Loop Program Students Learn Storytelling and Filmmaking Skills

Many Grand Rapids Public Schools offer LOOP afterschool programs that provide academic support and enrichment activities for students. Mosaic Film Experience partnered with University Preparatory Academy Middle School (UPrep) and Alger Middle School LOOP programs to lead after-school curriculum centered around storytelling and mobile video production. The project was possible thanks to grant funding from the Wege Foundation.

The UPrep Project

The UPrep project challenged students to create stories based on inspiring song lyrics. Everything was on the table—from Tupac’s “Keep Your Head Up” to SpongeBob’s “Best Day Ever.” After they wrote their stories, students turned them into the plot of their film.

One student made a particular impact. In the last week of class, Mosaic Education Leads, Randy Strobl and Mallory Patterson of Wrinkle Creative, redirected this student’s distracting classroom behavior to a more positive role as director. It fit perfectly. The student directed a beautiful scene, pushing her actors to feel the emotion of a mom telling her daughter about life’s hardships. Eventually this student fell into the film’s mom role and nailed the performance.

UPrep students worked together to produce a creative film. But more importantly, they learned about their individual strengths, which will benefit them moving forward in whatever career they pursue.

The Alger Middle Project

The Alger Middle School project was based on student’s experiences. Strobl and Patterson broke students up into three groups of four. Two groups told bullying stories while the third group chose a high-stakes basketball game as their story focus.

On the last day of production, the basketball group came into class ready to film. One student had become the clear director and the group supported his vision and made it happen. At one point, there was an argument about who was going to make the winning shot in the fictional basketball game, but the director spoke up saying, “We don’t have time for this, we just have to make it happen.” The rest of the students agreed, and they quickly made a collective decision and recorded the scene. Throughout the filming process this group learned what it meant to work together as a team.

Throughout the week-long afterschool project, the Alger students also quickly picked up on and implemented filmmaking lingo.

“We heard them calling ‘quiet on set’ or ‘truck forward’ when directing the camera to move forward,” said Strobl. “They also discussed closeups, wide shots, and medium shots with each other, determining which would be best for each scene.”

Two groups finished their production early and began editing.

“On the final day we started packing up, but the students didn’t want to be done. It was a beautiful thing to see these students, who were often hard to engage in the classroom, so focused on the work of editing as a group,” shared Strobl.

Overall, the large class size came together to create three great projects.

Project Premieres

At the end of both programs Mosaic Film Experience hosted parent nights complete with a red carpet as well as catered food and popcorn to eat while screening the films. After each film, the student creators talked about what inspired their films and their creative process.

LOOP also invited Mosaic Film Experience students to share their creative work at their end-of-the-year Collaborative Youth Fair. Each LOOP site showed their projects at the event. While many other students displayed their science-based experiments, art projects, and interactive developments, the Mosaic Film Experience students shared their films with pride.

“It was a lot of fun watching the kids see themselves on screen and share their projects with their peers,” said Patterson.

The students persisted throughout the highs and lows of both projects while creating honorable work, developing new skills, and learning about a powerful creative outlet they had in the palm of their hand all along.

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