Foundation project sparks filmmaking interest

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The Lutheran Foundation

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Maddie Nichols already had a busy summer planned – including part-time employment and lots of time with family – when she was contacted last June about making videos for The Lutheran Foundation.

“My first thought was, well, I already kind of have a job, I don’t know if I can take on another project,” she says.

The 2015 Concordia Lutheran High School graduate had just completed her freshman year at Butler University and was still trying to figure out her career path. “I was an undeclared major,” she says, “which drove me kind of nuts because I’m the kind of person who needs to know what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.”

Nichols was one of ten current or former Concordia students who were invited to participate last year in a summer program to produce a series of ten videos for The Lutheran Foundation’s 2016 Delegate Meeting. The project was supervised by the high school’s former media arts instructor.

Unlike the other students involved, Nichols hadn’t taken any video courses. She had limited experience — just one self-produced video — and was asked to be involved in part because she was a year older than the others and had more organizational and workplace experience than they did.

  Sami Masaki (left) and Maddie Nichols (right) with Martha Weber after viewing the finished video

Sami Masaki (left) and Maddie Nichols (right) with Martha Weber after viewing the finished video

Nichols and her friend Sami Masaki were assigned to create a video on Martha Weber, the recipient of that year’s Maxine Rippe Award for her volunteer service to Visiting Nurse and Hospice.

“We really tried to capture Martha’s story, what she did with hospice and how she became this person who was so giving of her time and energy,” says Nichols.

She and Masaki spent weeks planning and conducting interviews, shooting additional video and then editing it all together. They even visited Martha in her home to get footage of her there. “She’s a very sincere, kind-hearted woman and that’s what we wanted to show people,” says Nichols.

Over the course of the summer, Nichols got a crash course in the different technical aspects of video production like lighting, sound, and editing. “I didn’t realize how much work it actually takes to put together something really nice,” she says.

In addition to Masaki, Nichols says she also picked up things from the other students involved with the project.

“It brought in a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds, a lot of different interests,” says Nichols. “To just pick these people’s brains and see how their creative process worked versus mine, I learned a lot and was able to expand on their different ideas.”

  Nichols and the other participating students after their videos were screened at the Cinema Center

Nichols and the other participating students after their videos were screened at the Cinema Center

Students who participated in the project at a private screening of the finished videos in September. That collaborative spirit and the fun she was having led Nichols to realize that creating videos might be more than just a summer project for her.

“The more days I spent working with people and making our video, it became more clear to me that this really is what I want to do for a living,” she says.

Her feeling was affirmed in September, when she and Masaki showed the finished video to Martha at a private screening at the Cinema Center in downtown Fort Wayne, where it screened along with the other nine videos from the project.

“Watching Martha watch the video and see just how much she means to us and this community, the feeling I got from that just confirmed that this is what I want to do with my life,” Nichols says.

When she went back to school that fall, Nichols declared her major as digital media production and started looking for opportunities to continue to make videos outside of class. This summer, she was hired to shoot a wedding, a promotional video for a local church, and a video for a Lutheran Life Villages event happening later this year. She also made a short video about a mission trip she went on in May.

Later this month, she’s visiting Los Angeles to start looking at graduate filmmaking programs there.

“It’s such a relief to know what I want to do and how to get to where I want to go, which is grad school and is a career in LA,” says Nichols. “I don’t know if that would have happened without The Lutheran Foundation project last year. I’m just so grateful for that opportunity and everything that has come from it.”