Did you know that all you need to create a remarkable movie these days is your smartphone? That’s right, with technology pushing the limits each and every day, many filmmakers and industry experts are starting to recognize the power and quality that mobile devices can offer filmmakers when it comes to creating films of any length.
This week, the IFI caught with Anthony Stirpe, a teacher at New Rochelle High School and one of the pioneers of the mobile device filmmaking movement, in order to gain insights on this innovative technique and explore how he utilizes mobile device filmmaking in the classroom setting to educate his students. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: How did you come to teach filmmaking at New Rochelle High School?
A: I was taking over the acting program from a retiring teacher. One of the classes in question was a Scriptwriting class that they were considering phasing out. I got the idea to turn it into a Filmmaking course, but the equipment to pursue such an endeavor was too expensive. That is when I began to explore the idea of Mobile Device Filmmaking. My principal was very intrigued with the idea and was willing to take the risk. In the past two years we have had much success, winning state and national awards for our innovation, and next year we will add a second level class.
Q: How do you mentor students who are looking to continue filmmaking after studying?
A: Of course, I encourage students to keep making films. The film process has been democratized, and every student now has the opportunity. I also encourage students to volunteer for jobs that they find on sites like Mandy.com. And, of course, I encourage them to enroll in outside classes, such as the International Film Institute of New York.
Q: How has technology, now more available than ever, helped you teach basic storytelling skills?
A: With Apple products reaching 4K quality, the sky is now the limit. Everyone can be a filmmaker. Apps such as FilmicPro give the filmmaker hands-on control. And, with templates in iMovie and editing on a device itself, anyone can create a movie. You have to make a movie to make movies, and now everyone has the opportunity. Additionally, I think what was once a very intimidating art is now accessible. If anything, that is the biggest advantage to modern technology in filmmaking; people now feel more confident in their abilities and they are more willing to take a risk.
Q: What challenges have you had building your curriculum? And how has that impacted your teaching style?
A: The biggest setback is the lack of equipment for all. I do not have enough devices to individualize the experience for the students. This class has forced me to get creative in how I group students. I have also learned that one project filmed by a group should be edited by many people on different devices. The creativity that comes out of multiple students bringing their voices to the same project is a really fun classroom experience.
Also, although you would think that people were supportive, many people do not understand what I do. Frequently, staff and other teachers see this class as a summer camp experiment or having no value. One staff member even told me before I received some excellent press that no one would ever be interested in our program.
What I do believe strongly having been an English teacher for 13 years before this opportunity is that this could quite possibly be the future of English education.
Q: As a teacher, what can be done to encourage more minority and underrepresented communities to become more active in the film industry?
A: I think that more schools should invest like the programs I am creating, but they should be incorporated into English departments. By showing people that this is an additional form of communication and storytelling, you will see more people, including minority students, to learn that filmmaking is a viable opportunity.
Q: What advice would you give other teachers who are looking to include more media arts into their curriculum?
A: Take the chance. Recognize that you don’t need much these days. With a student phone or something as simple as an iPod touch, a classroom can be transformed.
About Anthony Stirpe:
Anthony is a writer and director who has taught at New Rochelle High School since 2002. He has a degree in English writing/literature and a Masters in Theatre Education. For the past few years, Anthony has developed Writing and Filmmaking curriculum which has been features in The Wall Street Journal, The Westchester Journal and has also been on WPIX11.