We Had No Idea How to Make a Short Film for a School Project in 5 days. . . But We Did it!

So, it looks like most of us are on lockdown. Thanks to this mysterious coronavirus! At least I get some time to do some of the many things that I wanted to finish, like sharing with you this short “film” or corto in Spanish (at the bottom of this post) that Ania and I, and a good friend of ours, made for our children’s school a couple of weeks back. It’s about empathy (Sp. empatia) and is titled “Me pongo en tus zapatos, te pones en los mios” (I put myself in your shoes, you put yourself in mine). Check it out!

An outdoor patio with various paintings on the walls.  Text reads in Spanish, "Me pongo en tus zapatos" (I put myself in your shoes).  
www.FreeElectrons.Family
Our school’s patio where the children painted the murals as one of their activities.

It is officially the first day of the Andalucian-government directive to self-isolate. It’s Saturday. Come Monday, there will be no school for the kids for the next 2 weeks, at least. No Spanish classes too for us parents/adults. No guitar classes. No nothing!

In fact, here in Jerez, all shows and events have been cancelled–including the Saeta contests in the run up to the Holy Week! There’s even some talk of imposing curfews from 7 at night til the morning. We’ll see how that goes.

That’s great opportunity! Now, we can get a practice-headstart in home schooling. That was the original plan for the boys education here when we moved for what was supposed to be a family gap year that has now turned into 3 years and counting. It turned out the boys were eligible to enroll in public school. We could not pass up that great opportunity for us all to learn Spanish and be immersed in the local culture and environment.

The school is apparently the only one in Jerez that is labeled “Communidad de Aprendizaje” (roughly translated a Community of Learning). Without getting into technicality, the basically means that the community of teachers, parents, staff, volunteers and students learn together. There are a lot of activities throughout the year where parents volunteer to help out with all sorts of activities, including school outing, fixing/cleaning the school, and the weekly “Grupos Interactivos” (Interactive Groups). For the past two years, Ania has been volunteering to teach the little ones English. There are some special projects, such as this short film that we got ourselves into.

An outdoor patio with various paintings on the walls.  Text reads in Spanish, "te pones en los mios" you put yourself in mine).  
www.FreeElectrons.Family
Every year the school has activities to fix or improve the school involving parents and students.

“You make videos right?”, my friend asks. “Sure, home videos.” I said. “Do you wanna do this video?”, he followed up pointing in the direction of a teacher. We were in a parents-teachers’ meeting where the head teacher was looking for volunteers to make a “short” 4 to 5-minute video that the school had been wanting to do for a long time.

I should have said NO! But before I realized what I was getting into… it was too late. I was “it”! But I managed to lock-hip with my friend. If I was gonna do it, I thought, he was gonna do it with me and, later, Ania (my wife) had to be there too. She played a critical role ’cause her Spanish is much better than mine.

Nobody else wanted to do it, it seemed. So, we had to step in. Before I knew it, we were neck-deep in what became an ambitious project with a very tight deadline.

It was Thursday when we committed and had to effectively complete it by the following Tuesday…. 5 days with 1 day buffer before, they had to (in my understanding) submit it for a contest!

As they (the faculty directors) rolled out the plan, the corto/short had 12 scenes involving the entire school… all 200-something students, faculty and staff! “WTFree electrons familyĀ”!Ā”Ā”!”, I mumbled. The shooting started the following day, Friday!

We had essentially, one take (give or take) to shoot a scene, so as not to cause serious disruption with scheduled classes and activities.

The solution: 3-camera shoot, with our smartphones. My friend had the “stationary” camera, which worked perfectly since he was shooting while also taking care of his toddler. (My is a member of the happy house husband club. There’s a few of us full time fathers here!). I got to have the “action” cam to follow the story. Ania got to fill in the other angles and everything else, along with the critical role of being the translator for me since my Spanish is more like a badly broken Andalu šŸ˜Š

A wide shot of a school and street with children and parents await a school's opening.
www.FreeElectrons.Family
Making a corto (or short film) about “empatia” (empathy).

The challenge: well, there were quite a lot, like running into each other’s shots since, for the most part, we only had a few minutes to talk about how to shoot the scenes and the spaces were limited. There was no room to hide and get out of the way, especially when everybody else was walking around you. It was a full day affair!

Then at home, there was the problem of our old laptop crashing while we put together the film from over 90-minutes of raw footage (from 3 cameras). I lost 2 days, fixing it and almost bought a new one. I also bought an upgrade to the movie-making software that I use. But it didn’t work cause the laptop was too old. Then, my phone died in the middle of all the coordination over the weekend. Then, the problem of how to fit all those scenes and best footage into a 4-and-a-half-something video! Then, my freelancing work kicked and I suddenly had a couple of jobs to complete in the same weekend.

Thank God, Allah and the Big Happy Buddha…. the film was without dialog. That meant, although the actors were saying something, we did not really have to pay attention to getting good field audio recording.

Fast forward. Come Tuesday, after combing through each and every shot, sleeping little, and almost had Lost Of Cooling Accident (LOCA), we finally had something to show. But then we had 3 more scenes to shoot that day because these were outside shots that were not good for the gloomy doomy weather we had on Friday (yes, we do get that sometimes when the Andalusian blue sky would turn into gray).

Children in a circle with arms around each other.  a sunray obscures their faces.  A sign reads, "Pasidialogo!"
www.FreeElectrons.Family
Conflict resolution scene in the short film: Pasidialogo!

In the end, everyone was happy, especially the children and the teachers, when we had a showing at school the following Thursday–a full week after we said “Yes we can!” I’m glad my friend volunteered us! Thanks, Brotherman!

It was good to help make a small dream come true.

All the children were great professional actors. For the most part, no one was looking directly at the cameras, even though we had 3 of them right in their faces, moving around them like bees. Everyone was prepared with what they had to do. The teachers did a great job preparing thei students. It was quite fun!

Nunca dejes de soƱar
Never stop dreaming
Comunidad de Aprendizaje
CEIP Luis Vives
Jerez
www.FreeElectrons.Family
“Now, it is a dream come true.” “Nunca dejes de soƱar”
Never stop dreaming

This is one of the many benefits of NOT having fixed and full time jobs! Ania and I may not have money. Yet, we have the time and some other means to help, just like my friend and the many other volunteer-parents in the school.

Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces was sure worth the effort. The pleasure of making it happen for the little ones overcame the pain involved in shooting and making such a complicated project in a very short time.

But, hey! We learned how to make a short film in 5 days! It was like drinking whiskey from a firehose because we really did not know how to do it! But we did it! We learned on-the-fly and did not lose our minds. . . to much.

As the school said, “Now, it is a dream come true.”

Nunca dejes de soƱar

Never stop dreaming

Corto Sobre Empatia: Me Pongo en Tus Zapatos, Te Pones en los Mios.
Short film about Empathy: I Put Myself in Your Shoes, You Put Yourself in Mine.

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