How FilmEd. Was Born

by Joanne Parsont

While it generally takes only a few weeks (or less) to physically build a website, SFFS Education’s new web portal, FilmEd., that officially launched on November 18 has actually been nearly five years in the making.

Back in 2009, the San Francisco Film Society received a grant from the Walter & Elise Haas Fund to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the state of media education in the San Francisco Unified School District. No small task.

We learned many things during the course of that year, but one of the most significant was the desperate need for professional development opportunities in media arts education for teachers. But not just any old PD opportunities. Teachers wanted us in the classroom with them, to show them how to better integrate media into their curriculum and to provide them with the resources to do it themselves.

Filmmaker Danny Plotnick works with 7th graders at Creative Arts Charter School in the FITC program.

Filmmaker Danny Plotnick works with 7th graders at Creative Arts Charter School in the FITC program.

With that in mind, we developed the Filmmakers in the Classroom (FITC) program in 2010, matching classroom teachers with local filmmakers to provide training and instruction in media literacy and media making over the course of a semester. We figured this was the best way to meet two critical needs at once: teach the students how to consume and create media while simultaneously training the teachers so they could continue on with these types of media arts lessons after their FITC program was complete.

And what better way to learn the skills than from a teaching artist? With unique access to the filmmaking community and a pool of local filmmakers eager to share their expertise in a classroom setting, we knew we had just the right ingredients for a successful media arts classroom program. And for two years we did just that.

But when you’re working one-on-one in the classroom in a program like FITC, you can only reach so many classes at one time. With limited staffing and funding resources, we were only able to be in three classrooms in any given semester. And we knew we wanted to do more.

Thanks to the generosity of yet another wonderful funder, The Hearst Foundation, the next stage in the growth of the FITC program got underway in 2012 with the development of a comprehensive Curriculum Guide for teachers and filmmakers to use in planning and executing their FITC sessions. But our ultimate plan was even bigger than that. And in 2013, we began development of the dynamic, interactive Open Educational Resource that has now become this awesome web portal known as FilmEd., where educators and artists anywhere can access the information and tools—and the community—they need to teach media arts in the classroom.

We are really excited to finally be able to share all of these resources with the world and to watch this community grow over time. We hope you’ll check it out and become a part of that community. Get connected to FilmEd. here!