Full Circle Cinema aims to promote digital media literacy
The Alexander Valley Film Society (AVFS) is working to bring a two-week film unit to classrooms in north county. The program, dubbed Full Circle Cinema, is expected to launch in Cloverdale, Geyserville and Healdsburg throughout the coming months.
“Full Circle Cinema is the film society’s solution after five years of research to trying to bring digital media literacy to students in public school,” AVFS Executive Director Kathryn Hecht said. “After five years of trying to provide supplemental training and support to what already exists in public schools in Healdsburg, Geyserville and Cloverdale — we tried in school, after school, over the summers and what we’ve landed on is a way to bring it into the classroom in a core subject area and offer a two week unit with a visiting teaching artist who will show an award winning film and provide discussion or activity materials to classes.”
As part of the unit, students will work with a representative from the Sonoma County Officer of Education (SCOE) to create a five-minute film surrounding an idea set by the class’ regular teacher.
Part of the agreement between the schools and SCOE, Hecht said, was that students submit their films to SCOE’s 5 Minute Film Festival. Winners from SCOE’s festival then become eligible to be entered into the Alexander Valley Film Festival, which opens up the possibility of students receiving a monetary reward for their efforts.
“We’re flipping these skills and media literacy into what they’re already learning to amplify what they’re learning,” Hecht said. “It’s putting the skills of video making into a more holistic environment. It’s like learning how to write — I have to be able to know how to write in order to write an essay. If I have skills about editing or how to hold a camera, or what light to get — then creatively, I’m understanding something that goes beyond telling a story for story’s sake.”
The sessions will be led by local writer and illustrator Angela Larsen, who has served as a substitute teacher in media classes at Healdsburg High School. In addition to writing and illustrating children’s books, Larsen has also led workshops and worked on a web series.
“I really wanted the kids to know that they could be telling their own stories,” Larsen said, discussing why she was interested in working on Full Circle Cinema.
Larsen was drawn to working with the AVFS because of their appreciation for both films, and the process behind making them.
“I’m really excited for this program,” she said. “I think it will help expand some of the kids’ concepts of what they can accomplish.”
AVFS has already had a hand in childhood media literacy programs — it runs a summer film camp for kids in sixth to 12th grades. This program, however, will bring media learning directly to the classroom without a summer barrier. Both the film camp and Full Circle Cinema are aimed at improving media literacy, which Hecht pointed to as being a necessary skill for the workforce that today’s kids and teens will be entering into.
“We don’t see this as much as arts education as we do as skills development for the 21st century marketplace,” she said.
The program will vary depending on the classroom it’s in, Hecht said. The AVFS is looking at making it fully adaptable so it can accommodate a variety of grade levels, class subjects and school needs.
“In our research we’ve run into the fact that every school district is different, every school is different and every teacher is different,” she said. “What we’re trying to solve is the access to different tools.”
In Healdsburg, the program is being adapted to accommodate Healdsburg High School’s no cellphone policy.
“We’re really excited about coming up with a solution, and when I had this meeting with Healdsburg and realized we kind of hit a block with students not having access to phones during class,” Hecht said. “Because the film society is nimble, we’re able to pivot and say ‘what do we need to bring into classrooms to make this still applicable and available to students in this way?’ It speaks to the larger ethos of the film society.”
As part of its youth outreach as a whole, the AVFS is trying to assist schools in getting arts coverage into the curriculum so that students are able to gain a deeper understanding of the skills that are integral to putting together a film.
“When it comes to funding priorities in the county, and we’ve just seen so much tragedy in the last couple of years and the cost of living is so high, I think it is also important to sneak the arts in wherever we can because it’s such a critical component to being good humans and having our souls fed,” Hecht said.