While I usually use this space to show my own work, I’d like to highlight the work of a high school student I met a few weeks ago. Allie Marsh is a junior at Lyme-Old Lyme High School, and one of her teachers recently invited me to advise on a project she was working on. The White House Student Film Festival is a competition for K-12 students. Young filmmakers are given an assignment and must submit a three minute film. In last year’s inaugural competition, 16 students films about the impact of technology in the classroom were selected for the festival. Allie’s film from last year did well to promote her school, and I thought it was very well done for a high school student, but it lacked the “next level” that a lot of the official selections had. Allie’s video got me interested in Lyme-Old Lyme High School, and showed me a lot of cool things I didn’t know about the school. But some of last year’s winners took the concept a step further and showed the importance and impact of technology in the classroom. They promoted the greater issue of technology as it applies to all classrooms, not just at one school. They were more focused on the “why” than the “what.”
The focus on the “why” instead of the “what” make for more interesting and engaging storytelling. When I’m working on a video journalism piece, I always make sure to ask people to tell me not just what happened, but what it means and why it’s important to them. This helps establish an emotional connection between the viewer and the subject of the story.
The assignment for Allie and all the student filmmakers this year was “The impact of giving back.” I met with Allie and her technology education teacher Bill Derry a few days before the video was due. They had collected photos and video footage shot by LOLHS students from a wide range of community service events. They were trying to figure out how to craft a creative narrative with all of the source material.
This can be a difficult spot to be in. When you can come up with a theme or structure in advance, all of the shooting can be done with that in mind. In this case, several different photographer and videographers did their shooting without a clear mandate. Allie was left with a wide range of clips and photos, some better than others, and was limited by what she had and what she didn’t. Several times in our conversation I heard “it would have been great if we had…”
I encouraged her to come up with a list of bullet points – one for each service event that she could possibly include. Each point should focus on the impact of the service being performed – the why more than the what. The next thing would be some sort of overall theme to tie all of the points together. We talked about trying to do some interviews or coming up with some voice over narration. We looked at a few examples, and then I went back to work and she went back to class.
I received an email a few days later with a link to her final piece and was very impressed. It highlights the service activities of her school without having to explicitly promote them. It also goes to the next level by inspiring others to serve. Someone watching this video from the other side of the country as someone who is familiar with the LOLHS community. I look forward to seeing how Allie’s work grows in the future.