For as long as Augustin Dulauroy can remember, he has tried to turn any school project into a video project.
“I’ve always made movies,” the Hanford High senior said. “Ever since I was a little kid I always had a camera in my hand.”
That fascination with video and storytelling compelled Augustin, along with several other students, to join Hanford’s documentary filmmaking and podcasting clubs a few years ago, and then enroll in courses covering those topics last school year.
“I never thought this was something I’d get to do in school,” said junior Alexander Leavy.
Those clubs and courses have already elevated what those students initially viewed as a hobby or individual passion to a professional undertaking. Seven of the school’s students were invited to and recently attended the All-American High School Film Festival in New York City after several pieces were nominated for awards. And just before leaving, several students worked on an entry for the 72-Hour Film Challenge hosted by the Tri-Fi International Film Festival here in the Tri-Cities and won in the student division.
“The fact these kids made what they did during COVID just shows how talented and dedicated they are,” said Cheyenne LaViolette, Hanford’s video production teacher.
Podcasting and documentary filmmaking are among a slew of digital media courses taught by LaViolette. The classes are aimed at helping students hone their technical and creative skills in digital media, preparing them for future careers.
Like Augustin, each student came to podcasting and filmmaking their own way. Alexander said he became fascinated by podcasts and their powerful storytelling ability several years ago. When he heard Hanford had a podcast production class, he leaped at the opportunity to work with students with similar interests. Senior Bergen Stovall figured being part of a film would be an interesting challenge.
“I’m not much of an actor but I thought it would be fun,” he said.
The documentary filmmaking and podcasting courses were first offered during the 2020-21 school year, which started online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first semester was challenging, students said, as they didn’t have immediate access to the equipment in the classroom or the in-person collaboration that can help make a project stronger. They found ways around those challenges, though, and discovered that even working remotely was inspiring.
“It forced me to be creative,” Augustin says of the class. “During COVID it was so easy to fall behind or cut corners but you couldn’t with this.”
All the students and LaViolette were thrilled to learn in August that four video pieces and two podcasts were selected for the film festival. Three of the entries were by Connor McFarlane, a 2021 graduate, with Augustin’s micromovie, “Microtone Bandits,” and podcasts from Alexander and fellow juniors Luke DeRousie and Ourania Glezakou-Elbert.
“We entered on a longshot, they receive 3,000 entries each year,” LaViolette said.
The four current HHS students, along with Bergen and fellow actors and seniors Abby Kerbyson and Alexander Marquez from Augustin’s micromovie, were able to attend the film festival. Alexander Leavy’s podcast ended up being nominated for best podcast, putting it in the top eight internationally.
Outside of the opportunity to win awards and scholarships, the event also had a college fair for the students to explore their options for after high school, a chance to network with others in digital media and see what other students around the country are making. It even created an impromptu opportunity to watch a feature-length production film near Central Park as they wandered by.
They aren’t resting on their laurels, though. Each of them is already thinking about their next project and how it will continue to push them closer to their dreams.
“The energy they bring, it’s just a testament to these kids,” LaViolette said.