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.