American Dream Movie

I think Education is changing. When I was first starting out as an English teacher (with wicked long, truly scary hair), students did book reports and presentations, essays and lit papers, reading logs and comprehension questions. And you still do. But with all of us lugging around more computing power in our backpacks than what your parents’ generation could have even conceived of, the question is: What now? What do we do with all of that? How do we take advantage?camera1.jpg

Here’s my first answer to that. What I’m interested in having y’all do is to conceive, plan, and execute short 2-3 minute movies exploring what the American Dream means to you in a short narrative form. My vision is that we’ll see what other people have created with short movies, spend some time brainstorming, plan and storyboard our creations, collect whatever stills, video, and sounds we need, and then finally put the whole thing together and spring our American Dream Film Festival onto the world.



Before we get too crazy, let's take a look at what the possibiliies are.

  • Students in Sen Fernando, CA do a film festival every year that rocks the house. See SFETT. How did they do that?
  • There are also some professional short film makers who do some amazing work. See Tyger, Tyger and The Machine video…
  • Friends of mine are filiming a documentary on Tent City 4. IN class, we'll take a look at the work in progess.
  • Awesome little slideshow on world poverty and income with great slides and statistics.
  • My Potato Story: a short movie made w/ potatoes (!!!) about one girl's journey to the US from Korea.


Now, we need some time and space to think and imagine. What is America to you? Use the enclosed graphic organizer () to explore your idea of what America is to you.

Think about the following possible categories:

  • Interview with a mom, Native American, recent immigrant, short-order cook, federal prisoner…
  • Short historical story that says something important about America.
  • Short movie about a place that embodies something crucial about America
  • How has music influenced how America sees itself?
  • What have artists had to say about the USA?
  • How does pop culture reflect what's going on in America?
  • What will America look like in 20 years?
  • Is the American Dream possible today? When people come to America what do they expect and what do they get?


Using a storyboard handout () or () or (), plan how you will use titles, images, sounds, and video to tell your digital story. I know that we will all have the overwhelming urge to just boot up iMovie and get rolling, but by storyboarding our movie, we are able to find problems before they occur, better visualize the final product, and make our entire process of collecting material more efficient. Also, it will probably be easier at this stage to stick to still images rather than trying to film clips. We have some capability to lend out videocameras but some pretty amazing work can be done with stills (see SFETT).

Image/Sound Collection

Once you’ve got your movie storyboarded, you need to go out and collect your material. This will be dependent on what you're up to, but we'll spend some time combing the internet, scanning out of books, creating our own visuals, using magazines, taking photos, and other methods to get what we need.

Here are some places to find images on the Internet: UW Digital Collections , Getty Images, Stock Xchange, Corbis Historical, Flickr. The important idea to keep in mind is that you need to know what you're looking for before you start. Just trollinng around for "cool stuff" is a recipe for wasting time. In terms of sound, check out ccMixter (music) and The Freesound project for free, copywrite free sounds.

iMovie Production

All right, let's make a movie. Here are some resources to get you started and we'll have some tech help to work with us and we put this together. Here are some basic directions to using iMovie () and other tutorials (, , , ). Here is Apple's iMovie tutorial for more help. Also, the University of California at Berkeley has an extensive set of tutorials and advice on video journalism which is applcable to what we're doing. Check it out.


All photos, videom, and sound must be properly sourced and given credit. At the end of your film include a credits section giving that credit and in your write-ups make sure you explain where you got your material.


Each American Dream movie needs to have a 1-pg typed write-up that provides an explanation of how the movie reflects your group's idea of the American Dream. Also, the write-up will provide credit and explain the inspiration behind your masterpiece.

American Dream Film Festival

When we are all done, my plan is for us to show our films in class and then I'll set up a website for our work that we'll open up to the entire Internet. We may also have a short film festival that will take place between all the AmStud classes and be judeged by filmmakers in the community. We could also enter our work in the Annual Three Minute Masterpiece contest that Seattle Times and SIFF put on every year.


Throughout the process you’ll have homework grades for each of the stages until we get to the final product. For your video, the grading will go like this.

Awesomeness of Visuals 30 points
How do you manipulate stills and/or video to make your point?

Creativity of American Dream Connection 30 points
How well does your movie convey your ideas about the USA? Is it clear? Is it relevant?

Power of Sound 20 points
How well do you use sound (music, dialogue, voice-overs, etc.) to emphasize your message?

Sourcing 10 points
Do you give proper credit for your images, sounds, and other ideas?

Accompanying Document. 10 point
Does you accompanying document explain your thinking behinnd your movie clearly and with style?

Total: 100 points