Hollywood Reaches ECHOs

The return from winter break marks the beginning of many things. It marks the start the final stretch of the school year, denotes the start of the second semester, and signals the return of ECHO classes. For the second year in a row, an innovative new ECHO is being offered: Hollywood Comes to Hudson, led by Caitlyn Fritz.

The entertainment industry in Hollywood is a complex beast to understand. It can be daunting for people who wish to explore a future career in it to understand how to approach it. Fortunately, this ECHO serves to shed light on various facets of the Hollywood business. From learning about production, set design, and writing scripts, students gain insight into how TV shows and movies get made.

For the first Friday night, a group of students gathered on the second floor of Metcalf to meet with Reserve Alumni in the industry. We met with people like Jamie Thalman and Ted Humphry.

Ted Humphry is a writer, creator, showrunner, and executive producer of TV shows like “Wisdom of the Crowd,” “The Good Wife,” and “Incorporated” on CBS and Syfy. He talked to the class about the difficulties of writing and pitching tv shows to producers and TV networks. He also previewed and showed exclusive clips that illustrated the creative and filming process of TV shows. The videos helped the students better understand how post-production and special effects help polish and finish the show to its final product. It was particularly exciting to view before and after clips of certain scenes from his Syfy show “Incorporated”. A lot of the students were left absolutely amazed and enthralled by the amount of work and certain “magic” that goes into a TV show. Although the show ended up getting cancelled after one season, it was still a great opportunity for the kids to get a behind the scenes view of how the sets worked.

The Echo also got the chance to explore some of the work done by Jamie Thalman. He is a young director and producer in Hollywood that makes documentaries and short films. He talked the class about organizing shoots, casting, and production management. The class also got to watch a couple of his original works, including a short film called “Sabrina”. This allowed the students to take a closer look at the Hollywood life of someone who is relatively new at what they do

The homework for this class is as equally exciting as what is taught. The first assignment was to create a pitch for an hour-long drama TV show. It was supposed to be in the same format that many popular TV shows were first pitched with. The students had to come up with original characters, plots, story arcs, how it would continue into multiple seasons, and its marketability. There were many exciting pitches that were turned in by the students, which demonstrated their time and commitment to the ECHO.

This ECHO is truly an inspirational experience for anyone who is even considering going into the filming industry. Meeting with true professionals in their fields is a rare experience, especially professionals who have had substantial success. And that’s why kids you should think about signing up for this ECHO next year!

Students at Western Reserve Academy will now have more opportunities than ever to showcase their talents, now to an audience outside these fair halls amid a lawn’s wide sweep.

Recently, the External Opportunities for Student Distinction List was released by English Department member Samuel Douglas Ray and WRA administration. The list, which includes categories for all major subjects and more, provides students with a cumulative, but not exhaustive, directory of ways students can grow in their learning and distinguish themselves from their peers around the nation and the world.

This list includes the National Merit Scholarship Program and the Google Science Fair. Ray referred to such programs as “varsity academics.” He believes such opportunities provide ways to help students “refine their narratives, create a competitive edge, and stand out amongst a crowd of others.” He thinks it is important for students to showcase their potential outside of the WRA bubble because the world is larger than WRA. “Education is about growth,” he postulates, “and pursuing an articulated passion catalyzes growth.”

Charlie Kolodziej ’18 is one recent WRA success story through the Facing History and Ourselves Essay Contest. It may surprise you to learn that he did not even plan on turning in an essay until he got an email from, who else, Ray. Kolodziej spent three days over spring break writing and editing the essay, and once he found out he was in the top 15, all he was focused on was getting out the votes. “I wrote so many messages to people on Facebook saying ‘Yo, read my essay!’ that my account actually shut me out of the messaging feature because it thought I was a bot,” he laughed. “I got the news that I won while doing homework in Open Door and it took a lot of self-control not to run around the shop in my excitement.” Kolodziej went on to say that winning the contest was a “confidence booster” and provided the validation he needed to see that writing was something he was good at. He also greatly appreciated the support shown to him by the WRA community and those outside it. “So many people, many complete strangers, contacted me to tell me my essay had a real impact on their lives of how they see the world and that, (not to sound too cheesy), was even better than actually winning the contest.”

Ray wants students to realize that writing and other schoolwork has greater value than a grade. When in 10th grade, his English teacher told him to “write as if for publication – always. Contribute to the scholarly community beyond yourself and me.” It changed his conception of an audience.

If students are interested, Ray encourages them to sit down and have a conversation with him. “There’s really no risk here,” he says, “and there’s much to be gained in terms of self-knowledge, personal growth, and potential success in a field of interest.”

Thanks to Samuel Douglas Ray, WRA students have even more opportunities to succeed and improve themselves.

– Manas Srinivasalah ’18

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