MICHAEL KAUFMAN: How long have you been a student of mine, Jack?
JACK BRAITHWAITE: I’ve been in your class for four years.
So he’s got a lot of experience. Can you name a couple of projects you’ve worked on that have had, that have been viewed outside of the community?
Yeah, we did the MFG (Manufacturing) Day video, which I was a part of. We did the “Broadcasting in the Digital Age” which was a PBS piece. We did a documentary on Detroit which won in the MIPA. And we’ve done a couple other PBS pieces. I was there for the Sheriff Department video.
Let’s start with the Sheriff Department video. As you’ve been in the class for four years, what made that experience unique?
That experience was really cool because it brought a lot of stuff that normally we don’t have access to into our ability to use it and get shots that a lot of people don’t have access to. And I think that if we didn’t go here, through L’Anse Creuse, that it would not have been as accessible or as well-used.
Explain the process. What happened during the Sheriff video when we were shooting that night?
It started off with us planning the shots and stuff we wanted to get, and we went outside, the police department was there and we kind of talked it over with them. They started saying what they were gonna do and as they were saying that, the tow truck with the crashed car started showing up. It was a really cool experience because they put it on the ground, then we kind of went in groups and filmed each section so it was like the ambulance, the police station, and then the crashed car. We really worked with [the ambulance company] and the police station to get some cool shots that we wouldn’t have been able to get.
How did all this planning occur?
Mr. Kaufman contacted the police department and they ended up figuring out a way to get us to help them film some PSA’s and help us film some PSA’s. We came into the classroom that night, we all sat in a giant group. There was quite a few students from each class, and we talked about how to go about getting the shots that we wanted, the shots everyone else wanted, what would look the coolest so we’d all be able to use it, and really go in depth into all the cool shots and all the unique shots that not everyone would be able to get.
What were some really cool shots that you recall?
It’s hard to get people going into the back of a police car if someone you know isn’t a cop, so we were given that opportunity. We were also given the opportunity to put someone in a body bag or put them in the back of an ambulance, or get cop cars driving by at a decent speed, get a crash car that was already wrecked, because no one really wants to wreck their car for a video, so it’s really cool to have that ability.
Now that we finished them, what kind of an impact do you think this will have on the community? Who’s using them?
Hopefully the police department will use them throughout Macomb County and to stop drinking and driving, texting and driving, the different types of things that we [simulated]. So we made videos explaining or showing the impacts of texting and driving, drinking and driving, so that people would hopefully stop after seeing the videos.
Does your classroom experience extend to beyond the classroom?
Yes, the classroom experience really does because film has kind of become my life, it’s what I plan to do in my future. I plan to go to college for film, and it’s all because I took this class in my freshman year.
You also mentioned MFG Day. How long did it take to film all that?
MFG Day we did in a matter of five hours or so. We went there in the morning, got some interviews, filmed some b-roll, and we were back before school ended, so all in the matter of five hours or so that entire video was filmed.
We had two cameras going so it was roughly 8 hours of footage or so.
Oh, for sure. We had to condense it down to, what, three minutes?
Would you call that a difficult project or was it an easy project? How did it impact you as a student, what did you learn by doing that?
I think filming it was a really cool experience. The filming part was actually rather easy. The audio was a little rough because it was a little loud or things were just going quickly, so we had to adapt to what we wanted to do to get the right shots, the right audio, everything like that. I think the editing process, it took a while, because there were four people who all had different opinions on what it looked like. We all wanted it to win because we knew we had the footage, we knew we had the shots to win, we just had to get the right edit to make the right amount of sense.
So we win, and they [Mark Hackel and other Macomb County representatives] end up coming in. How do you feel that day?
That was really cool, I wasn’t expecting it. They came in, they brought in a giant check, they presented the school with the money from the winnings, they also presented us with $50 gift cards which was amazing. And it actually went straight towards film stuff for me so it was a cool experience and something I really appreciate.
Have you produced any videos that have been seen by the community?
Yeah, I’ve had a few videos that I’ve entered into MIPA and they’ve won here and there, they’ve gotten some acknowledgement. We did the “Broadcasting in the Digital Age,” which PBS saw and they seemed to like. We did an interview at the very beginning of last year, the first PBS interview of the year, and we ended up making it on their Twitter page and YouTube page.
Any other thoughts you have on how Pankow or this class has had an impact on your life and might have an impact on other people’s lives?
There’s no way I’d be where I am today without this class. I think it’s really taught me life lessons and video knowledge and hopefully it’ll help me in my future and that I wouldn’t have been able to do that without Pankow. The classes we take here are very good and they’re job-oriented, they're not your normal school classes where you have to read from a book. The teachers are all very good teachers, they did what you want to do, so they know. They’re not just here to teach you the knowledge out of the book.
Jack Braithwaite is a senior at L’Anse Creuse High School in Harrison Township.