FOR GERRY Ryder, the benefits of adding filmmaking to the classroom are far reaching for the students involved. Now retired, the former teacher at Gaelscoil Raifteirí in Castlebar helped his 6th Class students to win the ‘Best School / Youth Organisation’ award at the 2021 Nenagh Children’s Film Festival.
“They had to understand the text and the story, and they had to reproduce it. You can’t really reproduce it until you understand it. It demanded a level of acting ability and interpretation of the role,” Gerry said about their short film, Na Blátha Craige, which takes a comedic look at oral language exams in Irish secondary schools.
“It was open to all the class for different characters and roles in the drama itself. That was a bit of an eye opener for me because when I was doing screen tests, I got actors I wasn’t expecting. Two, in particular, were normally quiet in the class but they turned out to be excellent for their roles.”
All the pupils in his Mayo school class were also involved in the shooting and editing of the production. Pupils were picking up nuggets of knowledge along the way. Like most schools, there wasn’t much professional filmmaking equipment on hand, so they had to adapt when it came to issues like lighting and sound.
“Everyone had a go at editing when we had footage,” explained Gerry. “They had to be involved in where to place themselves, how to speak when being recorded. They had to learn about using a camera, to be as close as possible to get a good sound on the microphone because we didn’t have an external mic.
“They had to know how to cut on the recording. They had to work on editing skills. Thanks to modern technology, it’s easy to teach those things in the class because you have a big screen and everyone can see what’s going on at the computer. So it’s a good educational experience.”
Nenagh Children’s Film Festival is now inviting submissions for the 3rd annual running of the event from June 10-12th, 2022, organised by Nenagh Arts Centre. Developed during the pandemic, this festival was forced to focus heavily on online events. As a result, its reach stretches much further than the north Tipperary region.
Schools and youth organisations from across Ireland, and beyond our shores, are being invited to submit a short film or animation for consideration before the deadline on April 8th. They must be no longer than 15 minutes and be suitable for young audiences. Click here for more information & to submit
Homegrown and internationally produced films will be screened online at the festival. The exposure to overseas filmmaking ideas also impressed Gerry about Nenagh Children’s Film Festival.
“It takes a lot of planning and a lot of work. But when you have something like Nenagh Children’s Film Festival then it’s all worthwhile for the teacher because it provides great focus, and it’s a potential reward as well. We could get potential feedback and payback too. It’s not just something that’s done in a class after a lot of work, and it’s kept there. It was an opportunity to portray ourselves, the class, the school, beyond the school itself.”
Gerry says the kids were delighted with the recognition from Nenagh Children’s Film Festival, and that the announcement of their award came as a surprise while watching excerpts from other entries.
Filmmaking is a labour of love for Gerry, something he’s been keen to integrate into his teaching career. “Producing a film takes a lot of work, but it’s worth it when you have the finished article. It’s something you can always look back on and enjoy. Your class can always look back on it and enjoy it for years afterwards.
“I’ve been making videos with my classes for 20 years, and I still treasure the ones made 10 or 20 years ago. It’s nice for children to look back and see themselves as they were when they were in 5th or 6th class. It always brings a smile to my face when I think back on different videos that we’ve done.
“It’s a lot of work but even if you don’t win an event, or feature in an event, you’re left with a legacy and a product that lives on.”
Nenagh Children’s Film Festival offers three days of animation, short and feature films, produced in Ireland and overseas by industry professionals, and students. The programme of events also includes workshops and Q&As to help budding filmmakers to develop their skills. It takes place online from June 10-12th, 2022, as part of celebrations for Cruinniú na nÓg. All activities and screenings will be free of charge.
Schools and youth organisations are now being invited to make submissions of their short films or animations to the festival before the deadline on April 8th. Click here for more information & to submit