Someone Call Netflix! (Movies Lesson Plan)

I’m sharing something a bit different today. I don’t usually talk too much about work here, other than a couple of blogs about what my job as a lectrice actually is and what I learnt from last semester. However, I’m just finishing what has been my favourite week of teaching since I arrived here and it has me so excited that I knew I wanted to share about it.

This week I decided I wanted to talk about movies with my classes. I really enjoy having control over my curriculum and the fact that I get to choose topics that I find interesting to talk about in class. It also means I can choose topics that my students are interested in as well. A few weeks ago, I gave out a feedback form to all my classes so I could get an insight into their thoughts about last semester. One of the questions I asked was about what kind of things they would enjoy talking about this semester and one of the most common responses was movies!

At this point, I have a pretty standard format that can serve as my go to or the basis for a lesson on almost any topic. It usually involves some warm up discussion questions, a vocab activity, a comprehension video and some more discussion questions. I also have a set of more interesting formats like speed dating or mini debates and some games and workshops that I can switch in and out to mix things up. However, when it came to this topic I had a stroke of inspiration. At the end of last week I told all my students that they had to pick an English language film that they know quite well to prepare for homework. They would have to be comfortable explaining the plot, the characters, the setting and the genre in English to someone that hasn’t seen their film. In class I split the class into groups and assigned one person each of these components and tasked them with mixing them together to create an entirely new film! So one person’s plot, someone else’s characters and so on.

I was a bit worried about how it would go because it is so different from what I usually do. I suspected it would either go amazingly well or fail dismally but from the very first class that I did it with, it was a hit! I gave the groups 20-30 minutes to work on their movie storylines and then had them present to the rest of the class. Even though I had assigned them all a certain component to use from their film, I didn’t want them to stick to it strictly, rather let their creative juices flow! And the results were amazing. I’m going to share some of my favourites that were created through the week.

WARNING – What is to come may contain some spoilers for the films that were involved so proceed with caution! Some of the films also deal with heavy themes such as mental health and mentions of eating disorders.

First up is Zombie Melody, a creation that combines the characters from All The Bright Things, about teenagers that are struggling with the death of a sibling and depression respectively, the plot of World War Z, where a family tries to escape a zombie apocalypse, and the setting and genre of La La Land, a musical set in Hollywood. This was the product of my first lesson of the week with a group of L3 girls. I loved how diverse the films they had chosen were and they did fantastically at melding them all together. In their film Violet, who is dealing with the loss of her sister, has managed to avoid becoming infected by whatever is turning people into zombies all across Hollywood. However Finch, a boy from Violet’s high school, has not been so lucky. Music was very important to Finch and when he accidentally overhears Violet singing it brings him out of his zombie state. There is no cure but it seems the zombies can be managed through music. I thought the students had touched on an interesting allegory for mental health in the zombies and also in the way that music was used as a treatment. I was also partial to the idea of a large scale ensemble number that involved tap dancing zombies.

The masterplan for Zombie Melody

The next movie is one of my favourites because it really feels like its own original idea, like it has drawn influence from the original movies that were chosen rather than being a literal mish mash of them all. Ghost stars the characters of The Spirit of Christmas, a retelling of the classic A Christmas Carol, the plot of Freedom Writers, a story that unites students across the boundaries of race through their education, and the setting and genre of John Wick, an action-thriller about a hitman who is forced out of retirement. The world is split into two segregated sides, the humans and the ghosts who are ostracised from general society. Even though it is against the law, some humans have taken it upon themselves to ‘deal with’ ghosts, making them disappear. Our protagonist Ebenezar is a miserable man who finds no joy in his life. He is enticed by the ghosts, the outsiders of society, and one day befriends three ghosts he sees making magic. He is eventually killed by a group of humans for what they see as his betrayal of humanity but comes back as a ghost to fight against them to desegregate society. While the assigned elements of the original films are easy enough to find, they have been woven together in such an inventive way that Ghost feels entirely its own story.

Edward Vengeance is a story that combines the characters of Edward Scissorhands, a humanoid with scissors for hands who is taken in by a kind family, the plot of Faster, about a man seeking revenge on the people who put him in prison, and the setting and genre of 1917, a war film set in northern France in, you guessed it, 1917. Around the outbreak of WWI, Edward Scissorhands is roped into a plan to rob a bank by Kim, the woman he is in love with, and her boyfriend Jim. In the process Kim is killed and Edward is arrested after Jim rats them out to the police. Edward is sent to prison for ten years for a crime that was barely his. On his release he sets out to kill Jim and the police that arrested him as vengeance for Kim’s death. This was the brainchild of a group of L2s and I was surprised by how well they moulded the characters and relationships from Edward Scissorhands to fit with the plot of a wildly different film. I can also really imagine it with the intensity of a film like 1917.

An honourable mention for Clue-less – a retelling of Clueless if the high school girls were hitmen

Another fabrication that holds its own is Thin Dreams. It uses the characters and setting of La La Land, about a struggling actress and jazz pianist who fall in love, and the plot and genre of To The Bone, a film about a girl being treated for anorexia. Mia is an aspiring actress in Hollywood suffering from anorexia who is struggling to get any jobs because she is so extremely thin. She is admitted to an in-patient treatment facility and it is here that she meets Sebastian, a ballet dancer who also suffers from anorexia. They fall in love but things aren’t easy for them. After Mia leaves rehab, alone but in recovery, she writes a one woman show about her life and her struggles. While it isn’t very successful, it does catch the eye of a producer who wants to cast her in an upcoming production. The two L3 girls who came up with this went as far as to plan some of the specific songs that would be sung, including one between Mia and her sister before she goes to rehab, trying to make her see that she needs help, one about how toxic Hollywood is and a back and forth between Mia and Sebastian in rehab called ‘Dreams Are For Losers’.

Last up is Crime and Prejudice, a flawless fusion of the characters from Forrest Gump, the story of a kind but slow-witted man as he influences a number of historic events across the latter half of the 20th century, the plot of Gone Girl, a psychological thriller about a man framed for the disappearance of his wife, and the setting and genre of Pride and Prejudice, a romantic drama set in early 1800s England. Lady Jenny and Sir Forrest are married but Sir Forrest’s frequent absence due to him being a cricket champion, a war hero and owning a fishing business among other ventures is putting a strain on their marriage. As it is the 1800s, Lady Jenny cannot divorce her husband so she plans to stage her death on their 5th anniversary. When she disappears, Sir Forrest is distraught and starts running all across England looking for her. Unbeknownst to Sir Forrest, Lady Jenny framed him for her disappearance so her father has the army looking for him. Lady Jenny takes refuge with Lord Bullington I, an old friend who is Sir Forrest’s rival. Lord Bullington has always had feelings for Lady Jenny and wants her to be with him. After she refuses, Lord Bullington turns sinister and will not let Lady Jenny leave. Eventually she is able to free herself by killing him with his own sword. Sir Forrest finds her there, covered in blood. Jenny has a long monologue where she tells Forrest about the pressure he was putting on their marriage which he accepts before kissing her in the rain. He loves her so much that he forgives her for framing him for her disappearance. Lady Jenny is able to convince the army that Sir Forrest wasn’t actually at fault and the blame lies solely with Lord Bullington who conveniently cannot dispute this. They start a family and live happily ever after.

And there we have my top picks! Which one would you most like to watch? We are in talks with Netflix about optioning a number of these titles so keep an eye out for some new releases soon. I was pleasantly surprised by just how invested some of my students got and definitely want to include more creative tasks in future lessons. I also now have a very long list of new films to watch! I hope you enjoyed this insight into what my work involves and if you have, maybe I’ll start sharing a little more about my life as a lectrice.

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