Claymation Camp exposes students to filmmaking

Claymation Camp exposes students to filmmaking

Sadie Duncan, a soon-to-be seventh-grader at St. George Catholic School, sat at a table June 5 at Claymation Camp. She and Steven Scarton, a fifth-grader, worked together to pose tiny characters made of colored modeling clay.

About 20 fourth- through eighth-grade students signed up for the summer camp at St. George the week of June 2 and had to pick an idiom and illustrate it with a 30-second claymation film.

“We’re working on ‘A Taste of Your Own Medicine,’ ” said Sadie’s sister, Lauren, a fifth-grader who snapped a photo with a digital camera after every tiny adjustment.

“It’s a prank. First, they dump water on his head, then he gets them back by dumping slime on (the first character’s) head,” said Lauren, an aspiring director.

It’s the second year that Richelle DeCuir, who teaches eighth grade at St. George during the school year, has led the Claymation Camp.

“My son did a lot of stop-motion animation, which is a little different but uses similar techniques, so I was already familiar with it,” said DeCuir, who facilitates the class with Amy Jeanfreau.

It’s the perfect creative outlet for the middle school-age group, she said.

“It’s not too messy, and it keeps them focused for a long time, as you can see,” DeCuir said, adding that the materials required are things most households probably have on hand — children’s crafting clay in multiple colors, paper, markers, a camera, PowerPoint software and time.

The team works like a well-oiled machine. “Sadie made the clothes, Steven did the characters and I did the scenery,” Lauren said, pointing her camera at the backdrop of a room with paper and colored markers, and snapping a shot.

The three collaborate on how best to portray a falling bucket of slime in colored clay and fashion a bucket with a handle made from a bent paperclip.

The slime starts as a green clay ball on top of the bucket, then they slowly and carefully lengthen and spread the green, making it longer and longer with each frame, until it reaches the character’s head.

They’ve already had quite a bit of practice, however.

By day four of the camp, they’d already planned and completed one claymation film.

“Our first video was Godzilla and a robot in a dance-off,” Lauren said. It’s cool, she reports, and she is not wrong on this point.

Keeping their creative and critical thinking skills sharp over the summer helps curb the so-called “summer slide” in learning, DeCuir said.

Meanwhile, the trio encounters a setback when the green slime clay’s weight overwhelms the set, and it comes crashing down ahead of schedule.

“Oh. We’re having technical difficulties,” Lauren laughed as they paused to reaffix the “slime.”

“That’ll go on the blooper reel,” Steven said, as do all their out-of-focus shots and the images with a giant hand still visible in the frame. After that, the group headed over to the computer lab, where other groups were putting their photos in sequence using PowerPoint.

This, Lauren said, is where Sadie excels. “She knows how to do everything on a computer. Everything,” she said.

“I want to be a video game designer some day,” Sadie added, and classes like this will help her develop the skills she’ll need.

This is where the process can be a little tedious. For a 30-second video, the directors need to put about 150 frames together in the right order and add captions, sound and subtitles where necessary. This requires a good plan, and of course, these three already have it figured out.

Steven, who is on music, sat with headphones on and bobbed his head to each selection as he picked out an appropriate song. Lauren worked on the picture sequencing and titles, while Sadie put together the blooper reel.

Elsewhere in the lab, sixth-grader Mackenzie Ross put the finishing touches on her idiom film, “A Leopard Can’t Change its Spots,” featuring a leopard climbing a tree and falling from it. His pal, a panther, asked why he’d climb a tree, and he replies, “I am who I am.” Mackenzie also added a surprise ending with the third character, the tree.

“I signed up because I thought it would be fun, and it is,” Mackenzie said. “I’d definitely recommend it to anyone else thinking of taking it.”

In the courtyard, art teacher Jenn Prochaska and her assistant Sharyn Lithgoe sported paint-splattered smocks as they supervised a midmorning break from their painting and sculpture summer camp class. The art students showed their work, which included wire and clay sculptures, embossed foil with a faux aged copper patina and paintings, at an art show for parents and friends June 6.

For more information on what’s going on at St. George this summer, visit its website at st-georgeschool.com.