How to instantly improve the quality of student films

7 February 2017

Samantha Holdsworth from Nimble Fish shares the lessons from our recent Film INSET

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Picture credit: Roger Brown

We had another great INSET day on Thursday 26th January, lead by Cassius, director of Go Film It. Cassius took teachers through exercises aimed at creating better quality films as well as encouraging the group to experiment with new bits of “kit”. He also shared useful advice and simple top tips which are shared below.

How to instantly improve the quality of student films

  • Wherever possible encourage children to use natural light when filming. Invite students to film outside or near windows/natural light sources.
  • Introduce students to three of the most important shots:

  1. Close Ups: A shot that keeps only the face full in the frame. Ask students to try and put the eyes of their subjects a third of the way down the picture. Experiment with subjects talking directly to camera and talking away from it.
  2. Medium Shot: This is the shot most commonly used in movies. Ask students to think about the background of these shots. Is there too much going on? Is it distracting or does it help tell the story? Encourage students to pay attention to the frames they are creating (e.g. try not to cut off people's arms or legs). Ahead of time, explore with students what ‘balanced composition’ means and might look like.
  3. Long Shot: This is a shot that shows an entire character of an object from head to foot and is usually intended to place it in some relation to its surroundings. Invite students to think about how and why this shot might be useful when they create their own films.

Teachers were also given dedicated time to think about how film could be used as an essential resource in schools. Here are some of the ideas that may also be relevant to your school:

Film as an assessment and evaluation tool

Film is a great way for children who struggle with words to express themselves. For example, at this session we heard about a school who films their Year 3s engaged in tasks and then plays this back to them. They ask the children to reflect on what they notice, and this often results in much deeper and thoughtful comments about the impact and meaning of each activity. In another school, teachers assess their students’ learning by getting them to create films that can be used as shared learning resources for specific subject areas.

Film and music

One school has filmed students lip-syncing the words to classical music, in particular, Henry Purcell. This has transformed a normally dry activity into something fun (and funny) for students to engage with, and all their students learnt the words.

Film providing a focal point for school trips

Encouraging children to film their school trips (or specific parts of them) can be a powerful way of capturing children’s learning as well as creating a focal point for students. One school asked children to create a film of the day that was used as a learning resource for other classes.


Film-making in schools does not have to be expensive. Collect second-hand smartphones from parents (make sure the SIM cards are removed) and use these as cameras. Having a school supply of second-hand phones means teachers need not worry about contradicting any mobile phone policies that are in place.

Finally, the best way to build confidence and skills is to simply grab your phone, start experimenting and have some fun!

Our next INSET session will take place on 30th March - click here to find out more and book your free place.