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The Impact of an Empty Room

Everyday pulses with creativity. The inhabitants have curated their environment to reflect what inspires them. Christmas lights, movie and film posters, even a jack-o-lantern. Most days the room is quite empty when you pop your head into CAPS room 319. Why so empty you ask? We are going where students lead, where they find stories and passion. These young creatives rarely sit in their seats…until they begin to edit their masterpiece. Any given day they are scattered throughout the building writing, seeking out angles, natural light and the best on-camera personality. Who are they? They are the filmmakers at Blue Valley CAPS.


If you ask them, they could tell you about two or three different projects calling for their attention. That is the way the industry works. But at the front of the filmmaking CAPStone students’ minds is the project titled “Where Students Lead” (WSL). This short format documentary project’s backdrop is the environment, initiative and entrepreneurial spark that is the Center for Advanced Professional Studies. At the heart of the project: the passion, drive and appreciation students have when they experience CAPS. They are seeking to answer the questions: “What makes CAPS different?” “How has CAPS influenced your life?” “How is CAPS changing the way young people experience learning?”


Our young filmmakers are discovering and demonstrating the answers to these questions every day. They leave the room empty while they explore potential for this project and their own. The WSL project is modeled after the film industry with students filling in professional roles and driving every decision. At the beginning of semester CAPStone students interviewed for “crew member” positions. We have three writers, three producers, one director, two art directors, one director of photography, and one composer. A crew does not get more “real world” than this. Each has a job to do and must work as a team to do it. Along the way they have said, “How does this work?” “Where do I get more information?” “I never knew I could do this.” “I want more.”


Yes, those are real quotations from current filmmaking students. The process is difficult. It often creates more questions in its wake. However, these young filmmakers guide each other; they keep each other accountable and make impactful decisions. They do have instructors, mentors and administrators to support them, but they are in control. They are making decisions about story, lighting, music. They are making decisions about distribution, marketing and message. Filmmakers are out each day pursuing answers to the questions they have. This truly is a project about education from the perspective of the student.


What makes this different than any other group project in school? Great question. The difference is, “Where Students Lead” has almost no “adult” mandated parameters. The difference is they are teaming daily with CAPS programs across the country. They communicate daily with industry experts and professionals. The difference is their result will be a nationally released documentary. Each young filmmaker will have their first professional credit to put on their IMDB or LinkedIn page. The difference is that “Where Students Lead” allows students to maximize industry experience.


This project is much bigger than learning filmmaking skills.  Our filmmakers are deepening their understanding of teamwork, professional communication, strategic and critical thinking, time management and creativity all while pursuing a goal they have set themselves. By giving young people a chance to control the story they are allowed to reflect on their own experiences with education. “Where Students Lead” is an opportunity for Blue Valley CAPS Filmmakers to make an impact on not only our community, but communities across the country. So, next time you come to visit room 319 and you notice the creativity in the air despite an empty room, you’ll know that young filmmakers are out making an impact.