LINDSBORG — Smoky Valley High School students are learning on their feet as they write, shoot and edit short films as part of a media production class taught by Laurie Denk.
"Our students develop large projects that they drive themselves," Denk said.
At Vision_Tek, students learn new technology in SVHS classes, while also assisting the community with tech questions at the storefront. As part of a class, students produce short films that will be shown in Vision_Tek's annual film festival.
The Visionary Film Festival will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 16 at Vision_Tek, 121 S. Main St. in Lindsborg. There is no admission charge.
At Vision_Tek, sophomores, juniors and seniors produce different media projects. To do so, they must first learn how to operate equipment and software and leverage online resources. They then move on to group and individual projects.
"It's definitely a great recipe for making group work really effective," Denk said. "By the time they're seniors, they've been involved in two or three film projects."
Students are given six weeks to complete the films, which must be less than 10 minutes long.
"The kids write them themselves — they storyboard them, film them and act in them," Denk said. "They do all their own editing, post work and foley work. By the time they're all done, they've done all the production themselves."
Active involvement is expected from each student at Vision_Tek, who use their skills both in front of and behind the camera.
"The level of films these kids produce is outstanding," Denk said. "They pay attention to details in costuming and music."
SVHS senior Baylee Wolf has always been fascinated with making movies, which grew into her interest today.
"As an eighth grader making the transition into high school, I was absolutely mesmerized and inspired by the students at Vision_Tek and instantly knew that I wanted to play a huge role in the program," Wolf said.
Wolf is participating in her third Vision_Tek film project.
"I have learned that listening to everyone's ideas is key, a very detailed plan of the filming and storyline has to be written down, and that as the cinematographer in each of my films, I need to have a vision of what I want my shots to look like before getting behind the camera," Wolf said.
Not only do Vision_Tek students learn to use cameras and accessories like gimbals, dollies and tripods, they also learn problem-solving skills.
"You don't always get your own way," Denk said. "They have to work it out."
Gracie Lott, a junior at SVHS, works on films as a cinematographer and editor.
"I got involved in filmmaking because I absolutely loved photography," Lott said. "I found a new sense of home in filmmaking because it feels like I get to manipulate one more dimension that I couldn't find in photography."
Vision_Tek students discovered making a film takes vision, planning and hard work.
"I have learned that the films I watch actually are a lot harder to make then all of us most likely assume," Lott said. "A lot goes into a production and I see why all of them take a lot of time and money."
Denk thinks it is important to teach kids how to make films because of the media's prevalence in the world.
"We're a media-heavy society," Denk said. "Moving from consumers to producers is where we want to be."
Being in Vision_Tek gives students a way to learn the art of filmmaking from concept to collaboration.
"I absolutely love being able to use my creativity and exerting my cinematography skills, all while forming new relationships and making lasting memories with my teammates," Wolf said.
A variety of film genres will be shown at the Visionary Film Festival, including romance, suspense, a horror film spoof, a "cops and robbers" story and a newscast-themed project.
"I think all of the different videos show each of our personalities," Lott said. "It's interesting seeing our different talents and interests put into films, and I find it super entertaining."
The students' films have a chance of finding an even wider audience, as some are submitted to other area film contests, Denk noted.
"People should come to the film festival this Saturday to not only vote for the best film that we have worked so very hard on, but to also have a good time watching and supporting high schoolers working together to create something original and beautiful," Wolf said. "We take great pride in our work and love to show it off."
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at email@example.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.