Five years ago, Lanier High School’s video program was nonexistent. The school, which opened less than a decade ago has transformed from a new video department to one of the best in the county after receiving nine Student Production Award nominations.

Each year, Student Production Award nominations are given out by regional chapters of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to qualify for a regional competition. Winners of each category advance to the national Student Production Award competition.

Teacher Keith Phillips, a former production assistant with the Atlanta Falcons, has transformed the program by providing in-depth learning experiences for students.

Phillips said when the program began, it was filled mostly by students just looking for an extra class. But during the program’s second year it began to blossom. While Phillips was setting the core of the program by helping students in the introductory video I class, he had help from David Rhines, a technical manager with experience at NBC Sports.

“He came in every week that year and helped them with pre-production and planning,” Phillips said.

During the year, the program received two nominations and started the “We Are Lanier” documentary series.

Phillips said the approach to the program is to allow students to maintain freedom and creativity in things that interest them.

“We always start and ask them what they want to make,” Phillips said. “I don’t force them to do a particular thing because they might not be interested in sports video or doing lights. I just said, ‘Here are the skills we’re working on; What are you going to make with it?’”

Last year the program did not receive a single nomination.

“After last year’s heartbreaking zero nominations, I’m proud of how the students bounced back this year,” Phillips said. “They didn’t let the results derail what they have started here. I was hoping for one nomination this year, so I’m thrilled to see the kids rewarded for their hard work with the nine nominations.”

A normal week for students includes pre-production planning during the early parts of the week, followed by filming and then editing the film before presenting it to Phillips.

Students were nominated in categories ranging from General News Assignment to Music Video to Long Form Non-Fiction (documentary) to Short Form Fiction (short film).

Leading the way with six nominations is Andy Cole, a junior at Lanier and a digital media intern for Gwinnett County Public Schools TV.

“It’s awesome to finally be recognized for the world-class work that is going on in Lanier Productions,” Cole said. “It’s such an honor to be nominated for such a prestigious award — this award alongside our industry standard classroom instruction is truly preparing the class and me for college, career and beyond.”

Graduating senior Thomas Harmond was nominated for three awards this year. Harmond, who spends a majority of the time behind the scenes working on filming and story boarding videos, developed an interest in film from a mentor at church.

“Just hanging out around him I started slowly picking it up,” Harmond said. “Over time I learned a lot from him, watching YouTube videos and having the freedom to do things here helped.”

Sophomore Jenna Keck said most projects they work on take between two weeks to a month to complete. She was nominated along with sophomores Michael Madryzk and Sakib Jamal for their five-minute film “Gone.” The trio spent about five months making the film and made school history by producing the first narrative film to receive a nomination at Lanier.

“I’m proud that it made it this far,” Keck said. “It would be really exciting to win, but if it’s not meant to be, I won’t be upset because this is already a huge honor.”

Other students nominated for awards are juniors Barry Chen,Seth Zimmerman, Jacob Reese and Valyn Turner.

In addition to the nine nominations from Lanier High School, students from five other schools from GCPS were recognized. Stephen An from Brookwood, Chris Nooney, Lislay Estrada and Justin Harris from Phoenix, Will Peninger from Peachtree Ridge, Lauryn Johnson from Parkview, and Justice Bigot from Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology received nominations.

Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony at SCAD Atlanta on June 9.

I graduated from Brookwood High School and Georgia Southern University with a degree in Journalism. I cover news and education for the largest school system in the state of Georgia.

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