Monday, April 29, 2013

CSLP Winning Teen Videos & an Interview with Wisconsin's Winning Director

The Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) has officially announced the winners of the 2013 Teen Video Challenge--look here for a videos from winners for each state.  Wisconsin can be proud of their entry, made by a group of teens from Eau Claire. Check it out!  Clocking in at just under a minute, this would be a terrific tool to use during school visits, on your Facebook page, or any number of other ways.

Too bad no one had any fun making this movie!
I was fascinated that a group of high school students could come up with such a clever, well-produced film and I wanted to find out more.  I interviewed the director and editor of this video, Tedd Piper, a high school senior at Eau Claire Memorial High School (and a heck of a swell guy).

How long have you been making films?  I've been making films for about 5 years, ever since I made a video for my 8th grade English class and decided I really enjoyed it.

Tell me a little bit about the group you made the film with—have you worked together a lot before? 
The group I work with (we call ourselves "Unconventional Operations")* is made up of friends I've made over the years in the school's Film Club. We've become good friends and work very well together, they're very creative and open minded which takes away the stress of working on set and makes it a much more exciting experience. When we're working on a project we typically divide up the jobs based on our interests. For instance, I prefer directing and cinematography while Caleb Kamrath enjoys acting and writing. Although we each have our typical roles, everyone contributes creatively.

How long did it take you to make this film (including everything from writing to filming to editing)?
 All in all it took us roughly six weeks to make this short. Coming up with ideas, writing and planning was about a two week process, we filmed on 3 different days for 2-4 hours each, and then spent a couple nights editing to turn it in another two weeks after that. Thankfully we were able to spread things out since we had over a month to make such a short video, which kept us from feeling rushed and allowed us to have more fun.

What was the process like for this film?  
When I told everyone about the contest I asked them to come up with some ideas and gave them about a week to mull it over. I was the first to propose an idea, one that I had within five minutes of hearing of the contest, and that's what ended up becoming the final product. Everyone accepted it right away and didn't offer up any other ideas so I wrote up a quick script and shared it with them. At the time the scenes in the middle that happen during the voice over were written in the script as simply: "A montage of fantastical book-like scenes". Or something like that. I let everyone else pitch ideas for what those scenes could be and we picked out the ones we thought would work best. After that we did something very unusual for us: we stuck to the plan.

If a librarian was going to encourage film-making in their library, what equipment and other resources do you think they would want to purchase? 
Film making can very easily become very expensive, even at our extremely low budget amateur level. At the very basic level all you need is a camera, a tripod, and editing software. That's all you need to start making movies, as long as there's effort and creativity behind it you can create good stuff with just that. 

Any camera from just a couple hundred dollars to over a thousand will work just fine, with the more expensive ones obviously providing better quality video and sound as well as more creative features. We use a $700 Canon t3i, a camera that is actually made for photography, but because of the features it has, it allows us to create shots that look as good as higher end cameras at a much lower cost. 

Most computers come with very basic video editing software pre-installed, such as Windows Movie Maker. While these can work just fine, they are very limiting and don't offer very much creative flexibility. I'd recommend something like Sony Vegas or Cyberlink Powerdirector,  which have versions for relatively cheap and offer more power.

Is this group interested in making more promotional films for libraries?
 We're very interested in making more films for libraries! We love what we do and if we can use it to benefit something as important as public libraries, then that's even better! 

Anything else you want to tell us about this film?
We had a great time working on our entry to the Teen Video Contest, and have really appreciated how well it was received. We were astounded at how much it was passed around and talked about, it has definitely helped get us out there and recognized, which is very important for filmmakers. We're super thankful to the judges and the CSLP for choosing us as the winners of Wisconsin!

Still from the film

*Other group members include Caleb Kamrath, Cole Anderson, Jaiden Deutschlander, Zach Staads, Alex Kolb, and Ethan Stewart, with some other friends lending a hand when we need them.

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