Video documentary a hit for Tahoma senior

When Caroline Lathrop sits down at the computer to edit a film, everything else fades to black.

Early in her high school career, Lathrop had planned to focus on a science pathway, but then in pre-AP literature, she was assigned to work on a scene from “Romeo and Juliet.” That experience led her to register for video production as a sophomore, and her love of envisioning what a film could be and bringing it to life has grown steadily in the years since.

At the 2019 Northwest High School Film Festival, the Tahoma High School senior’s piece, “Tarzan Documentary” won an award for excellence.

“I didn’t actually think it would win, because I missed early footage and I didn’t have a full story arc,” she said.

Then, they announced the winner of the 2019 Justin Amorratanasuchad Film Scholarship, which a family created in memory of their son. The scholarship is given to one film student from the Northwest annually, and offers her $31,000 payable over four years. When Lathrop’s name was called, she was so overwhelmed that she didn’t react immediately.

“I will say Caroline is pretty humble,” video production teacher Rick Haag said. “Everyone who has watched the film has been very impressed.” The film festival is quite competitive, and many of the films created and entered are on par with work done in the industry, he said.

For her documentary about the Tahoma High School production of “Tarzan,” Lathrop conducted 15 to 20 interviews, added in B-roll and took her time during the editing process.

“I love documentaries, because there’s a story there to tell,” she said. “‘Tarzan’ was a culmination of other experiences like the yearbook videos,” noted Lathrop, referring to short videos she created for the yearbook so that when students scan the QR code, they get to watch a video on a topic related to that yearbook spread.

“I like putting all the pieces together,” Lathrop said. “There’s a formula to it — but (I enjoy) being creative within that formula and finding creative elements to incorporate. There’s a script you have to follow to make sense, but … you get to decide the progression of events.”

Lathrop and other students in Haag’s video production classes start out learning basic skills, then eventually are let loose as self-directed learners. It’s a big leap for students to adjust from completing specific assignments to instead visioning and completing pieces wholly their own, Haag said.

“What story do you want to tell, and how to do you want to tell it? Is it a music video? Narrative? Documentary?” he asked. As students grow in his classes, they learn to set goals, accomplish the work, self-evaluate and then re-do any work that needs refining.

Lathrop said favorite project has been one that she worked on this year as a result of a collaboration between Haag’s advanced class and Allison Agnew’s screenwriting class. For that effort, she directed a film that Agnew’s students wrote called “Crashers.” She’s also currently working on a documentary about Tahoma Drama’s production of “Les Miserables,” and is excited that this time she captured footage from the beginning of the process all the way through. Lathrop served as stage manager for the production, another passion of hers.

“I thought I was going to lose her to the drama program,” Haag said. “To stage manage takes a lot of time, and not very many kids can manage all these types of work.”

After graduation, Lathrop hopes to attend one of two schools: the Pratt Institute, an art school in New York, or New York University, where she is on the wait list.

To watch Lathrop’s video, click below: