One of our longest units this year was our Macbeth unit. This unit took up a majority of our time in term two. We focussed on William Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth”. We started out by reading through it on an educational app made to visually explore the play. This unit was separated into two main parts: First, a series of milestones connecting to the text of the play, as well as its meaning in context with the history of the 1950s, and second, the challenge of creating our own film version of Macbeth set in the 1950s. I had a hard time understanding and enjoying the initial reading and analysis of the play, but creating our movie was one of my favourite projects I’ve ever done.
For our first project milestone, we were to create a historical conclusion of the reasons and significance of why we study Shakespeare today. This was a written paper, 500 words or less, to discuss and prove our claims. My paper was focused on the ways in which Shakespeare pushed the boundaries of literature in order to change the way writing is perceived today.
The next step was a series of 3 weekly posts, called This Week I Learned posts, or TWILs for short. These posts each were to make a connection between Macbeth and the 1950s history we were simultaneously studying. My first post was between the Cold War and its causes and the obstruction of peace in the story of Macbeth. The second post was about the parallels between the corruption of Macbeth and the similar corruption of 20th-century senator Joseph McCarthy. The last one describes links between the theme of ambition in Macbeth and the politics of the 1950s. For each of these posts, we also had to create an artifact of any kind that tied in with our learning. I created a slide across comparison drawing, a transforming gif, and a flowchart to show my learning. Overall, I think I could have gone further in-depth with my artifacts, but it was still fascinating to see the similarities between the two times. They are much more alike than you might think.
The third milestone was an interesting cross between a quiz and a test, called a quest. We did three quests total, each consisting of three quotes from the play. We had to choose two of the three quotes to analyze. We were to speak on the plot, characters, and theme of each text, and show its significance. These were quite a challenge to me, as I had a hard time comprehending some of the metaphors in the dialogue, but overall I feel that I got a lot stronger by the third quest.
The second portion of this unit was to create a short film based on Macbeth. It had to be set in the 1950s, and our own story. This was a very daunting project to take on, as its the first project we’ve ever done as a full class. Every one of us was assigned 1-2 roles, one leadership position and one assisting position. We had to be in charge of everything from start to end. Planning, storyboarding, writing, organizing, filming, editing. We decided that our story would be about a boarding school with a prestigious club. A member of the club, James Macbeth, has a vision of leading the club and does everything in his power to make that happen. The roles that we could choose from for production were a wide variety, so we were all able to try something different. Our team consisted of 4 “key creative” who oversaw the rest of the team, but we all were able to take charge of our own departments. I was the locations department and part of the hair, makeup, and wardrobe department, as well as an actor in the film.
My main role was the location manager. This was my top choice for a job because it allowed me to do a variety of tasks, from scouting out potential locations to organizing filming days. I started out by making a list of all the scene locations I would need, and then Adlih helped me to brainstorm every single place that could work.
We then narrowed this list down to our top choices, and I got to work planning for filming. I had to contact quite a few locations, such as a nearby university about using a dorm room, and our school principal for the use of school classrooms and bathrooms. Then, I took a day and visited all of our locations and took photographs for reference, and created cards in Basecamp for all of them. One of the hardest spots to find was an old fashioned school exterior. I decided (by Emily’s suggestion) that the best location for this would be Queen Mary’s elementary school, so I visited and found the perfect spot to film. This location was the hardest to organize because it was the only location not within walking distance of our school: It was about a 20-minute drive away. We planned a day to go and get all of our filming done at once, and then carpooled everyone that needed to be on set. Our filming went great, and it fit the setting perfectly.
My second role was the do the hair, makeup, and costumes with Tamara. This was a fun job because it took a lot of research to plan out makeup and hairstyles that were appropriate to the 1950s. This research involved reading and learning about teen girls’ makeup in the 50s, as well as hairstyles that were popular at the time. Next, I created character cards in Basecamp for every character, consisting of a list of makeup they would wear, and reference photos for their hairstyles. I put a lot of effort into making a variety of hair and makeup styles in our cast, to best show the history of beauty and style. I then brought all of the makeup and hair products needed for everyone. We made sure that everyone had a proper costume, most consisting of a white shirt, dress pants, or skirts, and black loafers. We were able to find extra clothes from classmates and thrift stores and ended up with costumes that worked for everyone. On set, Tamara and I did everyone’s hair and makeup according to their character cards and made sure everyone had their costume ready before they started their scenes.
I also acted in our movie. I played Lady, Macbeth’s girlfriend who helps him dismantle the Thanes club. I really enjoyed being able to take on a fairly large acting role. The lines for this were a little bit tricky for me to memorize, because I have quite a hard time saying things from memory, but I found it wasn’t as hard as I expected. Being in this role meant that I was busy for almost all of our filming days, either in a scene or doing someone’s hair and makeup or making sure a location was being properly filmed. We had to make sure everything was 1950s appropriate, so I did quite a bit of research for each shot.
Our final movie did not end up being completed due to the Covid-19 shutdown. We still finished as much as we possibly could, and I have no doubt that we would have been able to finish it had this not happened. Overall, I’m very proud of all of the work that I did and our class did on this movie, and I had a really fun time as well. I worked hard and did as much as I could possibly put into this project. I love to keep busy, and working on film or theatre productions has always been something I’ve loved. Taking on the roles of location manager, hair, makeup, and wardrobe assistant, and Lady (as well as the unofficial class chauffeur, Mcdonald’s delivery, and late actor phone caller) was a wonderful experience that I enjoyed every minute of.
Here is our (semi) completed film for you to enjoy!