Tech & Media

How to Help Your Kids Make Amazing Movies on Tablets and Phones

Jul 5, 2016

Do your kids use smartphones or tablets to make movies? It’s amazing how much fun you can have just by pressing record. Besides being simple to use, video camera apps are professional-quality. The same iPhone your son uses to film his siblings on a trampoline has also been used to shoot acclaimed music videos and Oscar-winning documentaries.

The Best Tools and Apps

Kids who make movies are learning lots of important skills, from technical know-how to attention to detail. They learn how to problem-solve the basics of lighting (this room is too dark!) and audio (talk louder when you’re farther away!), and appreciate the need for patience and perseverance to get a scene just right. In some cases, they might even be applying language arts (writing out scripts or scene descriptions) and crafting (basic prop-making).

“Telling stories through the lens of the camera is exciting and engaging,” says Bryan Goldmintz of The Director’s Cut Workshops, which runs digital storytelling programs in classrooms and offers camps for would-be filmmakers.

"It involves collaboration around technology—sharing ideas, developing roles, and melding concepts together.”

“The camera is a tool used to tell the story, and engages them to actively tell a story through actions, speaking, and role-playing,” he explains. “Creating movies is more than just film-making. It provides opportunities to learn and practice tasks kids can take into varying job and social roles. It involves collaboration around technology—sharing ideas, developing roles, and melding concepts together.”

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It doesn’t take a whole lot of complicated technology, either. In many cases, free apps or even the programs that come with your device will do what your kids need. In fact, if they’re happy with one-shot shot flicks, that’s all they’ll ever need. It’s when it comes to editing, adding music, or splicing together a bunch of video files into a movie that things get a bit trickier. Apps like iMovie (or music-video-makers like Magisto) can help. While setting up shots and yelling ‘Action!’ are simple, using editing apps to stitch together scenes or add special effects usually requires parental guidance.

Whatever kind of movie your kid wants to make, it’s always a good idea to tell them to shoot LOTS of footage so you can work together to pick the best stuff when you begin the editing process. (You’ll also want to delete a lot—these files can be big.)

Once it’s time for a screening, YouTube allows you to upload and share your kids’ cinematic masterpieces with others, while maintaining a level of privacy and security. 

Tell them to shoot LOTS of footage so you can work together to pick the best stuff when you begin the editing process.

What to film?

Some kids love the idea of making movies, but don’t know where to begin. (For younger kids, apps like Telestory can offer suggestions.) Here are a few ideas to suggest to budding directors:
● nature documentaries: capture wildlife with the lens, filming either backyard critters (ants have great screen presence) or family pets
● music videos: pick a favourite song, and then either lip-sync or karaoke while doing cool things
● the day in the life: chart an entire Saturday by filming short snippets of regular life—from brushing teeth and heading to soccer class to basement dance parties and helping get dinner ready
● historical reenactments: take a scene from a favourite movie or TV show and act it out with props—stick to the script or take stories in new directions
● prime-time interviews: go the journalistic route and have the director ask tough or fun questions of family members and friends to tell a story

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There’s another option for those who kids who can be meticulous and don’t mind taking their time, says Goldmintz. “Our youngest film-makers really enjoy stop-motion animation films using LEGO and toy characters,” he explains. “Bringing their toys to life, including giving them personality through their actions and personalities, is an exciting prospect.”

If making a stop-motion (or time-lapse) movie sounds too tedious for your high-energy kid, apps that make the process a bit easier include iMotion and the LEGO Movie Maker.

Taking it to the Next Level

If your kid really likes making movies, there are film-making classes and camps across the country. These kinds of specialty lessons can help burgeoning auteurs not only meet others who share their passion, but also get into more complex aspects of the craft.

“The apps and digital software and hardware provide a great ‘Ah-ha!’ moment, but specialty classes offer a pool of mentorship opportunities around the technology and other young people to work with,” says Goldmintz. “Going to the next level is more about collaborative opportunities, and learning how to effectively tell stories and communicate ideas. It also introduces things like first-person shooting, VR filming, and concepts like chroma keying (special effects).”

Article Author Erik Missio
Erik Missio

Read more from Erik here.

Erik Missio used to live in Toronto, have longish hair and write about rock ‘n’ roll. He now lives in the suburbs, has no hair and works in communications. He and his wife are the proud parents of a nine-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy, both of whom are pretty great. He received his MA in journalism from the University of Western Ontario.

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