One-off workshop: Mini Horror Movies with iPads

Paul Bateson
Thursday, October 22, 2020

Using iPads to self-tape a horror scene is a good way to introduce acting for camera, while also adhering to social distancing measures.


Tablets and mobile phones are everywhere these days, so why not try and harness them to create instant mini films in the classroom this Halloween term? 

This session would work well as part of a series of lessons on the features of horror, perhaps including some work on The Woman in Black as a text, or as one lesson in a ‘Genre’ scheme.

Learning objectives

  • To identify camera shots – close up, and single shot pan
  • To explore how facial expression and voice can convey emotions and create tension
  • To demonstrate dramatic techniques: Thought Tracking and Soliloquy
  • To generate original creative dialogue

1. Big Questions

Discuss with students, or mind-map in groups; Why do people like horror films? Why do we like to be scared? What makes a good horror film? How do actors show their emotions? Explain that this session will explore creating tension and emotion on camera using only facial expression and voice.

2. Still Images – Selfies

In pairs or working individually, students should list as many synonyms for the word ‘scared’ as possible, for example: frightened, terrified, and so on.

Using a tablet or phone, students should then create facial images to match each word, and photograph – or make a short video moving slowly from image to image.

This work can be shared by AirDrop/Apple TV or by email to the teacher, who can display on an interactive whiteboard. The audience can guess which picture relates to which words, and discuss who has displayed effective and believable emotions through facial expression.

3. Thought Tracking Circle

Define Thought Tracking – speaking characters thoughts on stage out loud.

We are going to film a short scene of a horror set in an abandoned school – discuss what might someone in that setting be thinking.

In still image as someone lost in an abandoned school, as the teacher passes, students speak lines of internal thoughts, experimenting with vocal expression. Using the synonyms again, the aim should be to alter voice to convey different emotions.

4. Close up shot/Monologue

Watch a video clip from The Blair Witch Project or similar, where we have an extended close up monologue from a character. I use Heather's monologue from The BWP. Discuss:

  • Vocal Expression
  • Facial Expression
  • Dialogue – what words or phrases were interesting?


Using the line ‘I'm scared to close my eyes, I'm scared to open them…’ as the start, students should write their own 30-60 second monologue.

Encourage students to write with interesting adjectives and to consider synonyms. They might want to use simile or metaphor. They can use the senses as prompts too:

  • I can see
  • I can feel
  • I can taste
  • I can hear
  • I can smell


Once prepared, students should film themselves speaking their monologue to camera, using only facial expression and vocal expression to create emotion and tension.

Watch back and discuss.

5. Single shot pan

A single shot pan is where the camera slowly searches the scene: this may build to a climax or anti-climax, and can happen back and forth to build tension. Watch the ‘Uno, dos, trés….’ scene from Spanish horror La Orfanata as an example. This scene is great – the dialogue is in Spanish, but we can focus on how the words are said, not what is said. There is also a lot of silence which is a key technique in building tension; it also uses the single shot pan wonderfully to create tension.

Students should now extend their monologue to include this filming device. They will probably need to work in pairs so one can act and film, while another creates movements or sounds to be revealed as the camera pans – this could be a rattling door handle that opens to reveal… no-one; or strange noises which reveal a strange figure.

6. Performing ‘Mini Horror Movies’ on location

This activity can be developed further to include filming in different locations around the school site. You could also consider lighting, and costume. If you have editing equipment, the films can be put together with music and SFX. These ‘Mini Horror Movies’ should be screened in a dark drama studio with popcorn and fizzy drinks.