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About the arts Project

About the original arts project: Three schools created short films in response to the sites

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Julian's work on the Children of the Mills project set out to create short films with three of the schools involved. The films were to be a response to the sites - there was no fixed brief from the beginning as to what the outcome should be in terms of style, content or structure. The films were to slot into the performance day but did not necessarily have to develop ideas that had been started in any of the other art forms' presentations.

Julian set out to make the films as diverse as possible and so decided to use different ways of working with each of the schools. The aim was always to give the pupils involved good quality creative input and to let their ideas take the fore.

The resulting films were completely different from each other. Milford Primary School 's film took a simple question and answer format and added more emotional responses to the mills with poems and prose read by pupils. Wirksworth Junior School focused on people from the past, with servants explaining their duties around Willersley Castle . At Bonsall CE Primary School a looser approach was taken, with students responding to the site and to the textures of different materials, creating two moving collages of images.





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About the artist

About the artist: Julian is involved in a variety of different types of work but concentrates on performance, film and visual arts

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Julian Hanby is an arts worker based in Nottingham. He is involved in a variety of different types of work but concentrates on performance, film and visual arts. Since graduating from The Nottingham Trent University in 1995, Julian has built up a reputation for delivering ambitious projects involving different community and school groups.

Julian regularly works with Andy Barrett staging large-scale community performances looking at aspects of local history. He also works as a film maker, theatre designer and graphic designer.

More information and contact details can be found on his website:

while information about his work with Andy Barrett can be found at:


More about the process

More about the process: Looking at history through the vehicle of film

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Milford Primary School

The pupils were given a straightforward brief – come up with an idea for a film about the mills. Working in small groups they were given a free rein to think of any idea they liked. The results were then put to the rest of the group. Two ideas were standouts – a quiz format, and poems that the children wanted to write. Keen to include these two strong ideas a format was devised that would start with a question and which had both analytical or factual answers and that could also conjure up a more emotional response that could be served by the poetic content.

The questions were chosen and the pupils then spent some time writing poems and these were filmed, with the author reading them direct to camera. Footage of Masson mills was also filmed – the looms in action, clouds passing the chimney, water rushing through the millrace. With the footage gathered Julian and the pupils sat around the computer and began the editing process. The group chose the fonts for the questions, picked sections of film to use, and chose the styles for various “post-production effects”. (See “How to” sheets for some more information about this.)

Wirksworth Junior School

Much of the performance work undertaken for Children of the Mills was based upon historical characters – some of them real, some of them fictional or imaginary. At Wirksworth Julian built upon this to create the film The Ghosts of Willersley Castle. The children were asked to choose and develop characters that might have worked in and around Willersley. They had to think in some depth about who they were, what they were like, how old they were, what their job entailed etc. Once this process was complete the group decided to do some tests to se whether the finished film could be of just people’s faces, and the rest of the screen black. A few different methods were tried and the best version was used.

So, the pupils sat down to be interviewed one at a time, with a black background and a black cloth draped “hairdresser” style over the interviewee’s head and shoulders. They were moodily lit with an anglepoise lamp and answered various questions, while those who had already been filmed operated the camera. Julian took the footage away, picked the most interesting parts and put them together to make the final film.

Bonsall CE Primary School

Bonsall was perhaps the section of the project where the pupils were given the most freedom to experiment. Starting from a collection of favourite items made with fabric a whole list of associated words were drawn up. The words were written out and filmed; and pupils were given the camera and asked to film items inside and out with similar kinds of textures. A trip to Cromford Mill to film more textures present on the site gave the group a wealth of footage to use.

The group went to work with editing, choosing which bits to use and which to discard. It became apparent that there were very contrasting styles of filming and of subjects filmed, so the group chose two short pieces of music – one soothing, the other more frenetic – and started putting the clips with one or the other. The result was a film of two halves. It was displayed at Cromford Mill both before and after the performance on an endless loop that the audience could visit for as long or as short as they liked.

Please see ‘how to’ section for workshop ideas


How to sheets

‘How to’ sheets: A lot can be achieved in a short space of time and with a basic knowledge of equipment

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Action! 'How to' sheets (practical info on how to make a film yourself)

Making a film can seem a daunting task if you haven't had a go at one before. But you will be amazed at how much can be achieved in a short space of time and with a basic knowledge of equipment to hand. Having a clear idea and good planning is the key to a successful film.

Planning the project

Different ideas are possible, different starting points, different film styles. It's worth thinking first about how your film project will be run. How much say will the students have? A project can teach about making film, but equally should be viewed as a way of teaching about the subject to be filmed, and students may try to shy away from films that involve research and planning.

  • Will the young people come up with the ideas?

  • How will they be involved?

  • Who will perform?

  • Will the project be filmed on location?

  • Who is in charge?

How will your film be scripted? There are numerous ways that this can be done, for instance:

  • Writing a traditional script and filming it.

  • Improvising and choosing bits for the finished film.

  • Purely visual - if so, how do you decide what to film?

Who or what is the film for? The intended audience can make a big difference to the style. Is it to be shown on a loop at an open day for instance, or will the audience be sitting down and concentrating? There's no reason why the film can't have multiple uses, but it is worth thinking about these from the start.

Coming up with ideas

A film that responds to a site needn't be filmed there.

Responses can be:

  • Historical - Based on events that have happened at the site.

  • Physical - A response to the structures, architecture, trees or other features at the site.

  • Atmospheric - Inspired by moods that the site conjures up - spooky, tranquil, chaotic.

  • Character-based - Using one or more figures connected with the site as a starting point.

  • Abstract - The world's your oyster! What thoughts does the site trigger, that may be have no other connections with the site itself.

The opportunity to film on location can have great rewards but also adds other pressures and responsibilities

Visit the site if at all possible. Even if you aren't going to film there it will act as a springboard for ideas and it is good for everyone involved to have a clear idea of any possibilities that the site may hold.

Look into the history of the place. Find out the quirkier things that have gone on there. There are many places to get help with this:

  • From the site itself - guide books, curators, plaques on walls, monuments etc.

  • Internet.

  • Local historians. Just about every place in the world has someone who is already interested in it. They are usually very friendly and willing to help you - and you will potentially find out information that will be of use to them too.

  • Libraries - local studies sections are particularly useful.

  • Newspapers - many newspapers are making archives available on-line.

Think about physical possibilities:

Often historical sites make great backdrops, with really interesting features. More often than not, that is why they are historical sites of note! Perhaps you want sweeping landscapes with sumptuous dressings - but don't forget the tiny stairways and the stable yard and the cellar - everything is a possibility, and every aspect of a site is important.

And also think about some of the problems that the site may throw up:

  • Is the site outdoors?

  • Is it easily accessible?

  • Is it safe?

  • Can you get permission to film there?

  • Is it very busy, crowded with members of the public, and if so, can you film outside opening hours?

The sites that inspired the Children of the Mills project are a World Heritage Site, recognised by Unesco, and recently made famous by an appearance on the BBC's Restoration programme. But your own site could be a much more modest affair. A village church, a local park or playground, a museum or other interesting building - even the student's own homes could be good subjects for a film. The main thing is to come up with an idea based on the site that you think will interest the audience. And don't feel that you have to take the obvious route. A film about a parish church could end up being "the day in the life of a church mouse" complete with home made puppets, cameras whizzing along the skirting boards and subtitles translating the mouse's squeaks. Such a format could look at the history of the church, the day-to-day use of the church and the physical structure of the building.

Take stock of your equipment

Everything used for the Children of the Mills film project was domestic equipment: a normal camcorder, a home computer, and the free editing software that came with it. There is no point in planning to do something unless you can achieve it with the equipment and skills that you have.

Many cameras come with all sorts of effects built in - fade in and out, sepia or black and white options, etc. If you can do this in the editing process it is much better to do so. Make the filming process as simple as possible - there will be complications enough anyway, without giving yourself a lot of extra things to remember!

What every camera does:

  • Zoom - but make sure this happens gently, if at all.

  • Use of tripod / hand held - you get very different effects. Tripods are quite cheap for a basic model - they start at about £10. Youngsters find it tricky to hold the camera still for too long and so a tripod can really help to keep the picture steady and clear.

  • Low point of view, high point of view - try filming someone from above (from a little ladder, say) and then from below and look at the results. Simple changes such as this can really affect the mood of what you are filming.

  • Close-ups - try with your camera. See how close you can get and stay in focus.


If you are going to edit the film you will probably want to do it on your computer. Film often takes up a lot of room on the hard drive, so try not to pick the computer that everything else is on! Most cameras connect direct to the computer so that you can transfer film straight onto it.


Microsoft Windows comes with Windows Movie Maker these days, while Apple computers come with iMovies. These programs are used to edit the film. You can add titles, music, effects, choose which bits of film you want to use and chop and change the order of things. Both have online instructions and tutorials available, and both are fairly straightforward. By far the best way to learn is by trying things out; if possible do this before you start your project so you know what your equipment is capable of doing. Experiment - you will probably be inspired!


Remember that if you do not film what you need, you will be unlikely to make the film that you want, so:


Know exactly what you want to do, where you want to do it, and how long it might take. It is possible that you will need to film a scene lots of times to get it right - so make sure that you have scheduled enough time to do what you want to do.

Be patient! Filming often takes longer than you think and problems will probably arise that you hadn't even thought about. Planes will fly over-head, ambulances will pass by with sirens wailing, and someone always sneezes. Don't worry! Spielberg has exactly the same problems!

Talking of Spielberg, when you are making your film try to think of things in big movies where they have used simple effects with great results. The trembling water glasses in Jurassic Park are so simple, but start the tension building brilliantly. The jangling keys clipped to the belts of the "bad guys" in E.T. give them a real sense of authority. And in Saving Private Ryan, scenes with very jittery hand held cameras contrast hugely with other scenes where the camera movements are smooth and gentle.

As well as getting to know how the camera works everyone involved in the project should start to feel comfortable about having the camera around. When the camera first comes out many people get embarrassed, freeze or start "acting about": all of these things will stop your project being as good as it could be. Ways to get around this:

  • Film some everyday activities so the camera becomes less of an issue.

  • Film everyone at the beginning of each session with the viewfinder turned round so the subjects can see themselves - get all of the waving and face pulling over with at this point!

  • Do some exercises that involve looking into the camera, and ignoring it.

You should try to be methodical when making a film. You can plan right down to the smallest detail. Professional film-makers often use a story-board to plan every shot in advance. (Essentially, they make a comic book of the film, and then film it bit by bit.) It cannot be stressed enough: the better your planning, and the more detail that you include, the easier your filming session will be.


Editing, also known as post-production, is where you decide which bits of film you want to use, put them in order and apply any effects, titles or other features that you cannot do while you are filming.

How you do this will depend upon what software you are using, but possibilities will include:

  • Removing any sound on your film that you don't want.

  • Making your film black and white.

  • Speeding up or slowing down sections of film.

  • Making your film look like an old movie, with scratches, crackles and jitters.

  • Putting rain or fog in front of your footage (although, be warned - it can end up looking odd if you did your filming on a bright sunny day!)

  • Choosing pieces of music for the beginning or end, or to underscore particular scenes.

  • Adding sound effects

  • Putting titles at the beginning; cast lists, thanks to lists, etc at the end; adding subtitles to the scene set in Paris ; or adding "chapter titles".

  • Changing the brightness and contrast.

  • Fading in or out, cross-fading from one scene to the next.

  • Adding still images to your film.

You should think very carefully when editing about what will be interesting to the audience. Twice as long rarely means twice as good!

If you are completely stuck with the editing process then ask around. There may be a local video club that could come and help, or someone's big sister or brother might be a whiz on a computer and thus prove invaluable. But by far the most preferable method is to learn to do it yourself. From sports days to school plays, there will always be times when you are glad that you learnt in the first place.


Curriculum links

Curriculum Links: Film is a fantastic vehicle for teaching and learning in any subject area

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Film is a fantastic vehicle for teaching and learning in any subject area.

More information on curriculum links coming soon.



Resources and Links

Resources and Links: Web links to ideas on using film, resources and software

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A website that offers a variety of film/curriculum information packs etc. aimed at primary, secondary and further education.

The British Film Institute – various educational resources.

Apple’s web education section. Although primarily used to sell computers and software, there are also examples of projects, worksheets and teaching resources and “how to” tip sheets.

tutorials and help for iMovie, Apple’s simple film editing software.

Microsoft Windows XP has it’s own free editing software available from
- a review of windows movie maker 2
- free Pinnacle editing software in conjunction with Canon - Reviews of PC editing software Ulead and Pinnacle - An “idiot’s guide to making a film”. Everything from tips for how to come up with plot ideas to recipes for fake blood. Targeted at adults. - BBC’s One Minute Movies project – a lot of good examples of very simple, no budget short films. - Everything you need to know about popcorn, including great recipes to make your film showing just right.
- One teacher’s approach to filming and editing a poem using Pinnacle edit software for PC’s