When I wrote that there is nothing funnier than a Latin puppet show, I lied. Movies in Latin are funnier. I'm not sure why but they are. Creating a movie in Latin is a great end of the year project. It was my traditional after-A.P-Project and the anticipation of it kept many students slogging through the second half of the Aeneid.
Basically, this project works best with a smaller class: 10-15 students at the most. The first step in the process is to choose a movie to film. We tend to choose movies that have already been filmed and then redo them in Latin. Writing an original movie in Latin adds a step that we usually don't have time for. Besides, translating movie dialogue into Latin is both challenging and entertaining. I begin by asking students to brainstorm movies to film, reminding them that we have limited sets, costumes and no special effects or budget. This fact eliminates most Superhero movies and action films. We list possible movies on the board and then vote. In the past, I have filmed Psycho, The Shining and Lord of the Rings in Latin. The Lord of the Rings Movie turned out particularly well and won the Terence Award for Best Picture in 2010. The Terence Award is sponsored by Professor Tunberg, a great advocate and pioneer of spoken Latin. I would love to link the winning movie here but unfortunately the link is broken. I'm hoping to remedy this at a later date.
The next step is watch the movie itself as a class and jot down the scenes that are both pertinent and possible to film. Obviously you won't be able to do all the scenes, just enough to tell the story. After that, you should cast the movie from your class. The fourth step is to find the script. I have never found this particularly difficult. We found both The Lord of the Rings script and Psycho online. I think we had to guess at The Shining dialogue but as so much of that dialogue is so famous, it wasn't really a problem.
Now you give each person in the class a section of the movie to write in Latin. This becomes the basis for the grade that you give this project. If your class has been hard at work translating high poetry or prose, a few lessons about conversational Latin would be appropriate here.
After this you are ready to film! We made Dominus Anulorum during a particularly rainy spring so we filmed all our outside scenes in only a few days. Students need to be honest about when they will be absent because unplanned absences can really screw up the filming schedule.
What about rehearsals? Fughettaboutit! Who are you? Scorcese? I ask all students to practice their lines ahead of time so they can say them without tripping over them but we never memorize them. Besides, I'd be more likely to fly to the moon than to get seniors ten days from graduating to memorize a Latin film script. Luckily It's not necessary. In my class, we used the little white boards and wrote the lines on them. Students not in the scene held up the boards off camera in the direction where the actor being filmed was looking. It's the low-tech version of the Latin teleprompter.
As far as finding a camera and editing equipment, when I began this project, I really had to scrounge. We borrowed one from a student and leaned on the A.V department to help us with the editing. Now of course, a smart phone can be used to do both. You will probably find that you have at least one student who is skilled at the task and eager to take on this project. I held onto the job of director for far too long. In Dominus Anulorum, it's painfully evident which scenes I filmed, by their stilted nature and which scenes the student who edited the picture filmed due to his fluid use of close-ups and different camera angles.
Finally, if you have time, hold a movie night. Borrow the auditorium if it is available and show the complete movie to the class and friends of the class.
The nature of this project is truly transformative, a great end to a high school Latin career. It's great P.R. for your program as well. My Latin I and II students, buried in review material for the final, were fascinated by the heap of costumes and props in the back of the room for Dominus Anulorum. Like desk bound paparazzi, they peppered me with questions about the movie. "We'll talk all about it" I said, "in Latin IV." This prompted a lively discussion of movies that they would make. I let them talk for a while and then turned their attention back to the work at hand. The seed had been planted.
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