01 Perfect Houseguest
This Film Guide will lead you and your class through the process of thoughtfully engaging with film. We’ll begin by viewing the film and answering open-ended questions, prompting students to make observations. Next, we’ll take a closer look at the character and setting. We’ll then learn about the filmmakers and the ways a filmmaker can tell a story using images.
If you haven’t done so already, be sure to read the Note to Teachers—you’ll find tips for watching short films with your class and helpful resources for inquiry-based discussions.
Get your students ready to thoughtfully watch a film by sharing this sample introduction, followed by some warm-up questions.
Sample introduction: Today we’re going to watch a short film. A short film is a lot like the films (or movies) that you might watch at home or at a movie theater, but it’s shorter! Have you been to a museum before? Just like the art that you see at a museum, films are made by artists, called Filmmakers. Filmmakers create films to tell a story, to share an idea or a feeling, with us, the viewers. We’re going to watch this short film more than once! We’ll talk about what we saw and heard in the film. We’ll also learn about the filmmakers and how and why they made this film.
Record students’ answers to revisit them later in the lesson.
- The film we’re going to watch is about a mouse.
- Have you ever seen a mouse? Where was it? What was it doing?
- How might you feel or react if you were to discover a mouse in your home? Why?
- Let students know that any kind of home or dwelling might have mice. Mice are just searching for food and shelter.
- What words would you use to describe a mouse?
- What does a mouse look like? Think about size, color, and shapes.
- What kinds of things do you imagine a mouse doing?
- Look at pictures or videos of mice on the internet and make observations about them. If you are teaching virtually, you can share your screen to share these images or videos. Be sure to select the images or videos in advance of sharing your screen.
- We’re going to watch PERFECT HOUSEGUEST, by Max Porter & Ru Kuwahata.
- The film is very short, less than 2 minutes long.
- Since it is so short, it’s important that we are quiet while the film is playing because we might miss something interesting, important, or funny and we’ll cause other students to miss it too! In a short film, every image and sound is important to the story being told.
- We will watch the film again later in the lesson.
Watch the film together and gather initial reactions using open-ended questions.
Follow the film screening with a moment of pause for the group to gather their thoughts. Ask the open-ended questions below and record students’ answers. Have students support their observations with evidence by asking, “What did you see that makes you say that?”
- What did you see in this film? Where did you see that?
- What did you notice about this film?
- How would you describe this film in just a few words?
- Did anything about this film surprise you?
- Did you have a favorite part of the film?
- What are some questions you have about the film? (While you may not have the answers to all of the students’ questions, this will give them a chance to wonder about the film.)
- How is this film similar or different from other films you have seen before?
- You can watch the film as a group by sharing your screen, and selecting the optimize for video sharing option. Make sure all participants (including yourself) are muted while the film plays.
- Consider using Breakout Rooms to have smaller group discussions.
If you need a link to share this film with your students, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Closer Look
Select a question to ask in advance of watching the film again to promote active viewing.
Ask the questions below for a group discussion or a think-pair-share.
Have students support their answers with evidence from the film by asking, “What makes you say that?”
Observations, things we can see or point to in the film itself
- From what we saw in the film, what do we KNOW about the Mouse?
- Have students complete these sentences:
- “I know that _______________”
- “I know this because I see _____________”
Interpretations, ideas that we have based on the things we’ve seen in the film
- What do we THINK about the Mouse?
- Have students complete these sentences:
- “I think that _______________”
- “I think this because _____________”
Questions, things we wonder about, or don’t know
- What are the things we DON’T KNOW about the Mouse?
- What do we WONDER or WANT TO KNOW about the Mouse?
- If you could ask the Mouse a question, what would you ask to learn more about them?
If you have been recording students’ answers, revisit the responses as a group and ask students to share any final thoughts or ideas about the character.
- Use still images by pausing the film to help students notice new details.
The Bigger Conversation
After watching the film for a second or third time, reflect on new details.
- Now that we’ve watched the film again, did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed the first time we watched the film? What was it?
- What do you think about that? Does it help you understand anything new about the film or the character?
Revisit the list of questions about mice from Getting Started and compare them to the character in the film.
- How does the Mouse in the film compare to our original ideas about mice?
- What does the Mouse in the film look like? How does this compare to the way you thought a mouse would look?
- What is the Mouse in the film doing? How does this compare to what you might expect a mouse to be doing?
- How might this film or story be different if it were about a different animal or a human?
Consider the details that the filmmakers have not included. As mentioned earlier, filmmakers decide what details are important to the story, and which details are not. That means that we get to consider the possibilities for ourselves. There are no right or wrong answers here!
- We never see the people who live in this house. Is there anything we can learn about them from the setting of the film? What guesses might you make about this place and the people who live here? What do you think the people who live here might think or feel or do if they saw the Mouse? Or perhaps they know all about the Mouse! Let your students’ imaginations run wild with these ideas, but remember to ask them to back up their assumptions with evidence by asking, “What in the film makes you think that?”
- Students might ask if the Mouse is a boy or a girl, or might begin to use gendered pronouns. If this comes up in your class, you can remind students that the filmmakers decided not to tell us, the viewers, if the Mouse is a girl or a boy. And that means there isn’t one answer to the question! Why do you think the filmmakers decided not to tell us this? Would the film be any different if we knew if the Mouse were a girl or a boy? How?
Behind the scenes
In this section we’ll learn about the filmmakers and the filmmaking process, encouraging students to understand that everything they saw and heard in the film was created by the filmmakers.
The questions below will help students see some of the choices that were made to tell the story in PERFECT HOUSEGUEST.
- Pause the film at different moments and ask students: Do you think it might be morning time or night time? How can you tell?
- How would you describe the setting of this film? Where does it take place?
- An important part of creating a film is choosing the music. Often, music is created specially for a film! How did the sounds and music included in the film make you feel?
- Try playing the film with the volume down to see how it is different without any sound, or even play a different song to see how it might make the film feel different.
- This film was created by two filmmakers, Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter.
- Why do you think the filmmakers might have chosen to tell this story using animation instead of live action (real people or animals)?
- The filmmakers chose to name this film PERFECT HOUSEGUEST. What does this title make you think of?
- Do you think the Mouse is a perfect houseguest? Why or why not?
Ru Kuwahata & Max Porter work as a team called “Tiny Inventions” to create animated films. They are also a married couple! Ru is from Japan and Max is from the USA. They currently live in Providence, Rhode Island. They like to mix different styles together in their films. They mix computer animation with handmade miniatures and drawings to tell their stories.
Let students know that while the filmmakers might have had a message or idea in mind, we are all welcome to interpret the film in our own way.
Why did you decide to tell a story about a mouse?
When we were making our previous film, BETWEEN TIMES, we had mice problems in our studio and some of our miniature sets got ruined. We were so upset and Max said, “Wouldn’t it be great if they could help us out with those small hands instead of making a mess?” That’s how we came up with the idea of a little mouse being helpful.
How did you become interested in filmmaking?
Max was interested in photography growing up, but in college, he became more interested in filmmaking.
Ru was interested in crafting and drawing growing up. When she went to college, she realized that in animation, everything she loved could be combined.
How did you go about becoming a filmmaker?
We both studied filmmaking in art school, but we also consider ourselves “students forever.” We always try to take classes, participate in workshops or labs to continue studying filmmaking. There’s so much to learn and that excites us.
We see the character take on a project that’s so much bigger than them, can you relate to that?
Absolutely! With animation, even the smallest task takes so much time and effort; we can totally relate to the mouse. Whenever we finish a project, we realize how big of a challenge it was along the way. At the beginning, our curiosity will lead to an idea, and our passion will carry on the project. Once the project gets going, all we want to do is to work on the project and see the final version. Then when we complete it, we always say, “Wow, that was hard…”
What is some advice you would give to young students interested in filmmaking?
Be curious and pay attention to what you see, hear, touch, smell, taste, and feel. Remember to document those small moments. All of your experiences—no matter how big or small—will somehow find their way into the films you make. ∎
The Mouse and some of the objects in this film were created using computer animation. The backgrounds, or settings, of this film are photos of real places and real objects.
In the image above, Ru Kuwahata is using a puppet version of the character to help her photograph the background for the film.
Introduce the theme of Identity to your students.
- Have students use this template [PDF] to create an Identity Chart, asking them to choose words that they would use to describe themselves.
- You can also ask them to think of words that others might use to describe them. For example, “How do you think your friends or siblings might describe you?”
- Model the activity by sharing the Identity Chart you completed before starting this Lesson Plan.
- You can do this as a group, or ask students to do that activity with a guardian or parent.
Materials: Mirror or virtual screen, something to draw with, paper, colored pencils
- Look at a mirror (or into your virtual screen).
- On a piece of paper, draw the outline of your face and facial features…don’t lift your pencil!
- Fill in the loops and shapes that were created with your favorite colors.
- After completing their portraits, have students list four or five ideas that come to mind when they think about the question, “Who am I?“
- Then have them complete the following sentences:
- I like …
- I am good at …
- Something special about me is …
- Younger students or English Language Learners can draw or cut and paste images to support their responses.
- Share with the group! Invite students to share their portraits and use their “Who am I?” reflections as captions for their drawings.
02 Wash Day
A visually vibrant, easily accessible film that amplifies Black stories on screen and behind the camera, and affords all ages an entry into discussions of identity, gender, and representation.