7 Ways to Involve the Kids

Children love to make videos, all they need is the impetus and opportunity. So take the camera out of the closet on a lazy Sunday and say "Hey! Let's make a movie!"

Most Americans have basically been trained to be good consumers. They buy books that other people wrote, they listen to music that other people play, they watch movies other people produce, and they watch sports that other people are playing. However, that's the difference between you and most Americans: you produce, in addition to consume. Moreover, the difference between your kids and the rest of the kids on the block is that your kids are going to grow up being producers of content rather than simply passive consumers.

What to Videotape?

Too many people suffer from the misapprehension that the only things worth recording are "special events" and excursions. But rest assured that thirty years from now, you're not going to become paralyzed with joy at discovering footage of an elephant at the zoo. What will thrill and captivate you are images and sounds of your family and friends on perfectly ordinary days.

You need not look further than what you already know about movies and TV to come up with ideas for what to videotape with your kids.

1 Documentary

Profile a member of the family, a trip to the store, a pet or friend. Interview family members "How do you feel about our new car? Your little brother?," etc. Perhaps there's a playground, skatepark, or lake that plays a big part in the life of your family — why not make a video about it? Interview people who use or maintain it, find out a little bit more about its history and its current usage.

2 Fiction

Are your kids actors? Find out. Write a script for a short drama, romance, science fiction or action movie — and be sure to include plenty of props. Also consider a few sets. Shoot and edit — bring your ideas to the screen. If you have trouble coming up with a script, adapt the script of one of your favorite movies — do a scene from The Little Mermaid or Batman.

3 Sports

Help the kids videotape one of their sporting events. Also be sure to conduct interviews later with the coach, teammates, friends, and spectators. What were the some of the highlights of the game? Let the athlete tell the story and check out that slow motion control!

4 Variety

Do you have a comic in the house? A juggler? A dancer? Produce your own variety show. Have a host introduce acts, and be sure to invite your children's friends who have special talents. An audience is optional, but more fun.

5 History

Interview your grandparents about life when they were growing up. Prepare a list of questions about historical events — their favorite movies, actors, and music. Events such as JFK's assassination, the war in Vietnam, and the Moon Landing may all have specific and vivid memories for them. Ask what they remember, what they were doing, how they felt. Ask about the friends they've known for the longest time, or special trips they took, ask how it felt becoming a grandparent. Ask people who have lived nearby for a long time about your house or street — who used to live there? What were they like? What do they remember? What's their earliest memory?

6 Personal Biography

Produce and edit a video letter to friends or family members who don't live nearby. Show off your house, include messages from old friends — even a trip to the grocery store becomes fun when you're watching people you love and are apart from having adventures. Burn a DVD, mail a tape, or use an Internet media sharing service like Stream Load (www.streamload.com) to distribute your letter.

7 Plan a Premiere

What's all this work if you're not going to show off the fruits of your labors? Invite friends and family members for movie night. Raid the cupboard for snacks! Make some popcorn! A printed program can also add to the excitement. Have the audience vote and give out awards.

Don't Have Fancy Editing Equipment?

Don't let the lack of a speedy computer, lots of disk space, or a digital camcorder keep you from starting to making movies with the kids. If any of these are a barrier, you can use "in camera" editing, by using the "pause" button to edit while you are shooting. Editing "in camera" requires that you practice beforehand and have a good outline of what you want to do, because doing re-takes can be very difficult (you’d have to find frames by hand every time that you wanted to re-shoot.) Remember that techniques are more important than the equipment, especially at this age. A recent Videomaker short video contest winner, Working Nightmare, was shot using an old 8mm camcorder producer Levi Taylor dug out of his closet!

Change Your Kids Lives

By breaking the cycle of consumerism you're teaching your children a valuable lesson — that it's possible to be the sort of person who makes movies not just watches them. Realizing that they have the option to do is a valuable gift and twenty five years from now it'll be nice to hear them say, "I'd like to thank my parents" before they say, "I'd like to thank the Academy."

Contributing Editor Kyle Cassidy Kyle Cassidy is a visual artist who writes extensively about technology.

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