with respect). It's been my experience that no one likes to be lied to and the end result is distrust and disrespect. I let them know that I do not operate under the guise of passive aggressive behavior, I find condescending and rude. Just tell me what the hell you want. What teachers forget is that students are not numbers they are people with real feelings and real lives and sometimes those things clash with school. Again, don't take so damn personal when a student isn't operating according to your way of thinking. Some of them are scared out of there wits about the future. Third thing I share is that I think of them all as potential success stories until proven other wise. I help them to understand that they have passed the threshold into adulthood and are expected them to act that way.  I tell my students in the begin of the year and remind them throughout the year that a good portion of there grade is based on their participation in and out of class. I make it clear that that's how the work environment the real world operates. I have a pretty heavy talk with them about what I find unacceptable in class.Some of which includes what I feel is the respect line which is not to be crossed (to include cell phone use, behavior guide lines, and other polices). I do not waver on these. I let them know that all of this will be reflect in their grades. I could go on for hours about the nuances of teaching but the bottom line is that you have to love doing it. Every small nugget of success you hear about your students should reign like a a new ruby in the crown on you're head. Last thing, teaching should be fun for the teacher and the student, it should be stimulating, exciting, spontaneous and even unpredictable at times, for that keeps your students wanting to come back to class week after week.

Now for the other side. Students, as much as you want to believe that it's you versus the so called establishment or how it's been presented to me,"I'm in my rebellious years, I suppose to protest and fight the norm just to do, when else will I get the opportunity". The stupidity behind that statement is unbelievable. What I got from that statement was, that later in life that person plans on being a dead beat and a coward. Anyways, let's not forget no matter what your philosophy is on these so called college years somebody is paying for them, you or your parents are paying for an education so that you can join the very establishment you say you have a problem with. Do you see the contradiction there, if you really want things to change, get yourself and education and go out there and make a difference or stay out of school and save yourself a shit lode of money and spare everyone the heart ache of your bullshit. As a former student my friends and I look back and can't help but bring up the asshole students and how full of crap they were. Now, over twenty years later those same students have either joined the establishment with kids a car and paying taxes on a really nice gated community neighborhood or they have ceased to exist. Your chose either way you want to play it in school, but leave outside the classroom. Causing a ruckus in class or being disruptive only hurts you and the rest of the students. Hell, for the sake of your classmates and out respect for your peers keep yourselves in check for the duration of the class period. Your teacher is there to give you something,  insight and knowledge, and if you let them some life experiences, so just take it.  Bad behavior like an attitude that reflects that you could give a shit less if your teacher shows up or not is bad form and immature as hell. 

For the most part I think most students want to learn and the real frustration come out of the lack of information especially when you find a lack of applicable to your future goals. My philosophy for a good student is someone who has a hunger to learn and someone who doesn't just rely on the teacher for that to happen. Really, to solely rely on your teacher isn't fair and it makes you lazy student. Do you really think your teacher knows everything? Part of their job is to make you aware that there is more information out there, go find it, learn to seek out information from anywhere you can find it. Then come back and share it. Another thing that makes a great student is someone that asks questions! Asking questions does not mean you that are stupid it just means you don't know something. It's been my experience that half of your peers don't know the answer your are seeking but they would rather not know than to raise their hand an ask the question. Now that's stupid! I cannot begin to express how helpful it is to your teachers when you ask questions. If they don't know the answer they will find out for you. I guess what I'm saying in a nut shell is that there is a great responsibility that comes with being a student. One of my biggest gripes with students and worse yet graduates is new phenomena of mimicking what they have seen instead of forging a new and better path off of what they have learned. Mimicking the  past only means you are repeating what's already been done only you are doing it in a shallow insincere form. Why, because it's being done off of what you think you know versus what you really have learned. All great success stories come out of people that learn not just from school but through the ups and downs in life then they apply it to make good sound decisions. 

In summation this just scratches the surface of long conversation from teachers and students that can't be done a a few paragraphs. Again, to avoid a bunch of responses from unhappy students and teachers that have had to deal with assholes on either side, remember that I excluded them from the conversation. Yes, I know they exist, I've had deal with them on both sides and my experience is that their bullshit catches up to them eventually so move past them, out mature them, out grow them, but most of all get around them you have more important things to spend your energy on. When it comes down to teacher versus student no one wins in this scenario. In the end it is both the teacher and the student that have to work together to make the classroom environment a positive experience.

Everyone has a little Elvis in them. This is more like a little Evil Kenvel.

As I tell my students, 90% of this thing called story boarding is the thinking part and 10% is the actual execution or the drawing out of those developed ideas. A well thought out sequence will flow better and be easier to edit in the end. Because this is a visual medium it is better to draw out your ideas so as to make it easier to explain them to your director. I don't always have field guides or boarders around my drawings. I can always add them later and recompose my idea to fit the appropriate film aspect ratio. Sometimes starting with a predetermined box or boarder can hamper my creative approach, specifically when it comes to camera moves. The boarders A.K.A. my fielding is always in the back of my mind as I compose my setups. 

 You will notice that some of these drawings are cleaner or as I put it more worked up. These I will just scan into the computer and draw right over them for the shot I'm looking for. This is where you save a ton of time for you don't have to start from scratch and create something from nothing.


One of the hardest jobs in story boarding is what I call patch work.  It's when a sequence has already been worked out and edited and you are called into fix it or add new ideas to that sequence. You want the sequence or scene to still maintain it's original integrity. It's difficult when you're coming into a sequence or scene at this point primarily because it's someone else's approach to that assignment. It's their ideas, their timing and drawing style, so thumbnails are a quick way to lay in shots to see if what you want to do will actually work. 

I am finding that doing thumbnails for each assignment is becoming more and more essential before I can layout a sequence and begin to start boarding. It is a great time saver and a quick way to get a ya or nay on an approach or direction I plan on taking in a particular idea. This is a great way of getting input from my director before I have committed to hours and hours of drawing only to find out I going the wrong way with a sequence.

On a film like "Monkeys" which required a lot of line mileage (do to the high character counts per shot), thumb-nailing saved me a lot of heart ache by getting rough drawings in front of the director and him pre-approving them before I committed to the wrong ideas.

Sometime or I should say most of the time you don't get an opportunity to go back and clean up your drawings. If they read and get the idea across then that's how they stay. It has quite the humbling effect on you, people get to see your crappy, rough, unfinished drawings and you cannot defend them. That's story boarding for you.

 These drawings are not backed, in other words you can see through them. Most of the time that's unacceptable and you have to go back and put a value behind them to make them read clearer. Usually you back them with white, these read okay as they were but if I had the time I would have gone back into the scene and back them with white anyways.

You've already seen this in part but not the whole shot all together.

You will notice if you look carefully there is some rack focusing stuff going on in these boards. You would be amazed at how often this is over looked in a scene or sequence, board artist just don't think about camera lenses and how they can play a role in their scenes. I like to use it because it really helps the eye to key in on what's important in any given shot and it looks good too.

This is the thumbnail or rough drawing for the actual board below it.

If you were to ask me what I think the most important thing is in becoming an A class board artist I would tell you good, clear acting. It is something I am always striving to improve upon. Beyond all other things you may know great acting out ways them all by far.

These are the thumbnails for the shot below.

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