Tim Burton is a prolific director.  His films are pretty easy to spot and his style is clear.  Senioritis is also easy to spot and has a clear, definitive style.  To combat Senioritis, I have my seniors do a style analysis of Tim Burton.  We spend several weeks watching, examining, and analyzing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Edward Scissorhands, The Corpse Bride, and Alice in Wonderland.  When we finished, they created a magazine article as a response to one of three prompts:

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[av_iconlist_item title=’Option 1′ link=” linktarget=” linkelement=” icon=’ue812′ font=’entypo-fontello’]

Choose ONE technique (shot, angle, or lighting) that Tim Burton uses that he seems to use consistently in all his films to achieve a particular purpose.  Examine that technique in several of his films explaining how, when, and why he uses it, focusing particularly on how he uses it in a way that helps to define his own particular style and how he uses it to communicate with his audience.

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[av_iconlist_item title=’Option 2′ link=” linktarget=” linkelement=” icon=’ue812′ font=’entypo-fontello’]

Think about how you know a film is a Tim Burton film.  What is it about his films that make them uniquely and obviously his?  Examine the aspects of his cinematic style and the use of cinematic techniques that he tends to employ the most often to define his work.  Also speculate (based on evidence, of course) why he has gravitated to those cinematic and stylistic techniques and how they help him achieve his purpose (to communicate with his audience).

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[av_iconlist_item title=’Option 3′ link=” linktarget=” linkelement=” icon=’ue812′ font=’entypo-fontello’]

Tim Burton has a habit of working with the same two actors repeatedly (Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp).  Examine the Tim Burton films that these two actors both appear in, looking for common techniques, plot lines, characters, moods, etc.  Then discuss why Tim Burton consistently chooses to work with these two actors (and why they choose to work with him) using evidence from at least 3 films (one of which should be one we didn’t watch in class) to explain their director/actor relationship.

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From Concept to Publication

Option 2 seemed to be the most popular option at first, but students became a little bit bogged down about how to structure their article.  So, we went through the prompt step-by-step.  We identified 4 primary things that needed to be address (Burton’s style, Burton’s techniques, Burton’s reason for using the techniques, and Burton’s message).  These 4 areas became headers underneath which students explored their observations (for the first 2 areas) and drew conclusion from research (for the last 2 areas).

Because our students all have their own laptops (a school requirement), I gave several options for creating their magazine articles: Indesign (full or trial version), MS Word (use layout view), or Pages.  Students could also choose a different tool, but they had to be able to save their work as a PDF and upload it to TurnItIn.com.

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Magazine Designing is a great resource if you’re having students design magazine article or magazine covers. It’s got lots of information about the elements of a magazine, how to (and how not to) structure a page layout, and lots more.  I also searched Google for magazine spreads and, after annotating them to point out key elements, used them as exemplars for students.  I also posted them, along with links to various Magazine Designing articles on our class Haiku page.
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Grading Criteria

These are the grading criteria I gave students:

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[av_iconlist_item title=’Criteria 1: Quality of Response’ link=” linktarget=” linkelement=” icon=’ue812′ font=’entypo-fontello’]

Quality of Response: Does the magazine article thoroughly, completely, and deeply explore the question or prompt?  Are the examples relevant and thoughtfully chosen to best prove the writer’s point? (50%)

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[av_iconlist_item title=’Criteria 2: Aesthetics’ link=” linktarget=” linkelement=” icon=’ue812′ font=’entypo-fontello’]

Aesthetics: Is the magazine article aesthetically pleasing?  Are the images used high quality and connected to the writing? Does the placement of objects distract or enhance the reading of the article? (20%)

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[av_iconlist_item title=’Criteria 3: Organization’ link=” linktarget=” linkelement=” icon=’ue812′ font=’entypo-fontello’]

Organization: Is the magazine article structured in a way that helps the reader to understand the points that are being made?  Does the writer effectively use headings, subheadings, paragraphs, and pull quotes to organize the article? (10%)

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[av_iconlist_item title=’Criteria 4: Conventions’ link=” linktarget=” linkelement=” icon=’ue812′ font=’entypo-fontello’]

Conventions: Is the writing free from distracting grammatical errors and mistakes in syntax and spelling?  Is it clear that the article was proofread and revised prior to publishing? (10%)

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[av_iconlist_item title=’Criteria 5: Sources’ link=” linktarget=” linkelement=” icon=’ue812′ font=’entypo-fontello’]

Sources: Is source credit given for images used?  If outside resources (other than the films) were used in preparing the article, are those sources properly cited at the end of the article? (10%)

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Final Observations

Even with plenty of in-class time, many students procrastinated.  Just getting started seemed to be the biggest obstacle for them, so maybe in the future I’ll do a group brainstorming session to get them started about some of the techniques and stylistic choices that they had observed so that they have a place to start.

Another thing that I think helped some was creating a general structure for the second prompt and explaining/demonstrating how I came up with it.  That allowed students to go through the other prompts and create their own structure.  I would definitely do this again.

One thing that might be kind of cool to do in the future is to have the students create a movie short using Tim Burton’s style.  They’d pick a fairy tale or other story and create a film version using his style and technique choices.  However, I do think this would have to be something that is done in groups and with students who enjoy that kind of thing.  Maybe it could be an option instead of the magazine.

Student Products

Whew!  Despite last minute panic and many students who literally camped out in my room to get things finished, they got it done.  And I’m super proud of them!

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