Friday, May 13, 2011

The Movie Magic Project

The Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) students in Jess Haley's Intermediate Reading & Writing class ended the Spring 2011 semester with the Movie Magic Project, an art and writing project that was fun, creative, informative, and thought-provoking. Below, you will find a brief explanation of the Movie Magic Project by LIEP instructor Jess Haley, followed by an example of the project itself created and written by LIEP student Alexandra Veloz of Ecuador.

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By LIEP Instructor Jess Haley

Jess Haley
For their final assignment of Spring 2011, the Intermediate Reading & Writing class of the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) completed a creative project incorporating popular culture, colorful description, art -- and, of course, writing.

The Movie Magic Project was originally designed by Dr. Tamara Warhol, linguistic anthropologist, and Ms. Katherine Fields, artist, both at the University of Mississippi. Dr. Warhol and Ms. Fields conceived this project as a means of teaching multi-modal communication to ESL students. The assignment includes lessons in the concept of "visual language," or ways that we can express ourselves without using words. This can come as a relief to higher-level second language students struggling to communicate abstract concepts with limited vocabularies.

For our assignment, the visual language explored was color. The students watched brief clips from several films, examining them for both content and color. The students then chose colored paper to create small mosaics to communicate their impressions of the films. Finally, the students wrote thoughtful essays chronicling their creative process and explaining their creative choices.

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By Alexandra Veloz

Alexandra Veloz
It is not necessary to say a word to transmit a feeling or interpret it. That was one of the first things that my classmates and I learned in the process of this project. Most people associate a color with a feeling or a thing, and it was demonstrated in some exercises in my class.

The first assignment was to say what represents a color. For example, for some people blue symbolizes sky, hospital and sadness, while green indicates hope or environment. It means that people tend to associate colors with things which have that color and the feeling that these things produce. These associations can vary according to the culture and gender.

To clarify these variations, a second assignment was given to us. The class was divided into two groups, boys and girls. Each group received the same range of colors. The assignment was to give an original name to the colors, according of what the color means for the group. While a soft green for the boys was named pistachio green, for the girls it was creamily green. This exercise shows the differences between the groups, but also that colors are more than just light, that they have a meaning in the memory of each person.

Movie producers know exactly what a color transmits, and they use its power to create the environment of movies. For example, horror or suspense movies are dark while comedies or romantic movies are usually light. In movies, colors are used to transmit an emotion to the viewers. And that was exactly what we realized in our next assignment.

In the class, we saw scenes of seven movies, and we described the colors on the scenes and what they made us feel.  Later, we had to choose two of the movies’ scenes and capture into two mosaics the colors that appeared, according to a personal meaning that the colors have in the scene.

I chose The Golden Compass and Finding Neverland. These two movies had brightened colors that I really like: bright golden and a happy clear green. However, since they are movies, a bunch of colors are used to transmit more than just a feeling. That is what I like of the scenes of these movies; they combine different feelings and emotions with just a shot. Everything was exactly in the place that they have to be, and with the perfect color. If something was not there, all the emotions of the scene change.

Both movies are different, so each movie has a different mosaic. The first mosaic that I am going to explain is The Golden Compass. In order to understand it, I must explain the scene of the movie. It starts with a far shot of wonderful fields. The green is pretty intense and flashy, probably as a result of the mix of a yellow like the sun at noon in the summer with a little bit of the blue of the ocean. Also, there is a big house that could be a castle, like those ancient castles that remind us of a fairytale with queens and kings. The sky covers the scene; it is a clear blue sky. The blue is not a light blue, it looks like a sky of a day that you know that later will became cloudy.

In the middle of the scene there is a colorful blimp floating in an opposite direction of the castle. It seems to be departing from the castle to another place.  Then an inside shot of the blimp is shown. There is a luxurious place, with clear big windows that allow the sun to light up the place. This makes everything more bright. In the blimp, there are two people, a blond lady and a ten-year-old girl. The lady looks suspicious, like she is making plans while the little girl looks kind of afraid and surprised. In this point, the outside view is a place with the same clear blue sky, but instead of fields there are a lot of buildings with magical and futuristic styles. Even though this is a different place that you would imagine that people who go there would be amazed, the lady and the girl are not.

My mosaic was designed to show these two sides of the scene, bright and opaque. The mosaic is divided into two parts. One that represents the shot of the fields, and another that corresponds to the building shot. Both parts are composed by pale colors.

An old and boring clear green is the background of the first one, and a dirty white is the fond of the second one.  In the green fond, there are also dark green fields of a tree which makes contrast with the boring green. The color of the trunk of the tree is a wood brown. The trunk is divided in many vertical parts that represent all the trees of the scene. Also, in the bottom, there is a design of green mountains looked at from a long distance that represent the departure of the blimp.

In the dirty background, there are buildings in a concrete grey that shows the difference of the landscape. While in the other side green predominates, in this side it is the grey. In the middle of both parts, there is a golden blimp that represents the power of this color in the scene and the magical environment that it causes. There is also a shiny yellow sun surrounded by a shiny blue sky that covers both parts. It means that, despite the different landscapes, the shiny sun and clear blue sky are the same everywhere.

The second mosaic is about the scene of Finding Neverland. This scene was made in a sunny day in a park.  The park was full of trees and happy children that are playing with each other. There is also a handsome gentleman who is wearing a well ironed olive suit. This color represents the strength of the man. He looks very proud and friendly. He is walking with a big white dog, so big that he could be a polar bear. The gentleman decides to sit down in a dark blue chair, so it made us to think that he is mature and stable. Suddenly under the chair appears a four-year-old kid. Then, it comes a fifteen-year-old and a ten-year-old boys. Also, later comes the mother of the boys. All of them are wearing white clothes and looking very happy, enjoying the day. The white color in their clothes symbolizes peace and kindness of their hearts.

My mosaic has a green background. It is a fresh lemon green that represents the happiness of the people in the park.  In the middle of the mosaic, there is figure of a dark and electric blue chair and over it is the coffee olive male symbol. The symbol represents the gentleman who is sitting on the chair, strong and friendly. Next to the chair, there is a big pink heart that has three little hearts inside. The big heart represents the mother, and the little ones her children. The big heart has a red frame; it signifies the passion of the mother for her children's care. The hearts’ color is a soft pink, soft as candy cotton that means the sweetest of this family.

That was the last assignment, and it made us understand what a color means in the mind of each person and how it can describe a feeling.  Each person tends to associate colors with feelings and things, and it can vary according to the culture or gender. This association is used in the movies that I chose to transmit the emotions of the characters and the scene. In this exercise, colors sent us a message that probably each person received in a different way. In the scenes that I chose, I received the emotion of them looking at the meaning of the colors together and what they produce, and not what they represent separately. For that reason my mosaics have light and pale colors.  This assignment allows us to identify more than just colors. It made us realize what color each person sees the world, feelings and emotions.

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Our thanks to Alexandra Veloz for sharing her Movie Magic Project with us and to LIEP instructor Jess Haley. In our next blog post, we hope to introduce you to a graduate of LIEP who is now engaged in an important ministry in New Orleans.

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