Wednesday, October 25th, 2017 saw the world premiere of the Animation Nation Club’s new stop-motion film Build A Better Monster! Ten of the intrepid filmmakers from our summer program showed up, joined by family, friends, and even a couple of curious library users (surely attracted by the good vibes… and free pizza). You can check out our movie here:
So, now that the dust has settled and all the LEGOs are packed away until next year, we can take the time to reflect upon what we learned from this experience. We had a lot of fun, but there are definitely things we will be doing differently next year – this was as much a learning experience for the staff as it was for the kids. Anyone reading this who would like to conduct their own animation workshop should know this – even though it’s a blast and well worth the time and effort, you will have to devote a substantial amount of both to be successful. Thankfully, you can learn from our mistakes, avoid some common pitfalls, and simply bask in the warm glow of adoration that is sure to follow the release of your cinematic masterpiece.
First, planning ahead is extremely important. If you do not know what it is you want to accomplish with your program, and what you want the participants to experience and/or learn, then a lot of time is going to be wasted. And that is time that you are really going to need – stop-motion animation is a very time consuming process, requiring hundreds (or thousands!) of pictures to be taken for even a very short film. Before the first workshop, I had several objectives set in stone. The entire group would collaborate on a “horror movie” (kid friendly, of course). Since the Studio Rhode grant provided us with so many useful devices, each child would be able to experiment and work on their own mini-movies when not working on the “big picture”. Finally, the program would conclude with a premiere showing of the collaborative film shortly before Halloween.
Of course, no amount of planning will eliminate obstacles or the need to be adaptive and flexible with your program. The changes that had to be made to the older teen workshops illustrate this point well. While it would have been preferable for that group to create a collaborative film like the tweens did, several factors required that changes be made to what had originally been envisioned. Unlike the younger class, attendance was very erratic. While some participants attended frequently, the makeup of the group was constantly in flux, making it much more difficult to create a sense of community and shared interest. Also, the teens exhibited a wide range of interests and abilities, making the sessions less streamlined and focused, yet full of creativity. It became clear after the first couple of classes that this group would not be able to create a collective piece of movie-making. However, the less structured atmosphere allowed the teens to experiment and explore animation techniques at their own pace and level of ability.