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Bowden film students tackle The Hobbit

BOWDEN — Lights, camera and action have come to Grandview School in Bowden.

Two Grade 8 classes are making a movie of The Hobbit as part of their language arts studies.

Filming the classic J.R.R. Tolkien novel was teacher Nathan Clark’s way to bring to life the story of Bilbo Baggins, a plump hobbit half the size of a human, whose adventures include dwarves, elves, trolls, wizards and a dragon.

“We have 80 minutes daily for language arts, but we don’t have drama,” Clark explained.

The nearly 40 students involved applied for production and acting roles because “learning job skills is part of the exercise,” said Clark, who acts as director.

They wrote the 10-minute movie’s script to cover a chapter where the main characters take refuge in a cave. A two-car garage behind the school became the set with painted Styrofoam blocks glued to cardboard the cave walls.

Red Deer College Motion Picture Arts students provided lighting and camera work advice. Using option classes allowed time to make costumes such as chain mail armour fashioned from 40,000 rings cut from PVC pipe.

A tight budget meant more improvisation: halogen construction lights illuminate the set, donated leather became costumes and Clark made a tracking shot dolly from a door mounted on inline skate wheels.

“I’m trying to get it as real as possible and still cover curriculum.”

Every student blogs their experiences as a learning journal and department heads such as the photography director evaluate themselves as well as their crews.

“It’s chaos, but we all know what’s going on,” said Gurneet Sidhu, 13, the movie’s assistant and casting director, while staging shots.

“This is the way it works. It’s not Hollywood, but it’s fun.”

Chey Cooke, 13, does a bit of everything: hair, makeup, costumes, even helping with lighting.

“It’s something I’ve never done before and it’s really cool. It’s like an extracurricular activity, not like school at all.”

Clark hopes to show portions of the movie before Christmas break, but final filming will take place next spring when he uses a remote control helicopter to shoot aerials near the West Country’s Ya Ha Tinda Ranch as an opening sequence.

Danny Bona, 13, who plays the title role of Bilbo, has found it all thrilling.

“I think this is the best language arts class in the world.”



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