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Have a minute? Good. Because I never do. I spend every available moment of my life organizing and directing a group of 25 juniors and seniors in the news studio at my high school. If I am not in the process of assisting my fellow students, troubleshooting equipment, or editing final copies of film, then I am thinking about it. It consumes my life, and I love every minute of it.
I have been running the news studio at my school for almost a year now. I began in the spring semester of 2010 and will be continuing through the fall semester of 2010 and the spring semester of 2011. “Film and Digital Video Production” is an elective at my high school. It is enjoyable for most students, but it is an addiction for me. I need a fix of it constantly. Every day I am down in the studio — often four and five times per day — as well as after school. I spend that time editing student projects, working on the town’s access channel programs, or reading manuals to deepen my understanding of the equipment. Working with film is what makes me tick, what motivates me, and it is what I want to work do for the rest of my life.
I first became involved with film as a freshman in high school. We were assigned to film an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and edit it on the school’s Mac computers. I loved cutting the footage and adding music, basic though it was. My fascination with filming and editing continued through my sophomore year. Our school has a news program, and I filmed commercials with my friends (an advertisement for the school store, an ad for a movie night, and a Halloween public service announcement) and submitted them to the teacher running the news. The commercials were aired, and I got to hear my fellow classmates laugh at them (for they were purposely comical). When those commercials came on and my peers were smiling, I knew I had found my calling.
It was not only on the news that I exerted my filmmaking talents, however: any class assignment that called for a creative project, I turned into a film. For example, I recreated the opening scene of Fahrenheit 451, made and informational farming video, and even produced a scenic music video based on Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. The teachers enjoyed my unique take on creative assignments.
In particular, my freshman English teacher, who also runs the Leicester Cable Public Access Channel, saw that I truly enjoyed filming and editing and asked me to film the school committees as an actual paying job. I accepted, and since November 2009, I have filmed each and every school committee meeting. That job is actually a lot tougher than it sounds. It entails setting up the camera equipment and running the switcher and the graphics in the studio. Oftentimes the equipment does not work; the wire connections are broken, the cameras are not connected to the studio downstairs, the picture is blurry, or the DV recorder will not work. Those problems must be fixed or the meeting will not be shown to the town, a mistake that would rest on my shoulders. I know it may sound crazy, but when everything works in the studio, the meeting airs on time, and a copy is recorded on tape, it gives me a warm satisfaction I can feel all the way to my toes.
Being a news director encompasses all aspects of creating a satisfactory news program. Every day I must get up in front of the class and assign everyone specific tasks. That includes sending the sports reporters to find the scores for the past week, the school news reporters to hunt for stories and school events, and the world news reporters to look up stories interesting enough to tell to high school students. After they get their news, I must then edit the scripts they have come up with and approve the graphics they have chosen to put on screen with them. My oversight extends to the writers of commercials as well. I help them to formulate ideas and then they build off of them, occasionally coming up with their own (which makes me proud).
The students that broadcast the news are only half of a news program. Perhaps even more important is the behind-the-scenes crew. Before anyone else can begin their jobs, it is part of my job to teach the behind-the-scenes crew their individual tasks. I devoted time to learning everyone’s jobs before positions were even ironed out. I taught the editors how to use Final Cut Express, and if they cannot finish editing the news, then I stay after school for however long it takes to finish it. The graphics person needed to be taught how to use Compix Media, and the switcher needed to be taught how to use the switcher. The camera people also needed a little instruction. I take my position seriously, and I work extremely hard to accomplish a broadcast every week.
After high school, I want to continue working in the field of digital filmmaking, and I have been searching for a school where I can study the process further and fine-tune what skills I already possess. I looked at several colleges and universities, but none stood out to me as much as the New England Institute of Art (NEIA). It intrigued me so much that I visited this summer, and I was extremely pleased with what I saw. The film studio, in particular, would help me to raise my skills to a professional level, and the focused classes would help me to learn everything there is to know about digital filmmaking and video production. The small class size is perfect, and I love the accessibility of the equipment and the number of studios in the school. The school is also close to Boston, which is one of the only cities in Massachusetts with a number of opportunities to work in film. Finally, NEIA offers a Bachelor of Science degree, whereas most film schools only offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts.
Even with a degree from NEIA, I know it would be impossible to jump straight into a director’s position. However, with the skills I would learn while in school, I believe it would be very possible to work my way up the professional ladder over several years. In so doing, I would not only make an impact on the filmmaking industry, but I would also become a valuable alumna of the New England Institute of Art.
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