International School History - Documentary Film Making in the History Classroom

Chapter 6: Documentary film making in the history classroom - Richard Jones-Nerzic
This chapter is in two sections. In the first part, I outline some ideas about why history teachers might consider making documentary films with their pupils. Informing this section is a polemic suggesting that the traditional ‘apprentice’ model of history teaching, in which the history pupil is treated as a trainee historian, needs to be overhauled. In my view, pupils need to become informed, critical users of the range of ways in which the past is interpreted and presented, both academic and popular. The documentary history film is perhaps the most important example of popular presentation of the past and is now extensively used in the classroom and yet rarely used critically. Providing opportunities for the history pupil to make ‘historical’ film, will not only broaden their awareness of how the past is used (and abused) but also enhance their appreciation of the  importance of history as an academic discipline.
The second section of this chapter is more practical. If the reader is in no need of being persuaded about the value of making pupil documentary films, then they might jump straight ahead to this second section which deals more practically with how documentary film making might be incorporated into the history classroom.
Part 1 – Why history teachers should be making documentary films with their students.
‘I am convinced that the combination of words and music, colour and movement can extend human experience in a way that words alone cannot do. For this reason I believe in television as a medium, and was prepared to give up two years' writing to see what could be done with it.'  (Clark, 1969: 10)
The story of how Lord Clarke was persuaded by David Attenborough into writing and presenting the genre defining documentary series Civilisation, is highly pertinent to the history teacher toying with the idea of making films. Produced in 1968, Civilisation was an attempt to effectively exploit the new technology of the era, colour television. My first argument for making documentary films is the same; we should because we can now.  Clark’s second point is more profound: that the multimedia quality of documentary television provides a more powerful means of communication than is possible with written words alone.  This reflects my second argument. In my view, pupils making historical documentaries can not only, in Clark’s words, ‘extend human experience’ but also extend pedagogically their experience of ‘doing history’ in the 21st century. In brief, we should not only be making films because we can, but also because we should.
Because we can

We haven’t made films with students before, simply because it was not technically possible to do so. When I started teaching history 20 years ago, it was not realistic to propose that pupils make their own documentary films. It was hard enough to get regular access to a TV and video and even harder to get hold of a cassette worth showing. I can clearly remember only a decade earlier, as a Secondary school pupil, the excitement of being shepherded into a purpose built ‘audio visual theatre’ to watch a film of Macbeth on the only VHS player in a school of 2000 pupils. Needless to say, I never saw a history documentary in my whole time in school. I think sometimes we forget just how much has changed in the history classroom.
Just 10 years ago there were very few classrooms with data projectors and IWBs. Microsoft Windows had just followed Apple and incorporated video editing software into the operating system, but most users had no idea that they had it, let alone what to do with it. In any case most computers were too slow to process video files and dial-up Internet lacked the bandwidth to enable effective file sharing.  Most people still used floppy discs to carry data; cameras took photos that we picked up from the chemists and mobile phones only made phone calls. 10 years ago we would have to spend a number of lessons teaching pupils how to edit video and work through the frustrations of unreliable equipment and software. Digital video cameras were prohibitively expensive and never loaned to pupils. And even if you managed to finish a film, how could it be shared? Computers didn’t come with DVD burners and YouTube didn’t exist until 2005.
And now? Most of our pupils have probably already made films before they came to Secondary school. They may well have their own YouTube channel or video albums on their Facebook account and under the desks in your classroom there are probably 20 or so mobile phones that can shoot high quality video with sound.  So why not see what they can do with it?
Because we should
As with all ICT applications in the classroom, digital film-making must provide a value-added benefit to learning that could not be provided or provided as effectively if it were not used. There are good reasons why we should be making history documentaries with history pupils that might be summarized under three headings: motivation, skills and depth.
Motivation – Beyond the ‘artificial constraints of the exercise book’
The first reason for making documentary films is that it can help engage and motivate a wider range of pupils in the study of the past, than might otherwise be possible with traditional – pencil and paper - classroom activities.
Ten years ago I wrote an article about how the Internet was going to transform history teaching. I suggested that doing 'well' in history, whether in 1950 or in the year 2000, was ‘still largely calculated by how well the student performs within the artificial constraints of the lines of the traditional exercise book.’  (Jones-Nerzic, 2001) Reading my observations now makes me wonder how much the Internet revolution has changed history teaching in the last decade. To what extent have we been able to exploit the 10 years of ICT revolution to provide opportunities for students to be assessed outside the ‘traditional exercise book’? 
If the study of school history is to be of value it must help the student makes sense of the world in which they live today. The carefully selected content of the history curriculum can obviously do this, but the narrow largely literary skills we rely on to convey this content, is very out of step with the multimedia world we now inhabit. In the words of the Film: 21st Century Literacy Strategy, ‘We live in a world of moving images. To participate fully in our society and its culture means to be as confident in the use and understanding of moving images as of the printed word. Both are essential aspects of literacy in the twenty-first century.’
More than two thirds of pupils in England and Wales decide to drop the study of history at the first opportunity. There are many reasons for this (Haydn,2011: 31) but perhaps school history’s tendency to ape the priorities and methods of academic history is partly to blame. I am sure we agree that historians, like dentists, play a vitally important role in society, but what academic historians (or dentists) actually do for a living would be for most of us, and especially our pupils, extraordinarily dull. As Historian Brian Brivati wrote in an A Level ‘document analysis’ primer, ‘Anyone who does not feel excited by the prospect of sitting in an archive waiting for invariably brown folders, contained in box files and tied up by irritating pieces of ribbon, should not consider becoming an historian’ (Brivati, 1994: 19). Indeed. This somewhat explains my vocation as a history teacher rather than as a historian. But more importantly it illustrates the fact that historians try to study the past on ‘its own terms’ and get excited by the prospect of an engagement with the past as a ‘foreign country’. (Lowenthal, D. 1985) In contrast, we history teachers are engaged in a constant battle to make our subject relevant, we draw comparisons between past and present to make school history ‘meaningful, useful and engaging’. (Haydn,  2011: 38) But also much of what has evolved as the dominant skills and assessment activities of the history classroom, is still based on the narrow, largely linguistic domain of the professional historian. Biology teachers do not treat their pupils like budding dentists and doctors, so why do history teachers valorize the narrow methodology of the historian?
The research evidence (QCA 2005) suggests that pupils continue to find history ‘hard’ because of our over reliance on traditional, linguistic skills. (Haydn, 2011: 238) Film making is one of a number of approaches through which pupils can broaden their engagement with the past. Film-making requires the deployment of a range of ‘intelligences’ (Gardner: 1983) and an extraordinarily wide range of skills: performing to camera, film editing, image and music research, script writing, camera operation, as well as historical research and writing.  Film also involves almost endless creative choices about how the narrative is to be constructed and presented. History though film making ceases to be just learning about the past and starts to be about how meaning is created in the present. This is not just about active learning but also learning with ownership of the narrative. There can be significant pride in the product because film is a public, shared experience not a closed, restrictive dialogue between pupil and teacher. A sense of audience throughout the productive process, whether imagined or real can be a powerful motivator. And in terms of assessment for learning, previously published films provide models of good practice to inform and inspire learning outcomes.
Skills – Becoming ‘bricoleurs, sophisticated multimedia rag-pickers’.
The second reason for making documentary films, is that through the practical experience of making films, pupils begin to acquire a more critical appreciation of how film works. These skills are important because film is now probably the most influential means through which an understanding of the past is acquired. As media professor Patricia Aufderheide argues, documentaries ‘are often the first door through which people walk to understand the past’. (Aufderheide,  2007: 132)
One of the potential dangers of the ICT revolution is that most school investment has gone into hardware that helps to reinforce traditional didactic pedagogic methodologies. The ubiquitous IWB is a wonderfully powerful presentational tool, but despite creative teachers engaging their students and getting them ‘up and involved’, it remains essentially a presentational tool for a largely passive audience. A walk through school corridors equipped with data projectors, suggests that one of the dominant uses is for the projection of video. This has perhaps been the biggest change in history teaching over the last 20 years. Looking back over my teacher planner from 20 years ago some of my classes would not have seen a video at any point during the year. Today, it would be unusual if the same class didn’t see at least some video, at least once a week.
History on television today is the words of John Tosh, the ‘new gardening’. (Tosh, 2008: 6) As early as 2003, it was calculated that dedicated history documentary channels in the UK were broadcasting as much as 10 hours of history programmes per day. (MacCallum-Stewart: 1) In the US ‘Presence of the Past’ project, 81% of those interviewed said they had watched films or television programmes about the past in the previous 12 months, compared to only 53% who had read about the past. (Hughes-Warrington, 2007: 1) The celebrated documentary film maker Ken Burns blames the lack of interest in traditional history on its ‘murder…by an academic academy dedicated to communicating only with itself’ (Curthoys,  2011: 9).  For their part, historians dismiss popular history as not quite the real thing; they question unsubstantiable narratives and are happy to point out errors in factual detail. Sean Wilentz in his essay ‘America Made Easy’ have gone further, attacking documentarian Burns’ Civil War as ‘crushingly sentimental and vacuous’ and savaging the TV historian Simon Schama as a sad ‘scholarly defection to the universe of entertainment’ (Wilentz, 2001: 3).
There is an alternative approach.  Some historians such as David Harlan, Dipesh Chakraberty and Ann Rigney (Jenkins, K., et al, 2007) attempt an accommodation with popular histories such as film documentary or digital gaming rather than simply dismissing them as imposters. (Donnely, M. and Norton, C., 2011: 155)   Whether they make a persuasive case for the professional historian, only the historian can judge; but for the history teacher whose task it is to equip pupils with the critical tools to engage with the past in all its representations, David Harlan’s conclusion has an obvious resonance:
'If our students are to become thoughtful and resourceful readers of the past in a culture as dispersed and eclectic as this one, they will have to become adept at finding their way between competing but equally valid truth claims made in distinct and often divergent modes of historical representation. They will have to become bricoleurs, sophisticated multimedia rag-pickers… cutting and pasting, weaving and reweaving interpretive webs of their own devising (Harlan, 2007:122-3).
Unfortunately film has too often been used as a class management, reward driven tool. Film is an alternative to work – ‘can we watch a video?’ – reinforcing the uncritical, passive use of film as ‘entertainment’ or ‘the great escape’. We would not give pupils even 10 minutes silent reading without expecting them to evaluate the content of what they have read. Nor should we allow them to be so uncritical about they watch.  We have to work against all the hypnotic cultural baggage that says ‘these are moving pictures let yourself be entertained’. So if we want to make pupils critical users of film, they must first become producers themselves. If we do not, we are like English teachers who refuse to allow students to write their own stories and poems.
But here again we face the problem of the ‘apprentice’ model of history teaching. Exam questions that ask ‘how might this source be useful to a historian’ reinforce the assumption that only historians properly use the past. History in school ought to do more than replicate the Rankean tradition of empirical historiography. Although pupils should come to appreciate the unique value of the professional historical method, there should also be opportunities to examine other ways – which are increasingly powerful – through which the past is used and abused. The history classroom skills of critical analysis and objective evaluation are of inestimable value, but they tend to be learnt in an almost purely literary context. Via the Internet, the multimedia explosion of the last 20 years has undermined the authority of published print and the non-terrestrial broadcast revolution has undermined the authority of independently regulated quality public broadcasting. Traditional history teaching designed for industrial age pencil and paper classroom is of declining relevance in a post-modern world increasingly presented by a deregulated media.
Depth – Beneath the ‘transparent revelation of truth’.
The third reason for making documentary films, is that it helps make some of the hardest intellectual challenges of the history classroom just a little bit easier. This is not about dumbing-down a subject that is struggling to compete in a crowded post-14 humanities curriculum. On the contrary, this is about making history’s most exciting philosophical discussions intelligible to as wide a range of pupils as possible. Through making documentary films, students are made explicitly aware of the epistemological challenge of getting the story of the past straight.  Film offers a multimedia range of very practical tools – music, narrative, drama, text and image – through which multiple alternative narratives can be created. As tools they are infinitely more flexible, familiar and intelligible to our pupils than the subtleties of words alone can allow. Film can open the door to interpretation that words alone keep firmly shut.
When epistemological and interpretative questions arise in the history classroom, they tend in practice to either demand either very little from students or altogether too much. In its most simplistic form, students are invited to explain why non-historical (popular history) accounts about the past are unsatisfactory or unreliable.   Again, the history ‘apprentice’ model is at work here, as it ‘boundarises’ (de Groot, 2009: 249) what is and is not a ‘proper’ way to interpret the past. In the trainee historian ‘apprentice model’, analysis of purpose and reliability is conducted almost exclusively at the level of ‘primary’ sources, still reflecting what E.H. Carr characterized as ‘the fetishism of documents’ (Carr, 1961: 10). Rather than engage with and recognize the values of non-historical interpretations of the past, releasing a middle ground of accessible interpretative formats for the pupils to evaluate, only the purist, tribally defended form of history is valued (Samuel, 1994: 4) and the opportunity is missed.
In its most challenging form, students are expected to explain how and why professional historians disagree with each other. But historiographical analysis at school can rarely go beyond ‘name dropping historians’ into appropriate schools of thought. A detailed textual reading of an historian, an appreciation of method or political motivation, is beyond all but the most gifted history pupils. Even for Margaret MacMillan’s university undergraduates, historical method is ‘no more demanding than digging a stone out of the ground’ (MacMillan, 2007: 9). History is popularly perceived as just a cumulative process of gradually uncovering the past; that once the past is known then that particular chapter can be closed.  For most school pupils the idea of evolving historiographical debate must be even more perplexing; historians may as well be magicians who somehow conjure up meaning through a mystical communion with the ‘documents’.
This is where documentary film can help provide a more accessible example method of how interpretation is created. Documentary film makers and historians are both engaged in a remarkably similar process of representing reality through what Levi-Strauss described as ‘retrospective reconstruction’ (Lowenthal, 1985:215).  In neither process of ‘reconstruction’ – historical or documentarian - is there an absolute narrative reality to check the account against.  All we have are the structure-less facts which by themselves have no ‘order of meaning’ (White, H.V., 1990: 5). So as Aufderheide argues, documentarians who tell history with film encounter and share all the same challenges facing the historian (Aufderheide, 2007: 91). And they also share a presentational product, film or text, which sustains an illusion that what is revealed, is a ‘transparent revelation of truth’ (Aufderheide, 2007: 132).
When we begin to work with pupils on interpretation and historiographical issues, we are faced with the difficulty of explaining that the past and history are very different things; that history is as much made as it is uncovered; that it is alright and normal that historians disagree and they may disagree without one being right and the other ‘biased’ (Chapman, 2011: 97-8). However, unlike history, the ‘illusion’ of documentary film as non-interpretive, naïve realist reporting of what actually happened, is far easier for pupils to deconstruct. Film offers a concrete illustration of how almost limitless meaning can be created from the same material. But more importantly, film also enables pupils to move beyond deconstruction to the active construction of their own interpretations. The manipulation of images in particular; the juxtaposition and separation of words from pictures and sounds provides a highly accessible means of illustrating the arbitrary artifice of narrative.  In addition we might usually feel uncomfortable asking pupils to construct one-dimensional interpretations that eschew the norms of historical balance and objectivity, but this is exactly what historical documentaries tend to do (see the ‘bad history’ case study example below).
Finally, documentary - through its contrast with academic history - can really help the pupil appreciate what a historian does. Documentary provides something concrete and enough like history to make the comparison workable, but different enough to demonstrate what is distinctive. Making the comparison between history and documentary enables the student to appreciate the historian’s role of studying the past ‘in and for itself’ rather than ‘tailored to present day purposes’ (Lowenthal, 1998: x). So by examining the full variety of ways in which the past in represented from the academic to the popular, it gives students a better understanding of what history is and isn’t.  And as Rigney argues: ‘precisely because of this variety, it is all the more important to focus on the specific contribution of historians to the circulation of knowledge...’ (Rigney, 2007:158).

Part 2 – How history teachers might make documentary films with their students.
Getting started - ‘What if I have never made a film before?’
Before making films with students it is probably sensible to familiarise yourself with the basics of the technique. As with all ICT applications the most effective acquisition of necessary skills comes with ‘just-in-time’ learning that resolves an existing problem (Riel, 1998). Many history teachers will show historical film in class that are a little too long or occasionally irrelevant to precise needs of the lesson. A good way into video editing is to take a longish clip and cut it down to a relevant size and shape, perhaps adding questions in natural pauses in the film. Most history departments now have a bank of digital resources, of old VHS cassettes that have been digitised or DVD’s that have been ripped into single files, all of which will provide an ideal raw unedited film for your project. Alternatively you could download a video from a source like YouTube or the BBC using a website like mediaconverter ( or the latest version of RealPlayer ( both of which allow the user to download and convert the video into a format compatible with whatever video editing software you use.
The best software to begin learning film making is probably Windows Moviemaker. As with most video editing software it is easy to use, but also has the advantage of being built in to the Windows operating system. This means the PC classrooms in school will have it, as will the student’s PC at home. This is important in allowing your   students’ classroom experiences to be continued seamlessly at home.
It takes just a few moments to get to grips with the basics of video editing. There are three simple stages in the film making process: importing the unedited film, editing it and rendering it. The first and third stages are done by the computer with a click of a button, editing is the interesting and creative part.  In this stage you will be able to clip or cut sections from the film, import and edit music and stills, add text and effects and an audio narration. (A tutorial providing step by step directions for editing using Windows Moviemaker can be found in Ahrenfelt and Watkin, 2008: 69-72 and online here).  
The best way to learn is to experiment; perhaps ask a film savvy student to give up a break time to get you started. As with most ICT packages there are always students who know more and know better than the teacher. Part of effective teaching is to recognise this and use it to your advantage. It can be a good opportunity to encourage these student experts to do some of the technical teaching for you and you must be prepared to let the experienced film makers do some practical mentoring for the less experienced during the course of the lesson.
Three case study examples.
The three examples offer a gradual increase not in the sophistication of the historical learning involved but rather in the level of technical expertise and extent of curricula time commitment.
a) Digital storytelling
A digital story is a short, first person video-narrative created by combining recorded voice, still and moving images, and music or other sounds. (Tollmar, P. 2006) The concept of digital storytelling was first developed in Berkeley, California in the early 1990’s when a group of writers, artists and computer technicians created to find a way to incorporate new computer technology with storytelling (  
In the history classroom today, the concept of digital storytelling provides a technically unchallenging introduction to film making that can yield very rich history learning rewards.  A useful starting point might be the documentation of a school history trip. Requiring the students to produce a film of the day encourages them to focus; to listen and look closely without the burden of filling out a standardised worksheet. A few key questions, a notebook and a digital camera are all that are needed to produce a challenging activity. The completed films become themselves ‘histories’ of the fieldwork day and each unique documentary is an personal interpretation of the day’s events.  Each account can be contrasted with the next, thereby providing a concrete case study for discussion about the subjective, contrived nature of historical narrative: In what ways are the films different? Why are they different? Is the difference explained by the personality of the author or the author’s experience? What does it mean to produce an ‘accurate’ film? What does it mean to produce good history?

Family and local history also lend themselves  particularly well to digital storytelling. By combining carefully selected images with a short, focused narrative, a short film can be made in next to no time. A few scanned family images or a selection of stills snapped at a local historical site of interest, can provide the basis of a piece of work which can really engage the student as a presenter about the past. The next step is to encourage the student to use video to record the testimony of the historical actors as they recall the events captured by the photographs. The process of making such a film can provide a powerful ‘oral history’ experience for all those involved.

Between the writing and eventual publication of this chapter, the Centre for Digital Storytelling have developed a YouTube Channel.


Bad history
This activity is designed to familiarise students with the principle techniques of documentary film making and how and why those techniques are used. Firstly, the aim is to demonstrate to students how meaning can be arbitrarily created irrespective of the images of ‘reality’ shown. For this we need to deconstruct documentary, recognising and naming the various, already familiar, techniques used.  The second aim is to demonstrate the difference between academic history and documentary film history. The most important of these differences is the reluctance of documentary to evaluate competing interpretations of past events in favour of a singular plotted – exposition/resolution – structure. As Patricia Aufderheide (2007: 92) explains,

 '…unlike print historians who can digress, comment, and footnote, documentarians work in a form where images and sounds create an imitation of reality that is itself an implicit assertion of truth. This makes it harder for them to introduce alternative         interpretations of events or even the notion that we do in fact interpret events.'
To achieve this, students consciously set out to produce one-sided, ‘bad histories’ that reinforce a one-dimensional perspective on the past. By having different groups of students produce films that reinforce different established interpretations, we can conclude as a group by viewing and analysing how interpretations are created and which documentary techniques are effective and why. Choose a historical topic which has relatively accessible, contrasting interpretations. Ideally this might be something with distinct historiographical schools of thought. Modern history where are stock archive video footage is available works better, but the visuals can also be done though contemporary art. I first developed this activity with the debate over responsibility for the start of the Cold War, but it works just as well with other history debates.
Assuming the students have been taught the main aspects of the historiography, the first stage involves familiarising the students with documentary technique. (I use this introductory sheet) Over the years I have collected and edited short clips that exemplify the techniques I am looking for – narration types, ambient music, stock archive footage, expert ‘talking heads’, graphics etc. – but pretty much any short extracts will do as long as allows the teacher to ask the following sorts of questions:

Why are actors employed to do anonymous unseen ‘voice of god’ narration but not talking to camera in ‘on-screen dialogue’? · When, how and why is archive footage used? · What role does music have in establishing mood? · What is the message of the extract? · What are the strengths and weaknesses of using dramatic re-enactments? · How and where are academic historians filmed? · Why is more than one historian used? · Why is there no debate between them? · What are the commercial implications of documentaries that have high production values?
The point of this introductory analysis is to begin to transform the students from passive consumers to active producers of film.  Through asking questions about why historians are invariably filmed in ‘academic’ contexts, for example, students begin to look beyond the obvious linguistic message to the background ‘signifiers’, where rows of academic books communicate the unspoken authority of the foreground expert.
The second stage of the process involves the students making their films. This requires careful planning with clearly communicated requirements and stages/deadlines in the production process. For example, I provide the students with short pieces of stock archive footage that must feature in the film. This is to reinforce the idea that the meaning of an image is not fixed. They all have to use stock footage of Secretary of State, George Marshall but whether the Marshall Plan was the most ‘unselfish act in history’ or evidence of US economic imperialism depends on the narrative the students produce. To make sure this is fully a group project I also insist that all members of the group appear in the film either as narrators, historical experts, oral history witnesses or dramatic re-enactors.

Having made these films for more than 10 years now, it has gone from massively time-consuming, computer lab activity for a film studies enthusiast with a high tolerance for technical frustrations (me), to something that can be done by any teacher who is willing to give it a go. Unlike 10 years ago, many students already know how to make film, have their own video cameras, can find, download and convert their own archive stock footage or music and can upload their completed work for the world to see. Whether a model example to inspire future students, a virtual extension of the classroom display board or something for proud relatives to share on Facebook, the prospect of ‘publication’ can be a significant source of motivation.  When a student’s work has been viewed over 50,000 times and inspired dozens of positive feedback comments from around the world, the concept of assessment takes on a radically new perspective.

Students as documentarians.
The last example builds naturally on the critical and practical skills developed in the first two activities. It can be the most demanding and ambitious sort of project, but the rewards can also be significant. In this activity students are encouraged to produce unique historical documentaries that are based on their own documented, original research. In documentary terms this means that the key footage in the film is not ‘stock footage’ but rather ‘actuality footage’, that is, film that the students shoot themselves.
The sort of footage the students might be expected to shoot clearly depends on the nature of the historical project. But certain standard documentary formats suggest themselves. Oral history interviews are relatively straightforward to organise and shoot. Location filming at a local historical or heritage site can provide rich visual, contextual material and an opportunity for the student presenter to provide ‘on screen dialogue’. Short interviews with academic historians at the local university can be arranged via the school liaison officer. Even feature style dramatic reconstructions can be achieved with a little imagination, a few props and an appropriate set and camera in close-up. There is no limit and the pupils can amaze you.
The most ambitious project I have been involved in this respect exploited the one-off opportunity of the first state visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Slovakia in 2008. At the time I was teaching history and film at the British School in Bratislava and I was able to work closely with the British Embassy, British Council and an Emmy award winning Slovak film director to produce an oral history project about the Czechoslovak kindertransport organised by the ‘British Schindler’, Sir Nicholas Winton. ( The project required a three week suspension of the history curriculum; not insignificant time off school for me and the students and a whole weekend of filming. The obvious benefits of such a project are incalculable. The students met and worked with historically significant figures, diplomats, authors, presidents, award winning journalists, film-makers and even the Queen.
But there were less obvious benefits that will be common to any similar, even if less ambitious, documentary projects. The transferable skills involved in participating in such a project are rarely required in a classroom situation: the logistics of arranging the shoot, getting permissions, borrowing equipment and managing a time budget and a being part of a team of people responsible for the script, lighting, sound, camera and editing. But most importantly through their interviews they documented an historical event through the eyes of participants who had often never been interviewed before. They added to the historical record. There is something of unquantifiable importance that comes from the immediacy of being in the presence of the past. As the veteran speaks, eyes focussed on the distance recounting from their ‘mind’s eye’, we get a glimpse of the ‘aura’ that Walter Benjamin attributed to the non-reproducible moment of the experience itself.  And it is all captured for the world to see.

I should stress that not all film making needs to be a ‘major production’: it can also entail students simply making a quick film trailer as a homework.
In conclusion, it doesn’t take much to start making film. All it need take is a suggestion from the teacher: to ‘why not make a film’ rather than another PowerPoint or desktop published document. The benefits can be enormous in terms of motivation, media literacy and higher order historical thinking. The Film: 21st Century Literacy Strategy concludes that ‘the significance of audio-visual media is changing profoundly; it has grown from being a vehicle for art and entertainment to become a core part of how we communicate and do business.’  Nobody is suggesting that documentary film making need become a core part of history lessons any more than that historians ‘should themselves write novels, design computer games, or experiment with graphic novels’ ((Rigney, 2007:156). But neither should school history fail to adapt to a world that is now saturated by representations of the past that historians didn’t write and that ‘apprentice historians’ cannot read.
Useful websites and software
International School History - - An extended hypertext version of this chapter with examples of the video case studies and practical advice for film making.
The National Archive, Focus on Film - -An excellent classroom focused site that amongst other things allows students to access and edit archive film materials. Film footage can be downloaded for free.
Film Education - – An outstanding resource for anyone interested in analyzing and making film in the classroom. Excellent practical activities about popular films often used in the history classroom.
British Pathé - –One of the biggest film and newsreel archives in the world, containing over 90,000 individual film items and 12 million stills.  The archive covers an enormous range of subjects including modern British and world history, news, fashion, sport, entertainment, travel, warfare and 20th Century social history.
Library of Congress, Digital Collections - - The Library of Congress has made digitized versions of collection materials available online since 1994. It includes digitized photographs, manuscripts, maps, sound recordings, motion pictures, and books.
Audacity – - Free, open source software for recording and editing sounds.
RealPlayer – - Free. Latest versions allow the user to download videos from most popular video sites in one click. Also enables the conversion of video files into formats compatible with most video editing software including Windows MovieMaker.
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