Lights, camera action for local high school students

Submitted photo Spartan TV’s Mallory Thompson, from left, Lily Rickett, Scott Legge, Juliet Bartlett and Madison Gowan are pictured at the Atlantic International Film Festival.

ST. STEPHEN – Spartan TV has been giving students an opportunity for the past three years to be involved in film and television production from action to cut.

Scott Legge, a teacher at St. Stephen High School (SSHS), has been running the program. He created a similar program at the local middle school before transferring to SSHS and the program at the high school is even bigger.

Students learn about film and television production from start to finish. They work both in front of and behind the camera, even getting hands-on experience in the editing bay. The group currently has about 12 students involved. Smaller groups of two or three will travel to cover different events throughout the Maritimes and beyond. One group went to the Fin Film Festival in Halifax, while another is covering the Our Amazing Place Southwest New Brunswick on Nov. 5. Another group will go to Newfoundland in late October to cover Music Celebration Week.

Students Madison (Maddie) Gowan and Lily Rickett were part of the crew that went to Halifax for the Fin Film Festival.

“I got involved because Maddie told me about it. I saw how much fun she was having and how much she was learning and thought it would be good to give it a try,” said Lily.

“I got involved with Spartan TV because Mr. Legge kind of voluntold me and one of our grads Ian Curran (former Spartan TV crew member) encouraged me to do it,” related Maddie.

While students get experience on both sides of the camera, both Maddie and Lily said they prefer to be behind the camera. Lily noted, however, she’s trying to get more comfortable being on camera and memorizing lines.

Maddie has a desire to carry the experience she gains with Spartan TV to her post-secondary schooling, saying she wants to study journalism and that, aspirationally, getting involved in filmmaking is something she’s interested in.

When asked about the skills they’ve developed being part of the Spartan TV program, neither spoke about technical skills. Rather, both noted the program has helped them become more comfortable speaking with people, especially those in a professional role. Maddie went on to say that problem-solving skills are something she has learned and developed in the program. Both said the program has helped push them out of their comfort zones.

Both girls had a prior interest in cameras, photography and filmmaking, and appreciate the deeper knowledge they’ve gained through the program.

When it comes to the editing process, the camera crew does part of the work sequencing their clips in an editing timeline, then they turn the rest of the work over to dedicated editors who do the finishing work of colour correction, audio editing, creating scene transitions, and inserting text and captions. Those responsibilities fall to Devon Strong, who worked by himself until recently when Zoe Weeks was brought on to assist and carry some of the workload.

The trips the teams go on give the students deep insight into the industry and allow them to meet other industry professionals. They even get invited to restricted director’s panels and other insider events.

Balancing school work with the time spent away is difficult but it’s a sacrifice the students make because they love the program. They’ll try to work ahead if they can before a trip and are able to use scheduled personal interest time to catch up when they return from an assignment. Maddie likened it to sports teams that have to balance practices, games and travel with school work.

“It is a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding,” said Lily.

When the program began, it was mostly senior and Grade 11 students. As the second group of students has come into the team, Legge has tried to have more Grade 10 students for greater continuity over time and, for the first time, has a couple Grade 9 students as part of the program this year. The group also includes international students. The size of the group is determined, in part, by minding the class schedules and ensuring students have enough time between major events to be able to keep up with school work. Legge said that there are opportunities for students to keep up with class work through online classes in some cases.

Having had to move to online classrooms during COVID and that being incorporated into regular school now post-COVID has helped the students be able to keep their school work up to date.

The group has arrangements with several groups to help defray costs. Tourism NB helps with hotels and travel for events within New Brunswick. Brilliant Labs is another big sponsor. Brilliant Labs is an experiential-based learning platform that concentrates in coding and digital skills. They have an arrangement with Adobe for a reduction in the cost of the entire suite of Adobe creative products. They also have production contracts with several groups for which they are paid.

Legge noted that his program is the only one like it in Canada. Spartan TV was the first film crew from a high school at the Fin Film Fest. He would love to see similar programs initiated at other schools in the Atlantic region.

“We want our kids participating in sports at the national level. What’s any different about the arts,” said Legge.