Monday, May 4, 2009

Final Cut Pro and Independent Film Making

Last week, I got to use Apple's Final Cut Pro for the first time in my life. As a former publications teacher who has taught through every iteration of iMovie since its inception, it was as though I had just seen the inception of the automobile and instantly understood how inadequate my horse and buggy were.

Final Cut Pro and its ability to do everything of professional quality, be it wireframe animation, multi-camera editing, or advanced color and sound correction, is very awe inspiring. It is a professional tool, the tool of choice for Dreamworks, the USA network, and probably over half of the rest of Hollywood.

The problem is, it is too good. It is so powerful that it is too powerful for education. Now, there are a few schools in the Heartland area that use it, and there are some more considering using it, but that is an outer elective, way on the periphery of the Iowa Core.

Filmmaking in general draws the ire of Core Knowledge proponents as something that uselessly detracts from learning content. I disagree of course; filmmaking allows for an artful blending of dialogue, composition, and drama into something meaningful. It is the modern-day narration, as our society doesn't sit still for good old fashion campfire stories or novels anymore. It is one of the most intensive forms of creation that students can partake in.

But, it does take time. A lot of time. Requiring a lot of patience and a lot of background knowledge about drama, cinematography, photo composition, and more. iMovie, with its premade templates and simplified structure, cuts through a lot of that, getting students from the content knowledge to the finished product quicker. Unfortunately, the type of specified knowledge Final Cut Pro requires extra time for is not of a greater use. They are only skills a relative few professionals at movie studios and TV stations need, and those skills will be taught in college anyways. The time to learn Final Cut Pro, while undeniably fascinating, is a waste.

Or, so I thought. That thought just got blown out of the water after I saw the independent fan film The Hunt For Gollum. The 34-minute film tells a parallel story to the Lord of the Rings, coming from the appendix material. It features about 150 amateur actors with unbelievable costuming, scenery, musical score, special effects, and film editing. The production is beyond excellent for an amateru production. And it exists only because a fan wanted it to.

With the advent of Youtube (which has produced more content in 6 months than ABC, CBS, and NBC have in the last 60 years), there is a built-in audience for amateur filmmakers. And if you are good... really good, there is now an upper level of online films made by amateurs. With Final Cut Pro, every person has the tools... it only takes the know-how.

The revelation to me is that filmmaking, something I loved as a teacher but always had a hard time justifying, becomes more justified, just as singing in choir. We don't have students sing in choir because we are aiming all choir members to become recording artists. We do so because it is artful, creative, and leads to free-time exploration. My church has several such artists who share their gifts each Sunday, while maintaining work as accountants and nurses during the week.

Filmmaking, through the advent of technology, now allows people to explore as well. It sparks from their passion. Just like the Lord of the Ring fans who created this, there are hundreds of other stories with devoted fans who can make fan movies, giving their life passion.

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