As we moved forward in our Passions unit, having finished our short films documenting our own individual passions in life as a solo project, students broke into small groups and crafted empathy interviews. These interview questions had to be expertly crafted to encourage the interviewee to tell stories about themselves, therefore generating more information. The students also had to come up with a thesis for their questions. Each question had to attain relevant information to support or deny their thesis.
After I read and approved each question for the groups, they had to interview at least four different Chinese speakers with the same set of questions. Each interview was filmed in one shot. Interviewees included classmates in Chinese 4, classmates from other Chinese classes, Chinese-speaking students not studying Chinese, Chinese teachers and Chinese-speaking faculty. The diverse nature of interviewees allowed for a more diverse set of data with which students could support their claims.
We then invited David Felsen, a World Course teacher and Emmy award winning documentarian, come to our class and give a lecture on documentary filmmaking. He taught students how to transcribe interviews and how to use B-roll to cut shots, and helped them develop a basic understanding of where the eye travels in documentary films for better placement of subtitles. With this new knowledge from an expert, students got to work on their own documentary films. Each documentary delved into a certain aspect of the topic of passion, viewed through the lenses of many different passions from many very different people.
Using their own solo films produced in the earlier parts of the project as B-roll for their peer interviews, students were able to create short documentary films that deserve an Emmy in Chinese as well as film production. We ended our passions unit with a full showcase.
There was no greater reward than to watch the students show classmates their new films with the pride and fulfillment that only comes from applying deliberate, long hours of hard work to create something for others to enjoy.