Several days before each session, all children club members receive a small illustrated magazine in the mail, presenting the film to be shown. Reading the magazine helps the children to prepare for the film and to become familiar with cinematographic terms.
The day of the film showing two presenters greet the children at the cinema and chat with them about the film. For practical reasons, the two presenters are called the “Scholarly” and the “Naïve” however, the children are not aware of these terms (they are used only to define these two specific acting roles). The two actors play the same character at every film showing thus reassuring the children and implementing a type of ritual. Just before the projection, an educational dialogue (pré-sketch discussion), and a short skit (sketch) explain the particularities of the film and prepare the audience for a cinematographic discovery.
The Magic Lantern provides the presenters and the complete educational material corresponding to each film. This material is comprised of: arguments concerning the film selection, film presentation leaflet, pre-sketch discussion sheet, sketch scenario and notes on narration for silent films.
The leaflet: a pictorial document to read as a family
The Lantern Magic leaflet is written and designed to incite children to watch the film. The leaflet contains information about the specificities of the film, and is the subject of the pedagogical introduction (the pré-sketch discussion) at the beginning of each session. Illustrated by cartoonist Noyau, alias Yves Nussbaum, the leaflet does not use the aesthetics from the film nor contain any of its photos. Thanks to the original drawings, children have a neutral concept of the film (for black and white films for example) and arrive at the cinema with an un-biased viewpoint. To encourage children to read the leaflet, the Scholarly relies on its contents during the pre-sketch discussion, during which children are invited to the stage to discuss what they have learned.
Arguments concerning the film selection: coherent programming
This document justifies the choice of the films. Drafted for each film presented at The Magic Lantern, it briefly describes the reasons for which a certain film merits to be viewed by the children. It helps the organisers and presenters to respond to questions from parents who may not know the films or The Magic Lantern.
The pre-sketch discussion: a dialogue with the children
Following a precise timing schedule, the “Scholarly”, a film aficionado, chats with children about the film to be shown. In order to lead this dialogue in an effective way, the pre-sketch animation sheet is provided to help him or her to develop the essential points necessary to render a complete comprehension of the film. The document also contains information enabling him or her to respond to other pointed questions, which the children may have. Rich in information and created for each film, the pré-animation documents offer the possibility for the Scholarly to tie links between the cinema and history, culture and the arts.
The sketch: humorous and educational
Each sketch is unique. An additional actor (called The Artist), is welcomed into to each sketch completing the regular duo comprising The Scholarly and The Naive. The children eagerly await the performance, which last about ten minutes. The Scholarly and The Naive act out a short sketch, highlighting important aspects of the film such as the theme, techniques or historical information. The sketch contains a precise scenario corresponding to each film. The presenters receive the sketch scenario and practice it together well ahead of time. As well as costumes, accessories and lights, the sketches incorporate video excerpts, music or films specially made for the occasion.
Films accompanied by a narrator and music
For a silent film, the screening is accompanied by a narrator – The Scholarly – with a microphone as well as by a pianist or an orchestra. We return to the old days of cinema where the person in charge of these commentaries was called a Barker or Bally Hoo Man. The Barker or Bally Hoo Man reads the intertitles and completes the images with more or less detailed commentaries to the facilitate the children’s comprehension of the film. The purpose is to permit the young audience to capture the films basic storyline. The presenter receives his notes on narration as well as a DVD well in advance, enabling him or her to properly prepare the narration. Over the years, The Magic Lantern has observed that silent films which could seem crippling at first glance are in fact particularly appreciated by our young audiences.