Over that time, we have worked with a number of classes, schools and academies who offered weekend tuition in the performing arts, often with a bolt-on session connected in some way with film and television. We recognised early that this can be a problem - the majority of such classes have a foundation in and are focused on song, dance or otherwise musical theatre. While this translates well to those learning to be cross-discipline actors, this does not help those students who only ever wanted Film and Television and especially those who want to be behind the camera.
Over the years, we saw a large number of students who were forced to tolerate the song and dance elements of their course, just to get to the filmmaking part that they wanted - many of them giving up and leaving the class.
While there are also many filmmaking classes available, they are by necessity far more expensive, often short, often not aimed at a wide range of age groups, and do not give much experience of equipment due to quantity or their necessarily short duration.
The Digital Storytellers Academy was formed to solve these problems. When you become a Digital Storyteller, you enter into a learning path similar to that of other performance classes but learning those skills that will enable you to create entertainment in the Digital Medium - whether that is Film, Television, Computer Graphics or in Games Design.
The Digital Storyteller Academy is built around Studios, our terminology for a location where we teach, and in keeping with filmmaking. Each studio is managed by a Studio Manager, or what might be called a headmaster or principle in a traditional school. Depending upon the number of students at the Studio, the Studio Manager may have a number of Assistants, with each Studio maintaining a strict 1 to 10 or 12 teaching ratio (depending on nature of the class - sometimes three in a sub-group works better than two).
The structure of a typical Digital Storyteller session is either 3 or 4 hours long, depending upon which type of attendance you choose to take.
Each session is divided into separate 90 minute classes, with each class focused on one of the Digital Storyteller modules. In the first three hours, you will learn Core Modules, which are heavily based upon Filmmaking in general. If you choose to take the optional fourth hour, this gives you the opportunity to learn more advanced filmmaking skills, and branch out into other specialist areas.
The Digital Storytellers Academy divides filmmaking skills into a set of modules, each of which we teach over the course of 90 minutes. As part of the standard Digital Storyteller membership, students learn two core modules each week. As some of the skills involved in filmmaking are academic as well as practical, each student also has a login to our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) (called Slate), where they can revise and review their learning of a module session as soon as they have attended the lesson.
As a student progresses in the module, they will achieve certain levels of certification. Some of these certifications are the same as any other academic subject, while others are of a practical nature in which the student proves that they are able to use a particular piece of equipment - a student is not permitted to use a HandyCam for example (our most basic camera), until they pass the initial (relatively simple) HandyCam level 1 certificate. Certification gets more important as a student progresses to more capable (and more expensive) equipment such as mixing desks and cinema quality digital-film cameras.
If you choose the four hour class, an additional module is taught in the last hour of the session. These optional modules vary over the course of the academic year, and provide either additional skills in specialist areas, or delve deeper into skills which the student has already learned in the Core Modules.
[Please note: At present time, due to the restrictions on numbers caused by the COVID-19 rules, the optional modules are not being taught, but will resume at the earliest opportunity].
The structure of DSA modules is such that students can produce material that is in keeping with a range of qualifications that they may be taking in school - ranging from producing material for film, video and creative media classes to enhancing their programming skills with Python during Games Development.