An epic production

17-Aug-2012

The American novelist and essayist, Gore Vidal, died recently at the ripe old age of 86. Vidal was famous worldwide for his one-liners and put downs (‘Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies’) but also contributed to the screenplay of the Hollywood blockbuster, Ben Hur. With a running time of 3 hours 40 minutes and cast of thousands of extras, Ben Hur was an epic production in all senses of the word.

Believe it or not, Macmillan English Campus now has over 7 hours of video material. That’s equivalent to watching Ben Hur twice. Yes, this link is a bit tenuous, but it puts in context the massive amount of video material available in Macmillan English Campus.

A large proportion of the video material on Macmillan English Campus can be found in Culture World, the additional module focusing on British culture. With over 880 clips, filming the video for Culture World did at times seem like a production on the scale of Ben Hur and it was a comparison we used quite frequently as we marshalled our actors and worked to a demanding shooting schedule. But the result is a wonderfully rich resource for students and probably most importantly it doesn’t feel like there is an unmanageable amount of material. I think this is because we used the video in several, very focused ways.

We decided to use a video introduction for each of the four zones (People and Society; Lifestyles; Sport; and Entertainment). This gives students a visual overview of the material they can explore in Culture World. Each of the exercises also has a video rubric at the beginning of the task to contextualize it and at the end to invite cross-cultural comparison.

We also filmed videos on location, in and around London, using a cast of characters who interact with each other. We see them giving each other advice, going for job interviews, deciding what to wear, ordering food, entertaining visitors in a pub. But we also wanted students to interact with the characters and produce their own language. So we filmed segments to camera which are used in the 60 roleplays in Culture World. Students can watch a character talking directly to them and then respond to their statements or questions.

Finally, we filmed people talking about their everyday lives and experiences of living and working in Britain. We wanted to give a sense of how British culture is not a singular thing and that there are, in fact, many different British cultures.

So, the video in Culture World may not be on TV over Christmas or win an Oscar, but it is an epic achievement of which we at Macmillan English Campus are very proud indeed. I hope your students find it useful. Thank you for watching!

Jenny

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