Oddball. Stuart McDonald, 95 mins, Australia, Education Resource

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1 Oddball Stuart McDonald, 95 mins, Australia, 2015 Education Resource 1

2 China/France, 2013 Education Resource

3 CONTENTS CONTENTS 1 ODDBALL 2 Before Visiting ACMI... 2 What kind of film is Oddball?... 2 Background to the Film... 2 The Cinema Experience... 3 After Visiting ACMI... 3 Initial response to the film... 3 Genre -- What kind of film is Oddball?... 3 Plot... 4 Narrative structure... 4 Characters... 6 Using animals in films... 7 Further Activities... 8 This resource has been written by ACMI educator Susan Bye for Children s Week

4 ODDBALL Stuart McDonald, 95 mins, Australia 2015 Set in the Victorian coastal town of Warrnambool, Oddball is based on a true story about a dog s efforts to protect a penguin colony from foxes. Funny and heartwarming, this film offers opportunities for exploring themes of sustainability and the challenges of protecting Australia s wildlife. Before Visiting ACMI What kind of film is Oddball? Using the image on the front cover of this resource 1, encourage the students to use the visible thinking routine: See Think Wonder. - What do you see? - What do you think about that? - What does it make you wonder? 2 Show the trailer. - What age group/audience do students think the film is targeting? - What are some of the techniques used in the trailer to sell the film? Background to the Film Find out more about Warrnambool. - Where is it located? - What does it look like? - Find out about its landscape, wildlife and farming practices. - Find out more about the marine life found in the area. Find out about Little Penguins. - What do they look like? - What are their habits? - Where are they found? 1 You can find this image on the Oddball website: 2 Visible Thinking, eethinkwonder/seethinkwonder_routine.html 2

5 - Do they have any predators? The Cinema Experience Oddball is a feature film and has been made to be screened in a cinema to an audience. Give your students a chance to get excited before the event. - Tell them about the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) - Has anyone visited ACMI before? If so, what did they do when they visited? - Who knows where it is located? (Federation Square) - Who enjoys going to the movies? How is watching a film in the cinema different from watching at home or at school? Think about things such as: - Screen-size - Sound - Lowering of the lights - Sharing the experience with an audience After Visiting ACMI Initial response to the film - Ask students to share single words to describe their response to Oddball. - Which scene was the most memorable? Why? Genre -- What kind of film is Oddball? - Who do you think is the target audience for this film? How successful is the film in reaching and responding to this audience? - How would you describe this film to a friend? - We are told at the beginning of the film that Oddball is a fairytale that really happened. What does this mean? - Oddball is also a comedy. Which scenes or characters made students laugh? What did they find funny? Why? (It is often very hard to explain WHY something is funny, but it s good to encourage students to think about the techniques used to tell the story and create a response.) - Even though there are many funny and quite silly moments, Oddball also draws attention to a really serious issue the many threats faced by native wildlife in Australia. 3

6 - Discuss the conservation issue at the heart of the film. - What is the problem? How do we learn about it at the beginning of the film? - Who suggests a solution? What is that solution? Plot Plot describes the events that keep the story (narrative) moving. - What are the main events (plot points) in Oddball? - Divide students into groups and ask them to identify these key events. - Compare each group s findings and then try to come up with a whole class description of the plot. (Summarising/précising is a great skill to develop. Narrative structure Film narratives are usually organised into three sections, beginning, middle and end. Beginning the story and the main characters are introduced. The story begins: far, far away in a magical part of the world, there is a special place, the sleepy town of Warrnambool. - Is Warrnambool the kind of place where fairytales are usually set? - What are some of the ways that visual language (what we see) creates a sense of magic? (Students can identify filmic elements such as the beautiful panoramic shots, shimmering light on the waves, underwater shots of the penguins, the colour of the sky as the sun sets, the penguins against the night sky ) - Why is this story described as a fairytale? What aspects of the story are magical? - We are told that before the foxes came, the Fairy Penguins brought a special kind of magic to the town. How did they do this? Penguins against the sunset communicate a sense of magic. 4

7 Before we meet any of the characters in the story, we see a flashback to past times when the penguins came to Middle Island in their thousands. We also see the foxes that discover they can walk to the island and hear about the devastation they have caused. - Why is it so important that we find out about the penguins before meeting any of the characters who will feature in the story? Middle A complication or problem arises that must be resolved/worked out. - In Oddball, the really big problem that needs to be solved in the story is introduced at the very beginning of the story the plight of the penguins. However, in the film, the problem that is the focus of the story is the closing of the sanctuary if the number of penguins falls below ten. - What is a sanctuary and what does it mean if the sanctuary closes? - List the characters who try to save the sanctuary and how they go about trying to do this. - Explain Swampy s plan in detail and describe the way he and Olivia test it to make sure it works. - Why is saving the sanctuary especially important to Emily, Olivia and Swampy? - Why do some of the other characters in the film narrative want the sanctuary to close? End - The story concludes as the problem is solved. - How does Oddball end? - What surprising things happen at the end of the film? - The film begins and ends on Middle Island. This is called bookending. Filmmakers often end their narrative in the same place as they began. It is a great way of reminding us how much we have learnt and/or how much has changed by the end of the story. - Ask students to respond to the final image of Oddball and Swampy on the island as the sun sets - What is this shot telling us about the friendship between Swampy and Oddie, the future of the penguins and the story we have just experienced? 5

8 - How is it telling us these things? Consider the colours used, the light, the position of the characters. Swampy and Oddball together at the end of Oddball The real life story After Oddball s fairytale story has reached its end, the audience is told about the true story - - and the real people and dogs -- that inspired the movie: Today the Maremma Project is maintained through the tireless efforts of the Warrnambool Coastcare Group, the City Council and the amazing dogs that give the project its name. - Watch this video about the people behind the story: https://open.abc.net.au/explore/ Ask students to think about some of the changes to the story. - What has stayed the same? - What has been added for the film? Characters Oddball the film is named after him and he is the hero of the story but he is a dog. What techniques are used in the film to communicate Oddball s character and personality? Main characters -- as a class, make a list of the other main characters in the story. As you compile the list, share ideas about why they are central to the story. Ask students to describe each of these character s: - appearance - personality 6

9 - their role in the story - what we learn about them as the story progresses Minor characters -- Any character in a story needs to be there for a reason. In Oddball, many of the minor characters add to the comedy and keep the story moving along. While we have time to find out about the main characters, minor characters need to make a quick but memorable first impression. Modify the template on the last page of this resource to create worksheets for some of Oddball s most memorable characters (The Dog Catcher, Jack, Mayor Lake, Judge Burns, Zoe ). You can create multiples and hand them out at random to individual students, or students can work in groups. Using animals in films Children s books and films often feature animals. - Ask students to share some of their favourite animal stories. - What is it that makes them special? - Why do people love stories about animals so much? - Ask students to write their own animal-centred story. - Ask them to think carefully about how they might go about creating their animal character and communicating its personality and feelings. Themes Family - Why is the sanctuary particularly important to the Marsh family? - When the sanctuary is saved, Swampy tells Emily at the end of the film: We all did it; that s what I m proud of. What does he mean? - Swampy has a special love for Oddball, even before he proves to be an excellent penguin-watcher. Why do you think this might be? - Why does Emily decide to stay in Warrnambool? The Environment - What are some of the things you learned about Little (Fairy) Penguins in the film? - Why are foxes such a threat to the penguins? 7

10 - In the story, we learn how important tourism is to creating a vital town, but sometimes attracting tourists can have a negative impact on the environment. How is this explored in the film? - What do we learn from the film about taking care of the world around us? Responsibility In the film story, Emily is presented as the responsible adult in contrast to Swampy. - In what ways does Emily show her sense of responsibility? - When does Swampy behave irresponsibly? - How does he take action and behave responsibly? Further Activities - Design a film poster that captures the key features of Oddball for a potential audience. Write a catch-phrase that can be used on the poster to communicate the key idea or theme explored in the film. - You can find out more about the Middle Island Maremma Project from this factsheet: cuments/middleislandmaremmaproject-factsheet _0.pdf - Research the role of foxes (and other introduced species) in decimating Australian wildlife. - Find out about threatened species in your own area. As a class, discuss what you have found out and consider ways that you can make a difference. - Choose a project to focus on and brainstorm ideas for bringing about change. - Write a story or make a short film, game or animation to tell others about the issue. 8

11 Minor Characters Judge Burns Description: consider, appearance, costume, voice, behaviour, facial expressions Role in the story: what does this character do? What does the character add to the story? 9

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