On Sunday, an interview with Caledonia student Madison Richards will air on C-SPAN (Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network). She’ll be talking about the documentary film, “Have Gun—Will Carry” that she created with her partner, Samantha Noll of Sturtevant. The film garnered a a high school second-prize win in C-SPAN’s 2011 StudentCam competition.
Trouble is, the girls won’t be around to see the interview broadcast—and besides, that documentary is already so last year. Richards and Noll have moved on to their next project, parts of which they are filming in Kenya this week.
Richards and Noll are no strangers to creating prize-winning documentaries. While students at McKinley Middle School, the girls joined an extracurricular team to teach students about documentary filmmaking, led by former teacher Larry Jozwick. Their first effort, in 2009, “Down to the last DROP,” about water sustainability, took first prize in the middle school division. In 2010, “I’ve Got the Power,” about nuclear power, won C-SPAN’s grand prize for both middle and high schools. A public service announcement the girls created took top honors in Time Warner Cable’s Hang Tough competition.
Their current project returns to the subject of water. A nonprofit environmental education group, The Keystone Center, selected the girls to produce a film about how water filtration and chemical treatment systems are being used in areas where a shortage of clean drinking water is a public health issue.
“The film we did at McKinley was more focused on the United States,” Richards explained. “This one becomes much more global—going into remote villages to see how different it really is.”
In addition to Kenya, the girls will travel to the Dominican Republic in late summer to film facilities where filtration systems are manufactured. When completed, The Keystone Center will distribute the documentary and an accompanying curriculum for use by educators. The project is being underwritten by the Dow Chemical Company.
Working together on these projects has gotten a bit more challenging now that both girls are freshmen, attending different high schools: Noll is at Case and Richards is at Horlick. When the most recent C-SPAN awards were announced, Richards was told by the school—but Noll didn’t find out until Richards sent her a text message. It was hard for her to contain her excitement in class.
“Most people don’t know that I do this stuff,” said Noll. Even the trip to Africa gets misconstrued. “People don’t understand that it’s not a vacation, that we’re making a documentary film.”
The team researches the subject matter, plans storyboards and interview questions, shoots the material, writes the script and, finally, edits the production. They share the duties, although Richards usually does most of the camerawork and Noll provides the voice-over narration. A third member is being added to the team for this project, Madison’s younger sister, Sinclair, who has accompanied them in the past and is also part of the documentary team at McKinley.
Working on documentaries is impacting both girls’ plans for the future. Richards is already determined to attend the prestigious University of Southern California film school. Noll would like to find a way to pursue studies in communications and science.
“The fun part about this is that each project is so different and so interesting,” said Richards.
“I’ve learned so much about getting out of my comfort zone, going up and talking to people I don’t know,” Noll said. Determination is another important lesson. “If you persevere, you can get what you want.”
You can watch the girls’ 2011 C-SPAN project, an 8-minute documentary on the issue of open carry here: http://studentcam.viddler.com/videos/watch.php?id=26ca12b3
The girls have also created their own film company, MaS Productions: www.wix.com/mas_productions/doc