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Making Movies: A Challenge To Superior Students

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Making Movies: A Challenge to Superior Students

A project by Professor William D. Baker published in the Journal of Communications, 1954

William D. Baker, an English professor, makes light of the dilemma faced by the faculty of Michigan State College; how to challenge advanced students. The college hosted special conferences and offered remedial services for students that were doing poorly, yet had no constructive program for students who were excelling in their studies other than to allow them to skip a quarter or two by taking the exam early. His essay in the 1954 Journal of Communication documents an assignment he gave his best students in his Freshman English class; to make a movie.

Professor Baker wanted to assign a significant project "one within the province of the communication teacher and stimulating in its challenge to superior students". Upon deciding to have the students make a movie, he found through research that high school students in Denver, and Detroit and college students at Alabama Polytechnical Institute had made films also. Unfortunately those students' situations provided Mr. Baker with two worries, time and money. The average time allotted in many cases was ten weeks, longer than what could be allowed in one quarter, and the average cost would have made the project impossible to do if financed solely by him. In contrast to the Denver and Detroit schools' spending hundreds of dollars on equipment, Baker kept the costs down to an absolute minimum spending about thirteen dollars on color film and recording tape, he was determined to have his students take on the project.

The five students, selected based on their grades from the first quarter and their first speech and theme in the second quarter, were told to pick a topic that would be approved by the instructor, and work out the film's production plan for themselves.

The group, calling itself The Film Five, was armed with Professor Baker's 8mm camera, projector, a splicing outfit, and a titling outfit, a special filter for taking outdoor pictures with indoor film, and photoflood lights and reflectors. The students were informed that the effort was to be a group project and its success or failure rested on their shoulders alone. The Film Five worked in Baker's office and were excused from several classes to work on the film with his permission.


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