I recently had the pleasure (and pressure) of screening our film in front of over 150 very sharp 8-11 year olds. By showing the unfinished version of UG3 to this target focus group, we were able to gain important insights into what is working and what we need to improve. The most amazing thing about these kids was the maturity with which they approached the whole experience . Right now the film is in animatic form. There is some finished animation along with segments of composited footage, but the majority of the 30 minute film is an assortment of rough to polished storyboards sequenced to a working soundtrack. But the students took all of that in stride and gave in to the humor of the characters and content that engaged them. They were a great audience.
The focus groups came about through the help of five incredible SAGE teachers here in Henry County. Cindy Carmack of Rock Spring Elementary; Cindy Fuqua of Red Oak Elementary; Diane Harris of Luella Elementary; Lisa Henriquez of Flippen Elementary and Paula Whipple of Mt. Carmel Elementary arranged for me to come to their classes as a guest speaker. It worked out because they were doing a segment on Space Exploration which happens to be the subject of UG3. I spoke about film making, introduced the characters of the film, showed some of the puppets, stop-motion models, artwork and some finished shorts based on the cast of the longer film. Then we watched the film-in-progress.
After the audience asked questions they took time to fill out an extensive questionnaire .And they were honest, which is what I’d hoped for and dreaded. What came out of that was insight into a few weaknesses that we’ve worked on changing. But there was also a huge amount of encouragement when I saw what they were most enthusiastic about. The best thing for me (as any filmmaker can attest to) was sitting in a room full of people and hearing them respond to something that you’ve worked so hard on and believed in. So I must say again to Ms. Carmack, Ms. Fuqua, Ms. Harris, Ms. Henriquez and Ms. Whipple thank you very much for this chance to share with your students.
The goal is to finish as much of the animation by the end of the school year to go back and present a more polished version of UG3 to the same classes and let them experience a little more of the art of film making.