Education Blog

Everything Comes Back to Story Activities

By Darrel Swann, Education Program Manager 08.17.20

Congratulations to the Oerke-Diniz family, whose short film Fungophobia, starring Odin Diniz, took home the top prize in our "That Thing is Scary" Summer Film Challenge! Click HERE to watch their film.

Each month the JBFC Film Challenge Series will focus on a different area of filmmaking. August's focus is the concept of Story. If you follow along with the JBFC Film Challenges, you’ll finish the summer with a solid understanding of the fundamentals of filmmaking, good filmmaking practice under your belt, and your very own short films!

For all the skills, and rules, and effects, and tools, great movies are first and foremost great stories. These short activities focus on useful tools for making your stories stronger, more engaging, and clearer to the audience. Many of these concepts will come up in a challenge, so they’re a great way to brush up on your skills, or a great place to start if this is your first introduction to filmmaking.

Key Words and Phrases:


  • Device with a camera (iPhone, iPad, or any phone/device with a camera)

Activity 1: How to Fill a Scene

Mise-en-scene is a French term that literally means “putting in the scene.” It refers to all the different things the camera sees in a scene, including the wardrobe (costumes), props, set design, and lighting. For this activity, we’re going to get some practice thinking about what we put in a scene.

You’re going to be taking 3 pictures. In each picture you must have:

  • At least 1 person
  • At least 1 prop
  • A real-world setting (This means no green screens or sheets can be used as backdrops.)

The goal is to have only 3 colors in a picture while following all the rules above. You’ll have to make a lot of choices along the way to get the picture just the way you want, and that’s exactly what it’s like for Directors as they pick what goes in each scene. Here are some examples:

Take it Further

Add a theme to your 3-color pictures. Try to make the person’s expression match the mood of the color, and the meaning of the prop.

Activity 2: Squishing Time 

A montage is a collection of short shots that show a character, or characters, growing or changing bit by bit with each new shot. The most basic use of a montage is to quickly show a bunch of time passing. In Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Director Taika Waititi uses a montage to show both his characters escaping through the jungle, and the escalating search for them back home.

  1. In one shot, film yourself doing a process from start to finish. This can be something like making a sandwich, building a fort, or cleaning up your room. You can rest the camera down on a surface, or have somebody hold it for you while you complete the action.
  2. Now go back and edit the video. Keep only the most useful, funny, and engaging parts of the process. Try to remove as much as you can and still have the audience understand what’s going on.
  3. Share your montage with an audience. Did they understand the process? Did they think a section went on too long? Re-edit if necessary for a finished scene. 

Activity 3: Family Movie Night!

Watch a movie with a great ending from the list below:

A great ending is one that is satisfying for each character’s journey, yet still unexpected. In the final Film Challenge, we’ll discuss endings, and will break down what makes some of these great endings from above work.