BSI Movie Magic – Altering Reality for Audiences

How do moviemakers change how we see the world? How do they make what’s impossible in the real world, sometimes seem like reality? How can we as filmmakers help the public understand how video production can change how people see the real world?

These are some of the questions students at PS 686, The Brooklyn School of Inquiry, explored during an 8 session “enrichment cluster” hands-on video production seminar with Judy Tjan Griffith, Avery Finch and me last spring.


We started out looking up examples of movie magic that the kids loved and talked about how we thought the filmmakers made the impossible possible.  Then we watched some behind the scenes and how-to videos that pulled back the curtain on some common effects.  Each week the kids experimented with different effects software including green screen rendering in iMovie, the Lego stop-motion movie maker app on the iPad, and text to speech animator.  Once they had a handle on some of the tricks of the trade we brainstormed stories to tell, storyboarded in small groups, and synthesized their ideas into a simple script.

For production the kids were broken into small groups with specific tasks: digital storyboard supervisor, sound engineers — collecting sound effects, searching the web for music, and recording live original music, script supervisors — making sure all parts of the script were captured, background image hunters, stop motion, and digital animators, and the film crew — framing action in front of the green screen.

Check out how the class progressed through our weekly notes and clips on

Hopefully, we empowered these kids to consider the possibilities of the impossible as filmmakers, and gave them some new critical thinking angles on video authorship and construction, without diminishing the magic of movies for them as audience members!