2013 Examiner’s report – production portfolio

This years examiner’s report offers the usual recurring complaints of the failure of candidates to meet the formal requirements for each assessment component, which are frankly unforgivable mostly of the teachers in supervising these candidates, as the requirements are clearly stated in the IB film guide.

However this report is a mostly positive and well-written document and offers useful guidance for success of IB Film candidates in the future and recommendations for the teaching of this subject to IB. I’d recommend that serious IB film teachers review it for themselves. However it is necessarily a little dense, largely due to the requirements of the IB for this kind of reporting.

 It offers numerous recommendations, so many that to make a useful digest of the whole document would make it difficult to be concise. Thus, I’ve decided to record my impressions into three different posts, one blog entry for each of the assessment components. I guess I could be accused of taking Peter Jackson’s approach to editing, but hopefully in this way I can cut through some of the density of the document and provide clear and quickly understood ideas on how to improve the performance of students against the often perceived vagaries of IB assessment in each component.

Some of the key recommendations of the report seem pretty self-evident, but it may be useful to remind some IB Film teachers of this advice. The report says (in relation to the limitations on the use of copyrighted material):

Some candidates find this limits them in what they can do. They are completely correct. The production portfolio film and commentary is an assessment and not an opportunity to make just any film.

What we can learn from this is that some academic discipline should inflect the energies of candidates towards work which can match the requirements of the assessment descriptors, and meet the (reasonable) constraints of the film subject guide for appropriate content and respect of intellectual property.

The report also stresses the importance of understanding the prescribed production roles and demonstrating how the creative processes in each are negotiated and adapted to the requirements of the whole production. There were the regular observation that many of the films submitted appeared to be rushed, and that this is an extremely risky tactic and might reveal either a self-destructive lack of self-discipline or inadequate consideration of the importance of production roles in the assessment of this component. A sloppy approach to this task pretty much risks any kind of decent grade in IB film (as it represents a 50% weighting). A brief summary of what the report recommend in this regard, is that student watch as many short films as possible, and practice as much film making within each of the proscribed role as can be managed.

These are fairly self-evident to experienced teachers and critical film viewers, as the story-telling structure and importance of each shot selection, its framing, composition, duration, and its relationship to the next shot, differ hugely from a ninety minute or two hour feature.

 The details of what skills and specific tasks which each production roles should involve for IB assessment is available in the IB film studies guide. I plan to attempt to provide something of a digest of this and some ideas for teaching strategies in my December entry for this blog.

Candidates should have a solid working knowledge of the significant tasks and technical skills needed in the role of screenwriter, director, cinematographer, editor, and sound designer/sound editor. They should also have some practice collecting and presenting evidence of solving artistic and logistic problems in each of those roles.

What is also crucial in ones consideration in preparation of students for the production portfolio is that it isn’t just the performance of these roles which is significant. The evidence provided in support of students claims for their skills and conduct are of equal if not greater importance. So I’d suggest that for each porduction exercise, one should expect as detailed a debrief or reflection (sorry for the MYP speak) as possible from each candidate using appropriate terminology. This is a fairly simple procedure, insist on having appropriate set photos, diagrams, storyboards and other planning document should become obvious to students by the time they are ready to work on their final film for submission. One of the most obvious way to encourage this is to set appropriate formative assessment tasks (and write well considered rubrics which reward this kind of behaviour).

Candidates have to practice asking themselves what kind of evidence will be important for their particular role, why they would include it, and how would it help develop their written commentary.

There are two other more specific areas which the report addresses, these are important and require a little clarification. 

Respect for intellectual property and the use of copyrighted material.

This extends to the conduct of production roles in realtion to copyright statement in the IB film guide, this emphasises that teachers shold be alert to the spirit of this and not just its most basic interpretation. The following passage from the report seemed pretty significant in this:

However, there was a large amount of material that failed to observe the spirit of the copyright statement (page 37). Teachers are reminded that the statement does not, in fact, merely cover copyright, and that the intention is that candidates “will be the creators of, or have a significant role in the creation of any audio or visual material that they use in their work.

and more specifically/significantly

Also, looped music from editing programs and music programs, such as Garage Band, must be significantly altered. It is not in the spirit of the course to simply select a number of loops and edit them into the film. The loops must be altered.

This second statement has been the cause of some consternation among my colleagues, but it does reflect a genuine response to the potential of technology in the dumbing down of sound design, and the creative bankruptcy of pre-manufactured generic material where the student’s input is confined to how this is ordered. Some actual technical skill must be demonstrated so the allotment of roles should not follow the path of least resistance but reflect as genuine interest or passion for each aspect that their role involves.
The report suggests solutions;

Candidates are also encouraged to ‘think outside the box’ when it comes to sound and visuals. Using someone else’s work is the path of least resistance, whereas creating their own sound and video is opening the door to limitless creative possibilities.

The trailer, for Higher level candidates,

Every HL candidate must make an individual trailer for the film they were involved in making;

At higher level, the trailer is an important ‘court of last appeal’, which demonstrates an individual’s ability to demonstrate narrative competence and editing ability – at least. It is very important that each higher level candidate create their own individual trailer.

The report recommends that students are familiar with trailers from different eras so that their range of inspirations is is not confined to fast-paced montage to rock or hip-hop music accompanied by a commanding voice saying how images should be interpreted.

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