Review by Polly Conway, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2013


Well-rounded, hands-on intro to filmmaking

Subjects & skills
  • Arts
  • English Language Arts

  • Creativity
  • Communication & Collaboration
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Great for:
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (2 Reviews)

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Pros: The Storyboard tool is a total pleasure to play around with, giving kids tons of control over their final product.

Cons: Some of the resources are very Australia-specific, which makes sense, but may not be that compelling for international kids.

Bottom Line: Generator is chock-full of useful advice and hands-on activities that give kids a realistic (and really fun!) overview of the filmmaking process.

It's interesting to see film creation from a non-Hollywood viewpoint; ACMI is less glamour, more technical know-how, which is great from a learning perspective. This resource also lends itself well to classroom use; teachers interested in covering multimedia storytelling could create a week-long film lab, which is a perfect amount of time for each student to create a completed original storyboard. This activity could be expanded if your school has the resources. You could place kids on teams and have them do some actual filming using Generator's handy guides. High school students could work independently on short film projects, but younger students may need more guidance. Teachers will be glad to know that all content on the site is moderated, so students shouldn't find anything inappropriate lurking there.

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Generator is a free online film resource that gives kids the training and tools to make their own short films. Since it's from the Australian Center for the Moving Image (ACMI), some info is Australia-specific, but it's still applicable to any budding filmmaker. All content is moderated, which keeps the site safe and age-appropriate. Through inspirational videos, step-by-step process guides, and the outstanding Storyboard Generator, where kids can create and save a detailed storyboard, kids will get a full understanding of what it takes to make a movie.

Students can read detailed descriptions of film types from animation to documentary in the Learn from the Makers section, and explore the Education Themes tab, where they'll learn what sorts of ideas and concepts are at the heart of a film -- for example, Belonging and Identity, Ability and Disability, and Change and Resilience. Kids will either come up with their own ideas or use Generator's scripts, and then explore the different ways to tell a particular story. They'll combine settings, characters, and camera angles to create atmosphere, and can take a look at each shot to see if it's what they had in mind. Inspiration and advice from film experts (mostly Australian) show kids what professionals do.

Generator is one of the coolest, most detailed free filmmaking resources around. It's really comprehensive and takes into account not only the technical aspects of filmmaking, but also deeper themes -- you know, the reasons people make movies in the first place. This balance makes Generator a stellar place for young filmmakers to learn about the craft. You can hear Australian animator Adam Elliot talking about empathy and the outsider in his stop-motion film Mary and Max, or get schooled on exactly how to plan a film shoot, step by step. Kids can spend hours in the hands-on Storyboard Generator tool, tinkering with camera angles and getting familiar with the same process Spielberg and Coppola use to create their masterpieces.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Budding filmmakers will enjoy the behind-the-scenes tips and insight from professionals. The intuitive design of the Storyboard tool makes it easy to add shots and camera angles, and the payoff is huge: It looks like the real thing.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Kids have to employ some serious strategy when planning out a storyboard, but Generator allows kids to experiment with each frame until it's just right. The info is in-depth and transferrable to any artistic endeavor.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The Storyboard tool has a text help page as well as short instructional videos for each part of the creation process. While you're making the storyboard, it's possible to quickly access either text or video help in pop-up boxes.

Common Sense Reviewer
Polly Conway Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Craig L. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
San Diego County Office Of Education
San Diego, United States
Plethora of filmmaking tips and resources for teachers and students
I feel like this tool, minus the Storyboard Generator, is more film teacher-centered rather than student centered. The content is relevant to kids, but I see it more as a place for teachers to collect film content for lessons to present to students. The Storyboard generator has a great tool where it provides students with a script, then asks students to create a storyboard. This could be a very useful guided practice opportunity when you introduce your film students to storyboarding.
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