Storytelling Through Film

Educator: Betsy Kennedy

Teaching Artist: Catherine Oberg

School: Brentwood High School, Grades 10-12

District: Brentwood Union Free School District


Brentwood High School students wrote, directed, and performed in a series of short films that told stories from their experiences. They partnered with filmmaker Catherine Oberg, Executive Director of Plaza Cinema to explore ways that film can amplify voices and ideas. English Language Arts teacher Betsy Kennedy supported students as they coordinated scripts, equipment, sets/sites, and production. 

Student Context:

Brentwood HS has a 96% minority enrollment and 82% economically disadvantaged student population. 85% of the students are from Hispanic/Latinx cultural households. The graduation rate of this school is well below the median for NYS and the teacher for this project wanted students to have a greater sense of empowerment.

Big Idea/Guiding Question(s):

  • What is the role of storytelling in filmmaking?
  • What is the importance of film in our lives?
  • How can we be empowered by the art of film and by seeing our stories captured on film?

What learning goals/standards did this meet?:


  • Students can identify, analyze and evaluate the aesthetic qualities of cinema.
  • Students demonstrate familiarity with media production equipment and technologies, including film/digital processes, editing and post-production software and workflow.
  • Students visualize and hypothesize to generate ideas and plans for creating art and design that can affect social change


  • Students work collaboratively and effectively participate as a member of a film production crew.
  • Students develop and refine storytelling skills to communicate effectively, and demonstrate these skills in the execution of media projects.
  • Students apply creative solutions to any problems which arise on set.


  • Students demonstrate the ability to depart from traditional or comfortable ways of thinking, to explore, to wander, to get lost, to journey down unfamiliar channels and emerge with renewed perceptions in order to innovate and add to cinematic practice.
  • Students see their diverse voices represented on screen.
  • Students show respect when watching others’ pieces and offer positive feedback and encouragement.


KNOW... why their stories matter.

UNDERSTAND... the power of working with a team to create a work of art.

ARE ABLE TO DO... utilize this experience to know that they are capable of creating great things. That they can work together to create something special. Find the power of their voice and their vision in a complex world.