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Oklahoma film students win awards for short documentary work

March 19, 2018

JENKS, Okla. (AP) — Jenks High School student Jackson Cropper saw something he had never seen before, but it had a little more meaning than it might have before he made a new prize-winning documentary.

He was walking to a friend’s house and a man driving a minivan rolled by.

“He threw a newspaper out, and I was like, ‘That’s such a foreign concept. I’ve never seen that before. Like an actual paperboy. It’s 2018.’”

“Yeah, like it’s something you only see in the movies,” added Jonathan Godfrey, his partner in making “Pressed,” a documentary about freedom of the press that is one of several Jenks High School documentaries recently recognized by C-SPAN.

Their documentary won a second-place $1,500 prize but was named to the Top 12 of the 2,985 entries nationwide in the contest, according to their teacher, Clinton Raphael. The video will air on C-SPAN at 5:50 a.m. and throughout the day on April 15, the Tulsa World reported.

They were not alone. In total the class pulled in $6,500 in prizes in C-SPAN’s annual contest, which challenges students with a different theme each year. This year the contest called them to address “The Constitution & You: Choose a provision of the U.S. Constitution and create a video illustrating why it’s important to you.”

Other second-place winners in the Clifton Raphael’s film class were Matthew Murrie, for his video, “Refugee of Spirit” about religious freedom and the First Amendment and Joshua Romer for his video “First for a Reason” about the First Amendment. Murrie won $1,500 and his video will air on C-SPAN on April 7. Romer also won $1,500 and his video will air on April 3.

Other winners include Ashton Holland, $750 third prize for “Patenting The Human Genome,” about the constitutionality of patenting human genes; Madeleine Dorst, $750 third prize for “Church Perks: A Taxing Issue,” about church tax exemptions and the Establishment Clause; Charlotte Suttee, $250 honorable mention for “All is Fair in Love and Hate,” about free speech and hate speech, and Simone Rosa and Jacob Olsen, $250 honorable mention for “Worth the Challenge,” about gun control and the Second Amendment.

Winning has become a habit for Raphael’s film classes with several first place awards and multiple winners in the C-SPAN contest. His students won three of the four $1,500 second-place awards in the central region this year. Forty-two Oklahoma schools entered, and only Jenks and Edmond Memorial High, which had one third-place and one honorable mention, placed.

“For this class, I think it’s the emphasis on storytelling,” he said. “Even though the contest is largely informational, we try to tell an interesting story with that information, with the proper information, in the correct order, and with a good flow.”

Thanks to Jenks administration, the class enjoys some freedom to pursue documentary filmmaking while many other schools are limited to “broadcast media,” which often involves students reading morning announcements for a video monitor, he said.

Students opened up about long hours spent and praised their teacher. Raphael helped with after-school editing sessions on at least seven days, worked with the students on two Saturdays, two Sundays and when schools were closed on Martin Luther King Day, they said.

Simone Rosa said that producing a video was something she could not have imagined, but somehow it all came together.

“He’s very honest,” she said of Raphael. “He doesn’t sugar coat it, but he’s nice about it and he’s honest. There is so much you learn. You really develop communication skills in the whole process. You go out there and you’re awkward the first time but you learn a lot and each time you do it you get better. You learn how to edit, how to operate a camera. It’s a lot that you learn that you don’t expect going in.”

Cropper and Godfrey found a surprise or two as they pursued “Pressed,” which included a tour of the Tulsa World as well as an exploration of the internet, social media and “fake news.”

They said they were most amazed by the story of right-wing shock jock Elmer T. Williams and how he raced ahead of media by grabbing inflammatory tidbits — often false — and capitalized on being first out on the online video channel. YouTube eventually pulled the plug on him.

“But he had hundreds of thousands of followers that actually supported him,” Godfrey said.

Knowing how much traditional newspaper and television news has changed the past 20 years, the boys said they could not imagine what “the press” will be 20 years from now but noted they think the physical newspaper delivered to homes will be a thing of the past.

“There will still be organized news outlets, but it will be delivered in a different way,” Godfrey said.

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Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com

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