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Creative Advantage talks to Ballard HS Video Production Program – Part 1

 Exploring Arts Education Deeper: Ballard HS Video Production Program

Incredible learning is taking place in the Ballard High School Video Production Program, and we recently got the chance to speak over phone with some of the students in the program. The award-winning program, which started in 2001, has given opportunities to the students involved to show their work at film festivals and conferences, and regularly gain admission into competitive, prestigious colleges. To learn more, check out their blog.

Meet three students who love that they can take video production classes and foster their creative minds during school hours. Two of the students chose Ballard High School specifically for this program.

Do you believe that arts learning opportunities are important?  Why or why not?

SThe director and talent consider the set up, Stephanie Shaotudent 1: I think it’s true of a lot of different arts classes in that they really show students a lot of different sides of the arts they wouldn’t necessarily have seen if they were just going by themselves.  And it’s good to take professionals and people who are in the industry, and show what it’s like on the other side of school.  And I think art classes are really important to get youth involved in art in general, and a way to discover new things that you might have known you enjoy.

Student 2: Communication is required in all of our social lives, and especially in a business like this we need to know how to communicate well with others.  And this is what we get out of it – that we’re able to pursue later on in life and use on a day to day basis.

Are you able to use skills learned in the VPP in other classes or areas of your life?

Student 3: We do a lot of work with storytelling, and Matt (Matt Lawrence, program instructor) always tells us to keep a journal of what we see, what we think or dreams you have anything you find interesting.  And I’ve started doing that.  Even if I don’t use it for a film I’m making, it kind of makes me pay more attention to little things in my life that might seem subtle, but can still be made into an interesting idea.

Student 2: Because of Matt, I have an internship. We recently did a shoot, and I was on top of everything that we had to do.There’s camera work, and running the prompter.  And even though we don’t do that here, it’s still… I know how the set runs.  I could just jump into any role that they needed me to. And I was comfortable with that, and able to perform well in an industry setting.

Describe what it’s like to be in the VPP.  What do you get out of it?  Why do you participate?

Student 1: The program is very student-driven.  And, it’s up to the students what they’re going to get out of class.  The kids that really put a lot into their projects, and invest a lot of their time and energy , and just their being into making the project what they want it to be – it’s those kids that are going to get the most out of the class.  So, I think that’s really cool because it just shows you that video production is about you wanting to make videos, not because you’re going to get a good grade on a video.


Also, a huge congratulations to Lucy Harstrick, a student in the Video Production Program, who just won a Merit Award in Cinematic Arts in recognition of the “exceptional artistic achievement” evident in her work! Her production was selected for honors from more than 11,000 submissions nationwide through a blind adjudication process by a nationally and internationally renowned panel of judges, master teachers, and artists.


This program is making waves, but it’s only a few high schools in our city offer similar courses.

What if every high school in Seattle Public Schools offered robust arts and technical programs? 

We envision a Seattle where programs like this are available in all Seattle Public High schools.

BHS filmmakers visit the Los Angeles Film School, Matt LawrenceStudents in the Seattle Public High School (SPS) said that they wanted more opportunities to make connections between arts and careers.  We want to promote these opportunities, as they reflect student interests, engage community resources, build tangible skills, and promote creative and critical thinking.

While some high schools already have strong programs similar to Ballard’s Video Production Program, such as Theater Technology at Roosevelt High School and Video Production at Ballard High School, under the current neighborhood Student Assignment Plan these programs are available only to students enrolled in those schools.

However, efforts to support better alignment of arts and technical education opportunities within the District are already happening.  For example, SPS is working to develop Media Arts Skills Centers. These would be accessible to junior and senior students, and they would be a space to pursue arts-related careers that include the following industries — Music Production and Distribution, Theater Technology, Film and Video Production, Graphic Design, and Digital Animation and Game Design.  Also, students are now able to take a continuum of classes in fine arts while receiving instruction in career related content, while meeting their graduation requirements. This is thanks to SPS Visual and Performing Arts Department, which created a cross-credit process for Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programs and Fine Arts, allowing for continued instruction for career related content in high schools.

Career arts related programs should be available in every high school and accessible to all SPS students – a belief that The Creative Advantage is working towards making a reality.

In part 2, we’ll be featuring Matt Lawrence, the teacher of these students, and the 12 year head of Ballard High School’s Video Production Program.

Photos provided by Matt Lawrence