The Zenith project is a chance for seniors to take what they’ve learned at Freestyle and apply it to a self-designed project they feel passionate about. It is supposed to be our “highest point of success” at Freestyle, hence the term “zenith.” Ideally, this project will look the most polished out of each students’ productions.
My Zenith project is a documentary film about a group of boys exploring the nature within the Silicon Valley. The boys hope to spread the spirit of adventure through use of their Instagram account, in which they provide reviews of each place they visit. Their story is one of self-starters, and each of their personalities show an adventurous side that, with a little inspiration, we are all capable of. This particular project is a passion for me because I hope to pursue documentary filmmaking in college, and am particularly excited to explore the adventure/sports aspect of the field. Along with exploring, they boys participate in rock climbing, bouldering, and extreme hammock-ing. They dabble in mountain biking, but their main outdoor sport is trying anything that looks like an adventure.
This project is a challenge for me because it is going to require a lot of on the spot planning. At the start of this project, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself into. I knew what my goals with the idea were, but knew I wouldn’t have a specific plan on how to get there until I just went outside and filmed with them. I’m constantly going to have be in the mindset of a documentary filmmaker, and though I will of course do as much planning in advance as I can, I know for a fact that the project will constantly be evolving until the end. The spirit of adventure is unpredictability.
I will incorporate my production class skills by recalling what I learned during the documentary unit, and even aspects of the narrative unit. In my opinion, a documentary is just a real life narrative, strategically revealing aspects of a persons character.
I chose the idea for this project after being inspired by adventure films such as The Art of Flight and Free Solo. I wanted to create a film that would allow me to film outdoors as well as adventure sports. For a couple month project, I knew it’d be difficult to emulate exactly the kinds of rock climbing and ski trips the subjects of these films go on. After coming across a group of teenagers that found community in scouting out new adventure spots, I felt I had found the perfect way to create a locally based film that would allow me to get a taste of the adventure/sports documentary world.
My original research paper explored Waldorf vs. Montessori schools. I felt that these two methods of education were overlooked and misunderstood, and I learned that there are very valuable elements in each form of learning. I enjoyed how Waldorf schools understood the importance of educating the whole spirit of a child through a more experiential process, and how Montessori schools were very student driven, allowing kids to deeply explore topics they are interested in. I find that often times in the Silicon Valley, true learning is less important than getting a good grade. My Zenith project clearly didn’t follow this subject matter exactly, however there are elements of my research paper that gave my film some direction. Because of my research, I knew I had an interest in learning things by experience rather than sitting in a classroom. I also knew I wanted to focus on the motivation and drive within the group of adventurers, much like the self learning that can be found in Montessori schools.
I collaborated with my subjects, however I wanted to complete this project on my own. I find there is less pressure when it’s just me and my subjects, and until I learn how to delegate better, I think individual projects work best for me.
If I could do the project over, I would create more artistic compositions with my shots. In the beginning I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of documentary I wanted to make, so I have a big variety of kinds of shots, much of which I didn’t use. If I could visualize my project earlier on, I think my compositions would have fit the film better.
I think I improved upon self direction the most, as this film was personally driven. I think technological literacy was where I improved the least, because I used methods of filming and editing that were not new to me.
My greatest learning experience in this was how to manage my time and think ahead. After filming, I had a hard time finding the motivation to edit. This was because I had scheduled all my film dates, however didn’t think ahead to the editing process as much. This was an important learning experience for me, and in the future I’ll better plan all aspects of my projects.
I definitely ignited my passion for documentaries through this project. I truly love the process of getting to know my subjects, and I am excited to learn how to better translate the information I learn into film. I learned a lot, but am excited to elevate my skills further.
I would like my readers/listeners to reflect on their own experiences and hopefully take away the importance of getting outside and exploring.