Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yang Wu's teaching philosophy

 Yang Wu’s Teaching Philosophy

2014 spring

College education of cinematic arts is different compared with teaching other fine art media. Faculty members could easily think that the purpose is nothing further than techniques. The outcome based on this understanding lowers the position and the influence of the cinematic arts in the art world, and the idea cannot provide complete teaching service at the college level. Based on my production and teaching experience, video is one of the most frequently used mediums in the art world, but the meaning and value behind the medium is very easy to ignore. It is necessary to uncover the meaning and value of cinematic arts for students during the undergraduate level.

My video 1 class is designed for freshmen and sophomores, and there are 4 video projects for each semester. The first one is about the “Environment”. It helps students to be aware of what is happening in their lives. The second one is “Self-portrait”, it helps new students to understand themselves, especially in a new environment. The third one is aim to teach all of the frequently used camera angles and movements based on the experience of the first two projects. And the forth one is a documentary. It helps students to learn how to communicate with others. This project also includes instructions about audio recording. Each formal project has a logical connection with the later one. The first three projects can be illustrated by music video, feature film, documentary and other formats. This method aims to train students’ creativity, research ability and adventurous spirit based on their personal interests. I’ll lead oral-discussions before each project to make sure everyone is clear about requirements, and start consideration, instead of showing example videos. They’ll limit students’ passion about “trying”, and students will think the videos I show represent my taste, and start to copy those ideas.

Students are customers of the teaching business, and each of them is gifted from a certain perspective. Faculty provides a variety of services to convey the course content in acceptable ways. College students are going through the period between teenager and adult. Students build personal ideology at this time. I direct students to represent their hearts. This is a effective way to communicate with non-traditional students. There is a circle chart called the “Body of Possible Knowledge”, and it perfectly explains how to help students to solve problems. The section of “Things you know” only takes 5%. “Things you realize you don’t know” takes 25%. “Things you don’t realize you don’t know” takes 70%. Nobody knowledge system can cover everything. Solving problems is a method to help students and faculty members to “dig deeper”. Students’ problems represent faculty’s work direction in the future. Faculty should assist students to solving problems, instead of solve problems for them. This topic partly relates to help students to find their own voice, also relates to the position and contribution of cinematic art in the art world.

To give my students candid and cogent critiques is my first responsibility. It’s necessary to point out and discuss students’ mistakes and shortcomings in a friendly way. I would not teach if I always wanted to be a “nice” person. In an academic area, value students by honest and fully support is real nice. Critique does not mean harsh judgment to students. It is respectful if a faculty member has confidence to provide affirmative comments about students’ works. I want to encourage students to be creative, to be independent, and to insist on digging deeper meanings that affect them. This process can go back and forth, and last a very long time. 

Teaching the techniques of video and film production should pay enough attention to detailed knowledge points. Helping students to improve the understanding of specific details, especially the ones caused by mistakes, is the cornerstone to making progress. Not every student likes to ask a question about details even if they know that they have one. I do lots of research based on discussions and observations of students’ work to support alternative solutions of their problems, and make sure I know the answers of those tiny little problems, and explain them in the class before students become increasingly confused.   

I’ll evaluate students’ works mainly by the methods I mentioned above, and everything will be represented in my syllabus and evaluation rubrics. First, does the work show personal emotions? Is a story an emotional experience to most viewers? Do the editing techniques increase or decrease the emotions? Are the techniques I’ve taught been properly used? I’ll consider everything about techniques only after considering human conditions and emotions. My judgment is not always conclusive decision. I have confidence to accept different opinions from my students, and my comments shouldn’t become a hint for students to make their works based on my personal interests. I would see my students making changes, and I’m glad to see my students do better works than me because this proves my success as a faculty member.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Synopsis of Yang's thesis project: Puppet Man

    The documentary film “Puppet Man” is a story about a father and a son. The character’s name is C.J. Cunningham, and he is a lonely old man I occasionally met on a bus. His father passed away 22 years ago, but Cunningham would never forgive what his father did to himself and other family members.
    I have sensitivity about this story because I’m a family person, and I always want to tell a story that reflects my understanding and consciousness about family.  
    Above the level of meaning about family, the film vividly shows the most honest and energetic aspects of humanity. Cunningham has a pure heart like a boy, and his heart didn't be destroyed by time.
    Americans have very diverse human conditions. I want to explore and discuss this diversity by telling Puppet Man’s story, and I think this issue is relating to the western culture and social structure of America.
    This film represents poverty and some other social labels in a unique attitude. The discussions of Puppet Man's humanity potentially shows a variety of social issues we are facing to, and the attitude could help audience to consider better solutions to deal with social issues.
    All of the professional knowledge I’ve learned in the past two years is reflected on the production process of this project. I keep considering what was my journey in the last two years, not only about filmmaking. The relevance within academic, critical and art methods enlightens me how to tell a story through my voice. 
    Dr. Elizabeth Fergus-Jean's theory affects me deeply during the production period. 
Elizabeth Fergus-Jean. Lens: Multivalent Aspects of Perception and Understanding. 2005.

Elizabeth Fergus-Jean. Till We Have Faces: Image as Psyche. Published in: in imaginal teaching practices. Jennifer Selig and Dennis Slattery, Eds. New Orleans: Spring, 2009.
     Especially her theory about the three levels of inspiration resources for an artist. The first level is individual; the second level is family, and the third level is culture. Puppet Man's story relates all the three levels. 
    Cunningham found himself back from the puppets, and I have found some of myself from highlighting and telling his story.