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Filmmakers prepare for life after high school

Lena Bowe, Opinions Editor
Originally published May 3, 2016

Still from DeGreen’s music video “Hologram,” which she produced last year during her third year in the program.

Still from DeGreen’s music video “Hologram,” which she produced last year during her third year in the program.

In a time where high school students are told that the arts are dying and proficiency in math and science is the only way to success, seniors Sophie DeGreen and Bergen Johnson have followed a different path.

Both DeGreen and Johnson are enrolled in the award-winning Digital Filmmaking Program. Their experiences within the program have led them both to plan to pursue filmmaking after high school — Johnson as a career, and DeGreen as a hobby.

DeGreen and Johnson both became interested in filmmaking at a young age. DeGreen gained interest after acting in plays, while Johnson liked making films when he was younger.

Both joined the program in their freshman year, starting in the Intro to Digital Filmmaking class.

“You start in the intro class, and once you’re in intermediate, you can get paired with kids who have been in the program for two or three years on projects, which helps you learn a lot,” DeGreen said.

The students work on a wide variety of projects, starting with public service announcements or advertisements in the fall, then working on short films without dialogue, documentaries and music videos as the year goes on.

“All the little projects we do get us involved in the school,” DeGreen said. “When we put on our films and call for actors, people will come to us, which also helps us get involved. We make documentaries for programs in the school, and ads for programs in the school.”

DeGreen and Johnson have both received recognition for their work in the program. DeGreen’s music video, “Hologram,” won Best of Show at the Eppfilms and Artistic by Design Center 2014 Film and Photography Showcase. Johnson’s short film, “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” earned him the Film Achievement Scholarship to the film school at Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

“[I want to] work hard at what I love, which is filmmaking, and get a career out of that,” Johnson said. Although DeGreen will be attending the University of Washington instead of enrolling in a film program, she is sure that she wants token film as a hobby.

Should DeGreen and Johnson find success in the industry, they would not be the first graduates of the program to do so. Alumni Jesse Harris and Kyle Seago, both successful filmmakers, co-founded the National Film Festival for Talented Youth in 2007. It has since become the largest youth film festival in the world. Both “Hologram” and Johnson’s music video, “Today,” were named as Official Selections for this year’s festival, joining a number of other films by Ballard students that have been recognized by NFFTY since its first year.

Teacher Matt Lawrence founded the program in 2001 and has been running it ever since. DeGreen and Johnson agree that the program, and Lawrence, have provided them with everything they need in order to pursue filmmaking.

“[Lawrence] provides us with so much helpful criticism, ideas, lessons that are engaging — everything,” Johnson said. “I’d probably be painting houses right now if I wasn’t in this program.”

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Filmmakers prepare for life after high school