Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Sunday, November 10, 2013

In Which I Use The Danielson Rubric To Evaluate Buster Keaton

Everyone knows that just as a teacher cannot be a great teacher without a great lesson plan, a director cannot be a great director without a great script.

Those teachers who say they use bare bones notes to teach their classes, no matter how great those classes appear to be or how much the students in those classes appear to learn, this teacher can never be a great teacher because she/he does not spend two hours a night writing a lesson plan filled with education jargon like "formative assessment," "differentiation" and "instructional objectives" in it.

The same can be said for those directors who do not make sure they have a script completely written out, from dialogue to camera angles, before they start shooting.

I used to really enjoy a director named Buster Keaton who wrote, directed and starred in his own films from 1921-1928.

Keaton is most famous for performing his own stunts in his films, things like running on top of steam ships, getting blown sideways during storms and braving such dangers as landslides, waterfalls and the NYPD in order to save the girl.

These stunts were always filmed wide so that audiences could see there was no fakery involved in Buster's performances.

Keaton wrote his own pictures, usually on picture post cards, with each card holding a particular scenario for the film and a smattering of dialogue he would use in that scenario.

The picture as a whole wasn't written anywhere - it was all located in Buster's head.

Here's how Keaton described his work method:

"We just wrap up a little hokum," he will tell you."We build up a little story on some sure-fire idea, throw in a dozen gags, if we can think of 'em, and let 'er ride.The scenario we use is written on the correspondence end of a picture post card.  If it's lost its no great matter."

What kind of director works off this ineffective method of script writing?

Doesn't every part of the film need to be painstakingly thought through and agonized over before the director yells "Action!"

Certainly the great critic of human behavior Charlotte Danielson thinks so and has written it into her widely used critique rubric.

Take a look at this clip of Keaton's work and notice how ineffective these scenes from The General are and think about the ways they could have been improved had Keaton written real scripts instead of worked off picture post cards:



I now know, having studied the timeless wisdom of Charlotte Danielson, that this is just terrible, terrible film making because it was not completely and anally planned out before hand on pages and pages of paper.

Truly an ineffective film from an ineffective film maker, this Buster Keaton.

Next week we'll use the Danielson rubric around script writing and lesson planning on another lousy and ineffective director named Robert Altman.

Altman had this lousy habit of letting his professional actors improvise scenes on film rather than work off a script.

Just terrible film making - highly ineffective stuff.

When will these directors learn that form is more important than function and the product must be completed on paper before it is completed in life?

10 comments:

  1. I spent Thursday and Friday in professional development. First, we critiqued an unfortunate Science teacher giving an Ineffective lesson. Then we spent the remainder of the time improving our questioning styles and infusing higher order questions into our lesson plans. We shared our plans with our groups and gave each other feedback. Do you think I have a shot at being Effective now St. Danielson?

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    1. Don't you feel well-developed now? I know I would.

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  2. Why is it teachers are never shown real life scenarios and not just reading from paper?

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    1. In the videos they show us, there is always a 24 year old teacher teaching to a class of 20 well-behaved children dying to learn in a room stocked with the latest technology. What's not realistic about that?

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  3. In Newark we watch videos of teachers rated Ineffective. It is highly entertaining viewing!

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    1. They show us those too - social studies teachers watch math teachers teach, then get rated "ineffective." Apparently there are few videos of social studies teachers being rated...

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  4. Tape the next Cami Anderson speech and rate it.

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    1. Or the next Charlotte Danielson interview.

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    2. Sure! Let's find a rigorous Speaking rubric.

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    3. Ah, but the rigor of Danielson can be applied to any of the teaching arts, and surely explaining to an audience why the rigor of the Danielson rubric is an effective way to improve teaching and earning can be evaluated using the rigor of the Danielson rubric, since at base it's trying to teach the audience something.

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