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June 8, 2012 > Lights, Camera, Oliveira!

Lights, Camera, Oliveira!

By Miriam G. Mazliach

Recently, a group of Fremont students had the chance to create their very own personal commercial, a salute to favorite things about their school... Oliveira Elementary.

This opportunity came about when Jenny Inman, who teaches a combined 5th/6th grade class of diverse learners, invited her twin brother, Jeremy, a filmmaker currently living in Los Angeles, to speak to the students about his career.

"I explained that as a child I enjoyed drawing and made action figures," said Jeremy Inman. "Making independent movies is a fun career, but it also lets the students know that these are people's jobs and demonstrates ownership - a profession; it's not just a game."

A graduate of San Jose State University's Film Department, Jeremy had directed a kid- friendly movie, "Super Hero Party Clown," and recently, an award-winning commercial for San Jose State that aired on ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network). After viewing the television ad, the students were asked, "If you made a commercial for Oliveira, what would you put in it?"

The students pondered the question, brainstormed and then came up with a plethora of incredible ideas. "My brother and I were so impressed that we knew we had to actually make this project happen," said teacher Inman. "Over the next few months, the kids clarified their ideas and made storyboards (illustrations) for the shots they wanted to include in the commercial," she explained.

To assist with this production, Jeremy Inman gathered a crew of several SJSU film department students who gladly donated their time: Myles Gilbert, Ian Irwin, and Paul Early, all graduating this month.

Additionally, equipment valued at over $30,000 was borrowed from the Spartan Film Studios, the non-profit film program at SJSU, tied into the Film Department. Nick Martinez, Coordinator of Film Broadcast Studio Operations, was instrumental in helping to expedite the process for the team and took part as well.

Another former SJSU graduate, now a professional storyboarder, turned the students' art renderings of their original ideas, into professional quality work.

The commercial created was based on the students' ideas. "We are hoping to give the students a hands-on, active experience and a chance to see their ideas come to life," explained Ms. Inman.

Over two days earmarked for the shoot, each student in the class - "Junior Crew" - worked with the SJSU group - "Senior Crew" - to learn about the four different components necessary to create a commercial - Production, Camera, Lights, and Sound.

"They've learned the importance of teamwork, long term planning, and how to be responsible for a particular job," said Ms. Inman.

Among the 14 vignettes filmed were: the Oliveira eagle mascot, the glee club, basketball, the school garden area and the classroom setting.

For one of the scenes, shot outside, students worked with the SJSU crew to help assemble the props and background needed for the "green screen," to create a visual effect - that of the eagle in flight.

Throughout the two-day shoot, each student was able to direct his/her own storyboard idea; they took turns acting out parts, worked behind the camera, set up shots, handled the clapboard and shouted "action" or "cut." Overall, students had a chance to see what they were good at or enjoyed the most.

"We're here to facilitate and keep them thinking about what they could do in life as a possible career choice," said Jeremy. "I've personally gotten a lot of out it. It's making an impact on the students."

Oliveira Principal Linda Anderson was extremely supportive of the project and student efforts. "What I love about this opportunity is the ability to put "education standards" into action and show "relevance" to learning, which is why we have kids go to school. The filmmakers are releasing control to the kids [for this project]," stated Anderson.

Upon its completion, each student will receive a copy of the commercial. Jeremy indicated that he will possibly use some of the behind-the-scenes footage for a documentary about the process.

Ms. Inman is delighted for her students. "They're so excited. It's great to see them actively involved and being hands-on in their learning. This is a unique opportunity; it assists with their comprehension skills and brings imagination to real life. It's exciting for me to see them excel in something so applicable to everyday and see this interaction with the SJSU students, to put their creative side to use."

And, she adds, "This wouldn't have been possible without the amazing support of my mom and brother, the volunteers, students, staff and principal."

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