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HKHS: Students Win Best Film Documentary Award About Valley Railroad

By Annemarie LePard.

I have always wanted to leave my legacy at H-K; I never thought this is how I would do it.

We arrived at Haddam Killingworth High School on March 14th, 2018 a snowy Wednesday morning, ready to depart for La Guardia airport at 7:00 a.m. H-K Communications teacher, Chuck Lewis, 31 students, and three other chaperones were traveling to the Student Television Network film competition hosted in Nashville, Tenn.; soon we piled into a school bus with two carry-ons on the way to a competition we had been looking forward to all year. 

We touched down in Nashville between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m, and then we took a shuttle to our hotel, the grand Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. It was as if we stepped into an alternate universe. The resort was filled with extravagant plant life and Paris-esque architecture. After indulging ourselves into our new surroundings, it was high-competition mode.

The Student Television Network, also known as STN, is a national film competition. Hosted in Nashville, Tenn., over 3,000 students were present and competing at the convention as digital storytellers. This year’s theme was “Feel the Rhythm” which was implemented into all of the competitions that spanned a total of three days.

We awoke early Thursday morning to prepare for our Crazy 8 competitions. The Crazy 8’s are, in total, an eight hour competition. Within that time, we must plan accordingly to our given prompt, shoot footage, and edit. The Crazy 8’s are the largest of the competitions. H-K selected to participate in the Short Film Documentary category and the Broadcast News Show.

In brief, the Short Film Documentary group did not have any clue as to who or what direction they would be pursing until roughly an hour before the competition started; however, it all worked out. In the end, a group of select students traveled into downtown Nashville to meet up with a local artist who contributes his time and creativity to the Nashville Walls Project. The end product was not perfect, due to the time restraint, but it labeled Nashville as something other than just the music capital of the world, ultimately, placing fourth in the entire competition as an Honorable Mention.

The Broadcast News Show group was prepared; however, one of their stories failed to make the final cut because of timing. On the other hand, they were able to meet Johnny Cash’s sister and land an interview with her!

Following Crazy 8’s, the next two days, Friday and Saturday, students were participating in smaller competitions. For instance, H-K selected: Silent Film, Movie Trailer, Music Video, Short Film, and Convention Recap.

One of the most memorable moments of the trip for me took place Friday night. That evening, the excellence awards were being recognized in a ceremony, similar to the Oscars. Mr. Lewis had submitted Jessica Santoro and my documentary from the beginning of the year into this national competition. The documentary is about the local tracks in town which are a part of the Valley Railroad; they are being repaired and extended. The documentary showcased the laborious task, completed all by volunteers, as they revitalized the tracks. We also highlighted key points in the history of the Valley Railroad. Mr. Lewis suggested that we capture people’s emotions who ride the train, and he was definitely right, because the visuals of the train ride and the passengers’ emotions are what drives the story towards entertainment. It clearly shows that a simple train ride can unite a community.

We arrived to the event in a crowd of people who were exceptionally hyped to be there. We sat ourselves in the back corner and watched all of the winners with our mouths dropped to the floor in awe. We were dumbfounded at the work students were producing at this age. It would seem unlikely for us to walk out winners. By the time 9:30 p.m. rolled around, we were dragging. Jess had decided to leave, but I stayed. Shortly after her departure, the Best Film Documentary category was announced. Silently with minimal expectation, I sat in the back while they read the name of the school. Much to my surprise, the words that left their mouths were “Haddam Killingworth High School.” I awkwardly walked up to the stage, which was practically a mile away, and waited for our award. I stepped on that stage and gave the biggest smile I ever have.

Walking back to our rooms, I was in shock. We, meaning the other students and me who attended the awards, were greeted in the hall by the rest of our classmates and Mr. Lewis. Congratulatory statements radiated up and down the hallway and they did not end there. Jess and I were so happy!

This award was extremely special because it was the first piece Mr. Lewis has ever submitted into a national competition and it is also the biggest award H-KTV has ever won. I did not realize the impact of the award until we had arrived back home. Mr. Lewis is the epitome of Communications. As a senior, I have visited a lot of colleges and sat in on several broadcast journalism and news writing classes, and the curriculum they are teaching to upperclassmen is information I already know from Mr. Keck (Journalism teacher at HKHS) and Mr. Lewis.

It was an honor to attend STN. The competition and passion that strives from within explodes when surrounded by others who are just as dedicated to video production. STN has allowed us to learn and gain new experiences. It has allowed us to find ourselves in a world where everyone wants to do some good. I have decided to go to Hofstra University and major in journalism. As for Jess, she will be majoring in game design at Becker College.

The documentary can be viewed HERE.



One Response to HKHS: Students Win Best Film Documentary Award About Valley Railroad

  1. C. Stewart Gillmor

    April 14, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    Terrific job on the video. A very professional production. It should be widely viewed.