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Granite Bay media students team with real-world clients

Class makes professional videos in exchange for donations
By: Andrew Westrope,
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Granite Bay’s market for professional videographers just got more competitive.

In April, students in Granite Bay High School’s media program started offering their services as photographers and editors to local businesses or private parties in exchange for donations – preferably of a new iMac computer for each job, though this price is negotiable.

Media coordinator and teacher Zachary Weidkamp said last week that the idea stemmed from a conversation with a parent in January about the possibilities of what students could do, and how they could get practice by doing work for real-world clients. He “test-ran” a few assignments in class this spring to gauge the students’ interest, and by April he was sure they were ready.

The students in his advanced media class have since completed their first professional-level project for a client, Caltrans, which asked them to document its annual awards ceremony in Sacramento in April.

Weidkamp said they took class equipment to film the event, then returned with footage which they edited into three products, complete with titles and music – a video of the whole ceremony, a five-minute recap and a two-minute promotional piece.

“The kids are learning you have to work with a client to get the client what they want … We’re starting with (Caltrans) as a kind of model to show other potential clients what we offer and what we can do, and then what the kids can get in return,” he said. “In return, our students are producing a product they can put in their film reel and use for future employment, future internships, those type of things. And our media class is getting a donation of equipment – specifically, Apple computers.”

Weidkamp said the experience was a positive one, both for his students and Caltrans.

Caltrans senior transportation engineer Ken Solak said he found the young videographers to be prepared, equipped and capable.

“They were professional when they were on-site. They had one primary site where they were doing videos, and then they actually moved around and got other perspectives, which I thought was interesting,” he said. “They were responsive, they asked about what my needs were, what the final product should look like and what I was going to do with the final product. Then they dubbed some music in, which was a nice touch.”

Wrapping up her second semester in Weidkamp’s advanced media class, 15-year-old Haylee Miller of Granite Bay said she found the practice of working on a functional project “totally different” from doing it only for a grade. She said the prospect of actual pay – in this case, a new computer for the class to use – changed the class dynamic, and the experience reinforced her desire to pursue a career in media.

“That made us all want to work a lot harder and make things really professional, not just silly like the other videos that we do,” she said. “For me, at age 15, that’s excellent and it feels great to get on this path, like an early jump-start in life.”

Weidkamp said his class is already planning a commercial for another client, and he intends to expand this part of his curriculum next year beyond the advanced media class to the beginning media and film students as well.

In the meantime, he hopes people or businesses will come forward with other projects his students could tackle over the summer, as they have expressed an interest and willingness to do so.

“The goal for me is to get enough projects that everyone in one specific class will have a client to be working on. We’re not just talking Caltrans, we’re talking localized businesses, for commercials, for promos, for film, graphic arts and 3-D, graphical animation, explainer videos that you might see on like a Kickstarter website,” he said. “We have a huge range of talents and abilities, and I want to be able to provide the kids a platform to use and grow their skills instead of saying, ‘Let’s pretend to make a video about this.’ To be actually doing it for someone that really matters is what the kids are really grabbing onto.”

The cost to prospective clients is to help him replace the heavily-used, five-year-old PCs in his class with new iMacs, which are now the industry standard, although he is willing to work with anyone interested to arrange an affordable donation.

To make a donation, find more information about the program or contact Weidkamp about his students’ work, visit granitebaymedia.org, where the Caltrans videos and other demos are publicly visible.