Sunday, September 20, 2009


The short comic film Gourmandizing by Levi Friedman & Matt Law-Phipps, has been named an Official Selection of the 10th Annual River Festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The festival is the largest film festival in Brazil and Latin America. Each year, major films of the Cannes, Sundance, Venice, Berlin, and Australian film festivals are presented to the public during the event. The festival also features films by youth 18 and younger. It has a distinguished history of showcasing the early work of young filmmakers who have gone on to successful film careers.

This year, the festival received 143 entries from youth in Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Italy, the United States and Canada. The festival committee contacted Levi and invited him to enter his films after they saw his student Emmy-winning PSA Don’t Spill (produced with Ryan Zemke & Jacob Kutrakun) on You Tube. The festival opens on September 25 and continues through October 8. For more information, just click on the headline to visit the festival website.

This marks the second time this year that Ballard video students have had their films requested by international film festivals. In May, Diana Federighi, Kaelan Gilman & Del Brummet were contacted by the Seoul International Youth Film Festival and invited to exhibit their award-winning short film Unplugged.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


KYLE SEAGO, Class of 2007 (with Robin Williams)

In May of 2007, after three extremely productive years in the Ballard high School video productions program, I was accepted into Loyola Marymount University’s film school, arguably the 3rd best undergraduate film school in Los Angeles. An honor? Yes. Exciting? Absolutely. A dreadful commitment to spending upwards of $160,000 in order to receive a piece of paper that may have nothing to do with making movies? No question.

I arrived at LMU in the Fall of 2007, and I quickly noticed that I was far ahead of the curve. While most students were searching for a camera’s record button I was logging tapes of footage that my friends and I had shot. As every one else sat through hour upon hour of analytical cinema courses – creating classrooms full of “artists” and “auteurs” – I spent my days working on projects and learning the ins and outs of being on set with the people I would be working with in the future, not the aging professors who hadn’t worked on a set since the Cold War.

Because of the foundation set by Mr. Lawrence and the BHS Video Production Program, I was able to navigate my way around a set like a mouse in a cheese maze. Although I started out working as a production assistant, I quickly gained a reputation as “the kid who never sleeps” because I was constantly working. By December, I was receiving offers to produce senior and graduate thesis films and work on outside, paid projects. Although I had entered school wanting to study cinematography, my interests shifted towards producing once I realized I could spend other people’s money and get away with it!

In the spring of 2008, I produced two major senior thesis films. They ended up screening at festivals such as the Palm Springs International Film Festival, the Los Angeles Film Festival, and The SXSW Film and Video Festival. Through producing these projects, I was introduced to the person who drafted the blueprints on how to produce films at LMU – Dane Lillegard. We began to co-produce projects together, completing two commercials and a short film by July. I then returned home to work on a feature film in Seattle starring Robin Williams, called World’s Greatest Dad. I could go on for days about how working on this film helped to jump-start my career. It was a tremendous experience working on a quality indie film with an amazing cast and crew. Working on the film proved to me that the best way to learn about the industry is to be embedded in the industry. While you can learn in the classroom, you can experience through hands-on work.

After completing World’s Greatest Dad, I went back down to LA for my second year of school. However, upon arrival, I came to the conclusion that LMU and the film school life in general was probably not the best investment of my time, hard work, and money. My situation was somewhat unique, I had made numerous contacts in the previous 4 years of doing film work and decided to bypass my final three years of school and enter the industry.

Fortunately, my plan worked out (for the most part). I was able to land a few gigs – one on a TV show for MTV and another on an indie feature in LA – and in the time I wasn’t working on set, I was putting in time with Dane trying to develop a new production/finance company.

As a result of the economic downturn, most studios have stopped making the 10-30 million dollar films and are putting most of their faith in the larger, “tent-pole” movies such as Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean. This is due to the fact that when studios make smaller-budget movies, their production values fall off dramatically because, as studios, they are still under contract to pay their actors exorbitant salaries. When a smaller production company, such as Lions Gate or Overture Films, makes a $20 million dollar movie they can make it look like they spent $100 million because they can pay the cast less and don’t have any studio overhead costs.

This is where the idea for IPE, the company I currently work for, came from. IPE, which stands for Inner Primary Entertainment, is an executive production and finance company. In a nutshell, IPE accepts packaged projects – scripts that have big actors/directors/producers attached. We then present the projects to various investors we have relations with and act as the investor’s advocate. We do full analysis of every project we greenlight, conducting foreign and domestic market research to outline every return on investment scenario for the investor, fully vetting every script as to its creative and financial potential, and all the while being fully transparent so that all potential investors see all of the pros and cons of each project they may choose to invest in.

It all sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. We basically present a project to an investor, and if they like it and think they can make money from it, they pay for it. Then we oversee production and make sure the film stays on budget, that the budget is being spent properly and then, once the film is distributed, that the investor recoups their investment and begins to make money.

The job is great, one that no 20-year-old (including me) should ever be blessed with. It’s a lot of work, but it’s the kind of thing I love to do. I love being entrenched in the business, learning new things everyday. I’m learning more than I ever could have learned in film school, and I’m actually getting paid for it. And I can honestly say, I wouldn’t be at this position in life or anywhere near here if the foundation for my career hadn’t been built in the BHS Video Program. I’m very fortunate to have been exposed to that kind of film industry education at a young age, which has allowed me to already achieve some of the goals I had set for myself. There’s still a lot of work yet to be done, but because of the chances I’ve been given, navigating the road ahead will be a lot more manageable.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


Three productions by students in the BHS Video Production Program are among the winners of the 33rd Annual Young People’s Film & Video Festival. The winners are the short dramas Finding the Music (by Sheridan Koehler, Alex Scheller & Blair Scott) and The Umbrella (by Parker Davis, Kaelan Gilman & Henry Shenk) as well as the music video You Live in Your Head (by Alex Papac, Isaac Sommers & Kathryn Van Buren).

This competitive festival accepts entries from students in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Alaska. It is coordinated by the Northwest Film Center in Portland, Oregon. The Festival encourages young people to “use film and video to creatively express personal concerns, explore important social issues, and share engaging stories about the world as they see it.” Submissions were judged on the basis of age/grade, originality, artistic merit, technical achievement, and conviction in investigation of subject matter. A jury of professional media artists made the selections. Only 16 productions were chosen for the festival from over 100 entries.

The Festival Winners’ Program will be screened on Sunday, September 27 at 2 p.m. at the Whitsell Auditorium of the Portland Art Museum (1219 SW Park, Portland, Oregon). The event is free, and the public is welcome to attend. The program will run approximately 2 hours. For more information, just click on the headline of this article to visit their website.


MADISON MURPHY, Class of 2006

Madison Murphy graduated from BHS in 2006 after completing multiple films in the BHS Video Production Program. These included a documentary entitled Special Successes, about the special education program at BHS, which went on to be selected for the Young People's Film and Video Festival. After graduating, Madison attended Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. She will start her senior year this fall 2009 as a Film and Media Studies major with an emphasis on production, and a Sociology minor.

At Occidental, Madison has participated in many different critical theory and production classes. During her sophomore year, she produced two senior thesis films. Over the past three years Madison has worked on twelve different student productions in a variety of roles including producer, director, and editor. This past spring, Madison helped coordinate the Oxy Film Festival on campus. She is a campus tour and a co-director of Delevan Drive, a program that works with special education students to complete art projects each week.

Interested in critical film theory as well as production, Madison presented her paper, Miss Jane Austen Fan, 269 Videos and Counting: An Examination of Jane Austen Fan Videos on YouTube at the Southern California Conference on Undergraduate Research this past fall. In the spring of her junior year, she completed a project entitled Embodying a Dirty Dancing Cinderella: The Celebration and Expansion of the Cinderella Myth through Wedding Dance Videos on YouTube examining wedding dance videos posted by couples, who mimic the iconic last dance in Dirty Dancing. This fall Madison will pursue honors for her senior comprehensives, completing both a short film and a thirty page paper focused on the Cinderella Myth in fan romance videos posted on YouTube.

Madison is living in Los Angeles for the summer. She worked as a development intern at Laura Ziskin Productions, housed at Sony Studios for two months before being accepted into the competitive Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Internship Program in Casting. Through this internship, Madison is working in both a commercial and theatrical casting office.

After graduation next May, Madison plans to take a year off of school to intern at various production companies before applying for a Marshall Fellowship and/or applying to grad schools to earn her MFA in Film Production. Madison plans on working as a producer in film and television. "The BHS Video Department is an amazing place to learn the skills to make quality productions. I am SO GLAD that my education in film production started at BHS. Anyone who gets to learn from Mr. Lawrence is extremely lucky!"


SARAH RICCI, Class of 2005

Sarah Ricci recognized her passion for filmmaking through Ballard High School's Media and TV Production classes. She was able to hone her production skills during an internship through Ballard High School’s Video Production Program at SCAN TV. This valuable experience led to a part-time position, and Sarah has been a Production Facilitator at SCAN since 2003. A few examples of Sarah’s accomplishments at SCAN are: developing and facilitating a summer internship program for Ballard High School students, creating PSA’s celebrating Black History Month, and working extensively with youth.

Sarah received her AA degree from Seattle Central Community College. During her time there she completed an internship at KCTS Channel 9, and assisted in producing a documentary in India. Sarah currently attends the University of Washington, studying Digital and Experimental Media. Her short films have screened at the Henry Art Gallery and The Grand Illusion. Over the summer Sarah worked on the MTV web series 5 Dollar Cover with Lynn Shelton, the director of Humpday.


GEORGE WESTBERG, Class of 2006

I was a late starter at Ballard High School’s Video Production Program, only discovering it during my junior year when I enrolled in the introductory Media Issues and TV Production class. While I was initially interested in acting, the creative atmosphere and hands-on experience in crafting short news pieces, PSAs, and eventually silent movies got me excited about working on the other side of the camera. We spent countless hours pouring over the storyboards, focusing on how to tell a very simple story with techniques we studied (and attempted to imitate) from Hitchcock, Wells, and many other legendary filmmakers that I had never heard of before.

After my first semester, Mr. Lawrence offered to transfer me into his Advanced Video Production class, where I really started to feel that this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. Surrounded by like-minded and very talented people, and afforded the luxury of creative freedom to pick and craft our own stories in the way that we wanted to, I started to hone my eye and began producing and directing a series of shorts: the music video We Are the Champions, the caffeinated-comedy The Buzz, the documentary Soccer Dads, and the drama Bittersweet. These played at a variety of festivals, and won several awards (Bittersweet won a regional student Emmy). After graduating in 2006, I went to film school at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

I have started my senior year, graduating next spring with an undergraduate degree in Film & TV. A vague title for a major, I admit, but my main focus is in directing and sound design. I’m currently working as a freelance sound designer and editor for several student short films and interning with a local music producer in New York to learn more.

Last summer, I got together with a few friends and recruited some current Ballard video students to work on my most ambitious project to date: the time-traveling comedy Time Keeps on Skippin', which was screened at this year's National Film Festival for Talented Youth and Seattle True Independent Film Festival.

I am nearing completion of my first 16mm Color-Sync short film, Kiss Me, I'm English, which I hope to have finished in the next few months. After that, I will start planning and pre-production on my Advanced Production for a senior thesis short film. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from my brief time in the Ballard Video Program is that you can never spend too much time planning and scheduling to ensure that you can realize the movie you really want to make.

Ballard’s Video Production Program really gave me the skills, the encouragement, the knowledge, and the passion to pursue filmmaking in college and, hopefully, for the rest of my life. These became a springboard to explore the history and criticism of filmmaking, and to study the pioneers of our modern moviemaking language, like Truffaut, Bergman, Huston, Wilder, and countless others, to see how films are made, and to apply that knowledge to make my own. And most importantly, it taught me how to work with others, collaborating and functioning as part of a team, funneling all our strengths into making the best work possible.

About Teacher Matt Lawrence

 Matt Lawrence earned his M.S. in educational television from the University of Wisconsin (where he was also a writer on the original staff of The Onion). He has won teaching awards and recognition from the Washington Association of Career & Technical Education, the Washington State PTA, ParentMap magazine, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and the National YoungArts Foundation. He was a founding member of the Media Educators Excellence Team (an inter-district consortium of high school media educators in the Puget Sound region) and in 2011 was selected by members to be its first president.

In 2001, he founded the Digital Filmmaking Program at Ballard High School, where he continues to teach.  His students have won numerous prizes at prestigious film festivals and awards from the National YoungArts Foundation as well as many High School Awards for Excellence in a variety of categories at the northwest and national Emmy Awards. In 2009 he was elected to the Board of Governors (Northwest Region) of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

His twenty years of professional experience in radio, television, and film, include writing, videography, lighting, animation, audio recording, directing, technical directing, editing, sound design and scoring. He has worked for corporate as well as non-profit clients on studio and film-style productions.  His work has been shown at film festivals, art exhibits, and on cable and broadcast television.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Unplugged, a short film by Ballard High School video production students Diana Federighi (’08), Kaelan Gilman (’10) & Del Brummet (’10), was recently named an Official Selection by the 11th Annual Seoul International Youth Film Festival. SIYFF is one of the largest and most prestigious youth film festivals in Asia. The event spans the week of July 9 – 15 and includes an international youth filmmaking camp.

The festival features films made by 13 – 18 year olds as well as films about children and teenagers made by adults. This year, 821 films were submitted from 44 different countries. Only 36 films were selected for the festival through a highly competitive process. For more information, just click on the headline to visit the festival website.

Unplugged is the story of a teen whose connection to music deepens after the loss of his iPod. The short had not originally been entered in SIYFF, but the festival committee saw the film on the Images of Youth Video Festival website and then contacted Ballard High School to request that the short be submitted. Unplugged had won awards for Special Recognition for Overall Excellence in Media and Peer Achievement from the Images of Youth Video Festival in 2008. (It can still be screened on that website under “past festival winners” at Unplugged was also named an Official Selection of the National Film Festival for Talented Youth this year.

Thursday, July 09, 2009


Three works by Ballard High School Video Production students were prize-winners at the Images of Youth 2009 Video Festival. Don’t Spill by Levi Friedman, Jacob Kutrakun & Ryan Zemke is a Public Service Announcement for the Puget Sound Blood Center. The short film You Got Served, by Emily Deering, Bryce Ellis & Jose Anguiano, deals with the fragile nature of friendship. Another short film, The Umbrella, by Parker Davis, Kaelan Gilman & Henry Shenk, is the story of a withdrawn boy who uses his umbrella to shield himself from social interaction.

Each short won two awards: Special Recognition for Overall Excellence in Media (selected by the IOY festival jurors), and a Peer Achievement Award (selected by a jury of youth). The Images of Youth Video Festival is a project of Action for Media Education, a Seattle-based non-profit organization. Just click on the headline to see all the winning videos online at the Images of Youth 2009 Film Festival website.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Seven productions by Ballard High School video students won honors at the regional Emmy Awards on Saturday, May 30. The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (the professional organization that judges the Emmy Awards) gives the National Student Television Awards to recognize the best in student television production. The regional awards celebrate the most outstanding productions from five northwest states: Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska. This makes the third year in a row that Ballard High School video production students have been winners at the event.

Levi Friedman, Jacob Kutrakun & Ryan Zemke won an Award of Excellence in the Craft Achievement category for Don’t Spill, a Public Service Announcement they produced for the Puget Sound Blood Center. In the Public Affairs category, Kaelan Gilman, Annalee Millar & Will Livesley-O’Neill won an Award of Excellence for Climbing for a Cure, a piece about a climb to the top of the Columbia Tower to raise money in the fight against leukemia.

Five Ballard High School productions received Honorable Mentions (the equivalent of Emmy Nominations). Honored in the Dramatic Presentation category were The Umbrella by Parker Davis, Kaelan Gilman & Henry Shenk; and You Got Served by Jose Anguiano, Emily Deering & Bryce Ellis. Left Side by Esther Magasis, Andy Tran & Ryan Zemke was honored in the Documentary category, and in the Public Affairs category Cops by John Barnes & Nicole Bowns was honored, as well as Seattle Needle Exchange by Coburn Erskine, Will Pierce & Ben Steiner.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Northwest High School Film Festival Honors BHS Producers

Students from the Ballard High School Video Production Program won 13 awards and honors at the 11th annual Northwest High School Film Festival at Shoreline Community College on May 19. This is the largest and longest running festival for high school filmmakers in the Puget Sound region. This year 275 productions were entered in the competition from 21 schools. The festival was judged by a panel of 23 industry professionals and college media professors. The event was organized by the Media Educators Excellence Team (MEET) and sponsored by Adobe, Canon, DigiPen, Shoreline Community College, and the Art Institute of Seattle.

BHS productions were honored in seven different categories, reflecting the diverse skills and talents of Ballard’s video students. All the winning productions will be shown on Friday, May 29 at The Showing, a screening of work by students in the BHS Video Production Program. The event begins at 7 p.m. in the BHS auditorium. There is a suggested donation of $5.00.

Ballard’s Northwest High School Film Festival winners:


Comedic Narrative
“The Ring”
Jeremy Eliassen, Dylan Miller

“Half Life Snacks”
Emily Deering, Levi Friedman, Kathryn Van Buren

Music Video
“You Live in Your Head”
Alex Papac, Isaac Sommers, Kathryn Van Buren

News Feature
“Climbing for a Cure”
Kaelan Gilman, Annalee Millar, Will Livesley-O’Neill

Public Service Announcement
David Marangwanda, Justin Taylor, Kathryn Van Buren

“Left Side”
Esther Magasis, Andy Tran, Ryan Zemke


“Seattle Needle Exchange”
Coburn Erskine, William Pierce, Ben Steiner

Dramatic Narrative
“Oragami Tomodachi”
Dana Baumgartner, Esther Magasis, Kritika Mani

“You Got Served”
Emily Deering, Bryce Ellis, Jose Anguiano

Music Video
“A Man has Needs”
Sean Hendricks, Jacob Kutrakun, Matthew Law-Phipps, Tyler Fleming

News Feature
“BHS Volleyball”
Emma Hutchison, Evan Philip, Taylor McGrew

Public Service Announcement
“What are YOU doing?”
Jeremy Eliassen, Suraiya Emdad, Taylor Rubright

“Rough Riders Lacrosse”
Megan Burkland, Mallory Cummins, Maddie Soukup

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ballard High School Filmmakers Win NFFTY Award

Left Side, a documentary about a professional skier and mountain biker who managed to stay competitive after the accident that cost him his left leg, won the prize for Best Documentary last night at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY). The documentary was produced by BHS video students Esther Magasis, Andy Tran & Ryan Zemke. NFFTY featured 113 films from 20 states and 8 different countries by filmmakers 22 and younger. Many of the festival works were produced by college students from such prestigious schools of film & television as USC, UCLA, and NYU, so there was no shortage of competition!

A jury of twenty-three professional filmmakers determined the award together. Left Side will be screened again at The Showing on Friday, May 29, at 7 pm in the Ballard High School auditorium. Admission is free, but there is a suggested donation of $5 for the Video Production Program.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ballard High School Filmmakers Score at International Festival

Three productions by Ballard High School video students have been named Official Selections of the Westport Youth Film Festival. These include the Public Service Announcement Don’t Spill by Levi Friedman, Jacob Kutrakun & Ryan Zemke, the documentary Left Side by Esther Magasis, Andy Tran & Ryan Zemke, and the drama The Umbrella by Parker Davis, Kaelan Gilman & Henry Shenk. The festival will take place at Town Hall and surrounding venues in Westport, Connecticut, on May 9th.

Westport is home to many New York film professionals, and the festival, in association with the Westport Arts Center, is designed to provide an outlet for young filmmakers to share their work in a professional environment and receive constructive criticism from a combination of peers and professionals. The festival screens “the best international and national high school and middle school films.” For more about WYFF, visit

Ballard High School students distinguished themselves by having work in three different areas of festival competition: PSA, Documentary, and Drama. All of these honored productions will be screened in the BHS auditorium at a showing of work by students in the BHS Video Production Program on Friday, May 29 at 7 p.m. There is a $5 suggested donation.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ballard High School Filmmakers Featured at National Festival

Five short films by students in the Ballard High School Video Production Program have been named Official Selections of the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY). The festival opens at the Seattle Cinerama Theater on Friday, April 24 and continues through Sunday at the Seattle Center. It features 113 films by young filmmakers from 20 states and 8 countries.

The honored Ballard films are Brotherly Love by Colin Colebrook, Devon Rensberger & Mohamed Kassim; Domestic Disturbance by Justin Amorratanasuchad, Lilah Horwitz & Colin Colebrook; Ladies in Armor by Sami Kubo, Diana Federighi & Audra McCafferty; Left Side by Esther Magasis, Andy Tran & Ryan Zemke; and Unplugged by Diana Federighi, Del Brummet & Kaelan Gilman. (Between them, these shorts have previously been honored by the Westport Youth Film Festival, the Young People’s Film & Video Festival, the Derek Freese High School Film & Video Festival, and the Images of Youth Video Festival.)

NFFTY itself is the brainchild of Ballard High School video alumnus Jesse Harris (’04). Harris made history in 2004 when Living Life, the feature film he had written and directed as a senior project, was purchased by FilmMates and given a theatrical release. (It opened in Seattle in April, 2005.) A growing list of sponsors and partners, such as Volvo and the socially conscious production company Take Part, have paved the way for this second annual event.

Jesse’s music video Alarm Bell City will be screened during the festival. Virgin America hired Jesse to produce the video for the band Apple War, the winner of VA’s “Battle of the Bands” competition. Other Ballard video alumni with work at NFFTY are George Westberg (’06) and Coburn Erskine (’08). Westberg’s short comedy Time Keeps on Skippin’ explores the darker side of punctuality, while Erskine’s A Short Film by Jesus Inc. is a cautionary tale of college roommates.

Last year Ballard High School video students won the Audience Choice Award for Best High School Filmmaker as well as the Jury Prize for Best Experimental Film (selected by a panel of industry professionals). However, like the Sundance Film Festival, NFFTY includes forums on filmmaking in addition to screenings and awards. “The Filmmaker as Dealmaker”, “The Social Value of Filmmaking” and “The Power of Music in Film” are several current examples. Admission to these forums is free of charge if you have a festival pass. For a complete schedule of events, show times, and ticket information, visit

Monday, January 19, 2009

Don't Miss "The Showing" on February 5

Everyone is invited to a screening of videos produced first semester by students in the Ballard High School Video Production Program. Due to the snow days, “The Showing” has been scheduled for Thursday, February 5 at 7 p.m. in the Ballard High School auditorium. Included will be news features, public service announcements, and short comedies and dramas. Admission is free, but there is a suggested $5.00 donation. Be sure to arrive early. Prior screenings have filled the auditorium and people have been turned away.