Noah Hudson Peralta
MICHAEL KAUFMAN: Talk about how the video class at Pankow has had an influence on your work, what you’re thinking of doing, and on the community in general.
NOAH HUDSON PERALTA: I think Pankow in general really changed my life, from what I thought I was gonna be doing to what I see my future as now. Before sophomore year when I took this class I always loved dealing with cameras and doing other things, but coming to Pankow and taking the video class really brought a new creative way of seeing things. It’s really cool for me to make a visual story, it’s way easier for me to do that also, and I think that’s one reason why I succeed a lot better than I do in other core classes.
SHANE VERKEST: I think it’s safe to say for me and a lot of other people, we wouldn’t be where we are right now without this program, and I mean that wholeheartedly. It has seriously shaped who I am, what I wanted to do and the path that I went on, because of the opportunities that the class has given me. Before Pankow, I was just some guy that liked to make goofy videos, but four years in I’ve interviewed blind Supreme Court Justices, I’ve been able to go down to Washington, I’ve gone to video contests and I’ve seen the professional side of the industry, even dipped my toes in a little bit, and it’s really that experience and that opportunity that the program has given me that really makes me want to pursue this as a career.
NHP: Through Pankow we get not just within the class but outside. I’ve done internships with Quicken Loans down in Detroit, or other companies, and now I’m doing music videos for artists and doing other things outside of school but without taking this Pankow class I would probably never be doing that.
SV: The whole point of video is getting out there and filming. That’s it. And I think that for a lot of other classes where the curriculum is meant to be inside the classroom, video has the advantage of sending kids out and just kind of seeing the world and the community.
Noah, talk about your video and experience with PBS.
NHP: I’ll start from the beginning. It was my first year in this class. I was in the TV Broadcast Media class [first year program], which the students don’t really get to touch the PBS work unless they’re really skilled with it. Fortunately I was pretty skilled with my work, so Mr. Kaufman asked if I wanted to do this piece for PBS and I thought it was a great idea, I loved the idea. So the story was people living with disabilities in America. I was fortunate to have someone close to me to interview which is my dad, and through that documentary I got to interview Dan Gilbert, he’s a multi-billionaire, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Quicken Loans and a bunch of businesses downtown.
So now you’ve made this video, it gets uploaded, did you get a chance to watch it live? What kind of feedback have you gotten from the video being on PBS?
NHP: So once the video was published, about a few weeks later I got a message from Mr. Kaufman saying, ‘hey, PBS just contacted me, your film’s going to be up at 5:55 PM on PBS NewsHour.’
This was like a game-changer for me. My video that I took to heart, worked on for months, is now gonna be on national TV where thousands or millions of people are gonna see it. Not only the people closest to me are gonna see this video and my story, but people all around the world.
And after that video, people outside of the country have messaged me and my father about the video, and now that video’s actually getting played [inter]nationally throughout the world in different languages through PBS, which is pretty cool.
Both of you were sophomores when you started doing the PBS pieces, which is really kind of crazy.
SV: I’m glad we got to start that young because we almost got a head start. Like three more years to just kind of develop and work with them and it turned out to be really great overall.
Shane, talk a little bit about the process you went through to create your pieces for PBS.
So the first PBS piece I did in my sophomore year, I helped on a larger team of people to interview Justice Bernstein, who was the blind Supreme Court Justice. He’s a great guy, it was an amazing experience, but I remember being with two other older students and Mr. Kaufman driving in a van, we drove an hour, holding the tripod and I was standing back while they were filming. And I was just kind of taking it in, I was trying to learn, and when it came down to the editing process, I was actually able to edit the video which was really cool because I got to put my little fingerprint on that project. And so by the next year, when they gave us the pitch, I realized that I had my own sort of concept of my own thing I could do. I think it was on new media, and I actually work for an online media company. So I was able to interview them and through this class I was able to get connections to Channel 4, which is the local news station and I was able to interview down there.
All of a sudden I wasn’t just holding the tripod anymore, I was down in Detroit filming myself and mic’ing them myself and editing myself and I really learned a lot from that experience.
I think that it all came to a head that summer when I was lucky enough to go to the PBS camp in Washington, and there I worked with other kids from around the country, so it was on a larger scale. And we interviewed the US Navy Band. I got to go to one of their concerts, I got to interview them, we went down to their base, which was really cool because we got special clearance. I think at the end of the day, video is something that gives you a collaborative experience and it gives you experiences in general. I have so many stories from the places I’ve been able to go and the things I’ve been able to do because I do video and I was filming it. And I think that’s what at the end of the day this class is really giving us and that’s what I love about it the most.
We had a ton of fun on the first shoot you were on, the Bernstein piece. Talk about the process that we went through once we hit a massive snag in editing. We had seniors editing and we were going back and forth. Do you remember what ended up happening?
SV: So the way PBS has their pieces produced is very technical, and I think that in a lot of ways is great and there’s a lot of strengths to that, but there’s some setbacks. And for us that setback is that we were getting so bogged down in the details that we were losing sight of the story. We were looking at the words but not the video, if that makes sense. So what had to happen is we threw out the edit we had, and that edit was after weeks of preparation, of cutting out slips of paper, of physically transcribing… I basically sat down, I looked at the footage, and I just started editing. I didn’t have any guidelines, I think I just edited what made sense. And the first cut wasn’t perfect but from there we were able to refine that and that’s what we turned in. And I learned a huge lesson doing that video. I learned that when it comes down to it, the story above all is what you need to focus on. You don’t need to focus on sound bites or what would sound good technically on paper. You just need to look at that footage and realize what story is there and just kind of make that happen.
NHP: I think we can both agree on, I know both of our videos took so much work, so much frustration, but all that hard work turned into something so awesome and the outcome of that was so worth it.
SV: Yeah. 100 percent.
And that’s video in general. You spend hours just to edit like a minute. And you’re so proud of that minute. You play that minute back over and over again just watching it. And that’s what we’re in it for, I feel like.
Shane, you did a video for Courageous Persuaders two years ago  when you were a sophomore. It was pretty unique because it won the class $2,500 and you got $1,000 out of it as well. Talk about that video and the process.
SV: Sophomore year I worked extremely hard on a PSA. Every year I work on a PSA but that year I remember specifically thinking, ‘okay, I’m gonna try to do something here.’ And the PSA was a split screen situation. I remember spending a lot of time planning it, getting the actors, my friend and my dad, and editing it, and just trying to make it as good as possible. When I eventually did win an award at Courageous Persuaders it made it all worth it. Because you put a lot of time and effort into something, to have it recognized was an incredible experience.
Now we’re in Courageous Persuaders where you have a guy on a stage, you’re surrounded by hundreds of other kids who make videos, it’s a live presentation, you’re given this award, it’s one of the largest awards of the night. You’re given $3,500; $2,500 went to the class, $1,000 came to you, which is no small potatoes. But then there was a feeling the next year that because it was a popularity contest, and you are so good at having social media connections, you crushed everyone. Do you remember what the end result was on that?
SV: There was a lot of views. [laughs]
I think you had about ten times more views than the second place video in that particular competition. But it was a popularity contest.
SV: Yeah, that’s why the next year, it was so important for me to make a video that was not just fan-voted but recognized as a great PSA. And I feel truly blessed because that’s what happened and I was able to take first place, which is insane. I’m incredibly humbled by that, it was an incredible experience, and just to have that feeling of validation, that not only is what I do popular with people, but critically it does well, to get that validation from the higher-ups to say, ‘hey, this is a great PSA.’ And to feel like I really did accomplish something, not because of the status or anything, but because I accomplished something for myself. I created this goal my freshman year and I finally completed it and it felt like I got there.
You took your knowledge from the past three years, rolled it all up, and knocked it out in a weekend.
SV: Yeah, that’s true, I actually filmed and edited it in one night. I still can’t believe they picked mine.
NHP: I think it’s cool just seeing other people in our classroom winning awards, and when you win an award. For me it doesn’t feel like I’m going to school in this classroom, it feels like I’m going to some job, [which] I get paid for in these awards.
It just doesn’t feel like work and I love coming to this classroom because not only can I get money from this classroom, but I’m getting this amazing environment with other award-winners who are motivating me to do better work for myself.
Noah, you had a very similar experience last year  during Homecoming when you just said, we need a video. Can you describe that experience and how it impacted your community?
NHP: The beginning of the year last year, it was a few weeks before the Homecoming football game, there wasn’t so much spirit going around our school so I said to myself, ‘what can I do to push more people to get motivated for this game or just to have fun,’ we’re only in high school for four years. I decided to come up with this hype video so the week before our Homecoming football game I shot this whole video, incorporated players and our fans for the game, and made this amazing video that people loved. Did pretty good on Twitter, got a bunch of likes and retweets, but it wasn’t just that, it was getting people motivated to go to these games and the way that they can see themselves on this video and [get] excited to come to these community events at our high school. So it’s fun to get people engaged with your work and for them to see themselves in the video, it’s cool for them and it’s cool for me to be able to show other people.
So there’s that live aspect. If I recall, [LCHS principal] Mr. Czapski loved that video. How did Czapski use your video last year?
NHP: So Czapski loved the video, I think I was in his office about ten times after that talking about it and just doing other things. He mentioned playing it at the pep assembly and I thought this was such a cool idea because I took this video to heart, I loved it so much, and now I get to play it for the entire school at our pep assembly and I think that was one of the coolest high school experiences of mine.
SV: That video, man. That blew me away. That was like a game-changing video.
And that’s what I’m talking about. This class has given you opportunities because both of you have been multi-year students where even if you’re not working on stuff for this class, you’re able to take just your skill and just focus on that for a couple hours a day. You’re just constantly practicing. Do you want to expand on that?
SV: Yeah, I feel like we’ve grown exponentially in these past four years. I feel like every year we find a new way to improve and new skills to build on top our skills. And I think that comes with our passion for the class. When I’m not in here, I’m thinking about what I’m gonna do in here.
SV: [I’ll be] in the shower, like, planning out a video. And so when we finally get here and it’s go time, we just grab the camera and we’re on it. We’re excited.
NHP: With you, you’re doing so many things outside of school with the YouTube business, and me, I’m doing other work for other people. It’s just insane. We’re not doing schoolwork anymore, we’re doing professional work for other people. And like I said earlier, without this class, I probably wouldn’t have been doing any of this. For me to come to this class and learn new things every single day, it not only makes those videos better but it improves my personal skills to make those things better for the future.
NHP: Shane, what do you think is your biggest success? And your biggest failure? I think it’s always good to look at your failures and grow.
SV: My biggest success hands down has to be that Courageous Persuaders PSA, because they aired that on television so I get texts from people, like my dad’s co-workers, [saying] ‘I saw Shane on TV!’ I can’t believe they’re still airing it. So definitely my biggest accomplishment, again, really humbled by that. It was such a cool thing, I’m very lucky. But my biggest failure? I’d probably say, not even failure, but everything I made my first year is such a far cry from where I am now and it’s like watching a different kid. It’s almost entertaining in a way to watch my old self try to do a news broadcast and stumble over words. It shows how far you’ve come. What about you?
NHP: My biggest success would probably be the whole PBS situation, going to PBS, getting my PBS video nationalized, just that whole experience of being out there and not only having a small group of people see it but now millions. It’s a whole new world and you’re such a small person in this small school but you’re making videos for millions of people, and those people watching don’t even know about you but you know about them, which is kinda cool. My biggest failure, kind of like you said, I don’t even think it was a failure but just seeing your old work and how it wasn’t so great, but seeing yourself grow, is one of the coolest things.
SV: I don’t think you can fail in video, I think you can just improve.
Noah Hudson Peralta and Shane Verkest are both seniors at L’Anse Creuse High School in Harrison Township.