GSS Fall '09 genre study: The Pizza Guy reality Show & Eye Witness News spoof
An instant classic, the students at GSS at PS 32 in Gowanus, Brooklyn worked with TMS collaborators, Brian Smith, Jacqueline Arias, and myself, to produce this spoof of reality TV, and corresponding PSA, during our genre study afterschool video production workshop series.
Normally, we begin an afterschool production workshop by analyzing examples of professional film or video with students, then brainstorming with them for how they might like to use what they've seen to create something of their own. This time around, we came to the students with the idea to emphasize the understanding of genre -- to identify how filmmakers define genre through their decision-making, and how it can affect their audiences.
Students demonstrated an impressive understanding of these distinctions through when viewing and deconstructing various examples Brian and I brought in. We planned to then divide into small production groups and create "promos" for shows in various genres of the students' choice. However, when we broke into groups to brainstorm ideas, amazingly, 5 of 5 groups came back to our share-out session with ideas that involved people getting hit by cars as an element of their piece.
Brian and I left this session wondering how to allow the students to create content according to their obvious enthusiasm for this subject, while also capitalizing on this teachable moment related to public safety and media litearcy. Our compromise was to suss out with our students where the idea of getting hit by a car being funny comes from -- if it's not funny or entertaining in real life, how do filmmakers make it so on TV and in the movies? If we were going to allow our students to produce more media including this brand of human-drama-turned-entertainment, we were going to insist that it included a transparent deliberate discussion and message for our audience about the distinction between fiction and reality. We would expose the tricks of the trade that allow us as filmmakers to create make-believe to elicit a desired responses from our audiences.
The resulting videos played to a packed auditorium at PS 32 in Gowanus Brooklyn, for the GSS winter showcase. The crowd went WILD! They loved the execution of the comic elements, but it was also clear, during the performance, and through the comments of several GSS staff members and parents, that they were impressed by the explanation of the filmmaking process that the students articulated so well in the PSA, and the care that was taken to highlight the seriousness of the real-life situations we fictionalized.