A Conversation About Media in the Classroom

International High School Class 1: Meeting Chris and Danielle :)

Posted by: Danielle Bezalel
Saturday, March 01, 2014

Hey there!

I'm Danielle Bezalel, a fourth year Film and Media major and Education minor at UC Berkeley; I'm a new Youth Education Intern with the San Francisco Film Society! I'm so excited to be working with Documentary Filmmaker, Chris Metzler, and 12th grade teacher, Mr. David (for the Filmmakers in the Classroom program) at International High School in the Mission in SF! While we've only had three classes so far, I'm happy to share my experience of what we've done and share lesson plans we've gone through. For this blog post, I'll just discuss class one and what we did for introductions.

Class One: Introducing Chris and his work
As his IMDB bio explains: "After graduating from USC with a degree in business and cinema, Chris Metzler's film career has taken him from the depths of agency work, to coordinating post-production for awful American movies seen late at night in Belgium. His filmmaking work has resulted in him criss-crossing the country with the aid of caffeinated beverages, all the while making his way in the Nashville country and Christian music video industries, before finally forsaking his soul to commercial LA rock n' roll. These misadventures culminated in him winning a Billboard Magazine Music Video Award.

He eventually fled to San Francisco to join the independent documentary film scene and start work on his feature length directorial debut - the offbeat environmental documentary, "Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea", which was narrated by legendary counterculture filmmaker and "King of Trash" John Waters. The film went on to win over 37 awards for Best Documentary and was named by Booklist as one its Top 10 Environmental Films. A cult favorite, the film was released theatrically in the United States and broadcast nationally on the Sundance Channel.

With the success of that feature documentary Metzler went on to make, "Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone", about the legendary rock-ska-funk band Fishbone. The film was narrated by actor Laurence Fishburne, premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival, screened at SXSW, and aired nationally on PBS. Metzler is now pursuing other sub-cultural documentary subjects, including: rogue economists, lucha libre wrestlers, swamp rat hunters, ganjapreneurs, and evangelical Christian surfers."

In class, we watched the trailer for Chris' critically acclaimed "Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea". Yet, we did something unique--not simply beginning by watching, we began by listening. We did an exercise in which we covered up the visual and only based our reactions on what we were hearing in interviews, background noise, and music. The students had a much different idea of the film once they combined sight and listening--it was almost a new film! This was extremely helpful in engaging the students in a fun way before the lesson begins.

We also watched some PG&E videos Chris directed and talked about the subject content; this was mainly for the students' language skills rather than film literacy. Something important to note is that all of these 12th grade students are immigrants--predominantly from China and Mexico, and the school's goal is to get the students a job/ down the college path right out of high school. English isn't their first language which makes the audience much different than a typical American high school.

Well, that's it for now! Read on for more lesson plans/stories of classes!

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