2018 Scholar: Skala Leake

I want to make a difference in people’s lives and help shift people’s perspectives, and I believe storytelling through film is one of the most important tools for doing that. 

JDogg Film Scholarship is proud to announce Skala Leake, a graduate of Ballard High School, as the 2018 scholar. Skala’s films have won multiple awards in national and regional contests, including Fresh Film Northwest, National YoungArts Foundation, Northwest Emmy Awards, All American High School Film Festival, and Northwest High School Film Festival. Skala began attending the Columbia College of the Arts in Chicago, in Fall, 2018.

Skala’s dream career is to become a video journalist, or work on documentaries that focus on sending important messages, such as world peace, social justice, education on cultures, history, and life-changing and inspiring stories. In 2017, she was inspired to create a piece called We the People, which showcases students of all races and backgrounds at her high school, “capturing and embracing the true beauty of America, our diversity.”

To highlight the diversity and potential of the area’s youth, Skala created a web series called Seattle Spotlight, interviewing teens from the Seattle area who stand out from the rest of the crowd, showcasing their creativity, talent, and artistic personalities.

Skala is productive working alone or with diverse peers, and has a very positive impact on group dynamics. In class discussions, she is an excellent catalyst, never failing to raise difficult questions or to make necessary observations even if vocal elements of the class are resistant to this thinking. I have seldom seen a person of her age so fearless in the face of peer influence who also builds strong friendships with diverse students.

I can honestly say that Skala is one of the most positive, talented students I’ve had the pleasure of working with. What’s more, I’m certain she will make the world a better place!

— Matt Lawrence
Digital Filmmaking Program Ballard High School

2017 Scholar: Rhys Kroehler

I knew early on that my passion was filmmaking, and that I would do everything I could to be able to make movies one day. But, I never thought much about the practicality behind the dream.

Rhys Kroehler was the 2017 JDogg scholar. In Fall of 2017, he began his studies at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles.

“One thing I love about the USC film program is that they nurture the passion, but they also introduce the business that we’ll all have to navigate one day. As a result, I’ve been inspired to take up a minor in marketing to better prepare myself for the industry. This led me to my summer job as a marketing video production intern at Snap! Raise, a national fundraising company headquartered here in Seattle. Many of my coworkers have a marketing background, but my boss graduated from the University of Arizona’s film program, and her boss went to Chapman for film. It really showed me the versatility of a film degree, that it can be utilized in so many different ways. I’m already living my dream in a way, because I’m being paid to shoot and edit films! This is a great starting point for learning the ins and outs of the pre-post production process. USC has helped me grow so much as a storyteller and an artist, but it has also opened up the doors to learning how to make a living while pursuing my dream.”

Rhys dove into film school with abandon in his freshman year! He learned more about working on collaborative projects with (less-than enthusiastic) teammates, to not do it all but rather motivate them to work together to deliver a well-received final project. He is also learning about the practicalities of filmmaking, and making connections with film professors and upperclassmen.

“Through a friend, I was introduced to a Director of Photography working here in LA. I helped him out by PAing [Production Assistant] on a short film project last year, and this year he invited me back to work on another set of his. I didn’t realize until I got there that it was a feature film — I’d never worked on a set that big before. It was so cool to be able to be that close to such a large production, and to see behind the scenes in a way I never had before. The shoot lasted a weekend out in the desert of California, but it was so much fun and I met some incredibly passionate and talented people.” 

What his college teachers say: 

In class, Rhys excelled at creating original content, even assisting other students and production groups in their own film development. He is not afraid to experiment with different types of media and genres. And though he excelled at comedy, Rhys also created stellar artistic projects. He often worked multiple roles on films, serving as everything from a writer to editor to cinematographer to director.

-Rebekah McKendry, PhD
USC School of Cinematic Arts

Rhys was a 2017 graduate of Shorecrest High School. Rhys’ high school films won the 3-Minute Masterpiece Grand Prize at the Seattle International Film Festival, Awards of Excellence at the Northwest High School Film Festival, and an Official Selection of the All-American High School Film Festival in NYC.

Rhys’ passion is to create stories that resonate with an audience and help to bring us all a little closer together. Bringing a camera to Mexico, he documented his time in Tijuana building houses for homeless families. In a recent film, Found, he dealt with the emotional struggle of a teenager whose experience of loss and feelings of isolation are echoed by many young people…and Rhys wanted to put something out there to remind us all that we’re not alone.

What his high school teachers say: 

Rhys has been instrumental in the success of the student newsshow both in front of and behind the camera for three years. Rhys has an exceptional attitude and is a great citizen of Shorecrest high school. His work ethic, maturity, and ambition will help him succeed in college. But it is his helpfulness and selflessness that will make him a huge asset for any program.

— Trent Mitchell
Media Teacher, Shorecrest High School

Rhys enjoys making films because it allows him the ability, through a unique combination of stimuli, to create an emotional bond with the audience like no other medium can. In 2017, he made multiple PSAs discouraging teens from driving distracted. The radio ad he made played across the country through iheartradio. The film he made focused on young love, showing how easily it can be taken away in a moment of carelessness. Rhys hopes to continue making films that will attempt to catalyze change, but also entertain audiences.

2016 Scholar: Leo Pfeifer

Pieces Leo completed this year:
This Is How We Zoo
Pearl Jam Foundation — Sue Bird

A sampling of Leo’s films:
Clipped Wings
Air Pressure
Leo’s Vimeo page

Film has the power to tell stories that simply help their audience understand: understand a person, place, culture, feeling, emotion, issue, or anything else. When a film shows you the life, the struggles, and the challenges of others, it can completely change your views on that subject. And it does that all by simply telling you a story.

Leo Pfeifer, JDogg’s 2016 scholar, transferred schools to attend Chapman University’s Dodge College in Southern California, where he started his sophomore year in Fall 2018. “So far, I’m loving Chapman. The environment of being back in school is wonderful. I’m meeting friends who I know I’ll collaborate with for the rest of my career, and I feel a creative spark you can only get at a place like this. I’ve worked on a number of student films already, and was given the opportunity to edit a thesis film later this semester.”

Leo is currently finishing a short documentary he directed — Lost Time. The project began in October 2017, and explores what happens when a drummer loses his time. He plans to release the film in early December, following its premiere at NFFTY (National Film Festival for Talented Youth) in October, 2018.

During the interval year, Leo honed his editing skills and benefited from a year of hands on training at a production company in Seattle (Workhouse Creative) that makes advertisements and other content for national brands.

He feels he has benefited immensely from this on-the-job learning. “I learned a lot having the opportunity to work around insanely talented professionals. I always had this notion that becoming a really good filmmaker was one huge jump. One day, I’d improve my overall skills and I’d be able to make great films like I’ve been aspiring to. But what I’ve realized this year is that there will never be one big jump. I’ll never wake up and suddenly be at that level. Rather, it’s learning and becoming better at hundreds, maybe even thousands of small things, that all together — when put into practice thoughtfully and with hard work — will take me to that next level. It takes time to get there, and most of it can’t be learned without doing it the wrong way first.”

As a student in Ballard High School’s video production program, Leo created films that received six Awards of Excellence at the Northwest Emmys, nine Official Selections at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, and over 200,000 views online.
Leo’s work includes narrative, music video, and advertising, but his biggest interest is documentary. He likes the power of the stories that documentaries are capable of telling, and their ability to examine something real. His documentary Clipped Wings tells the stories of those most affected by the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay members. It gained a wide audience online, was featured by news and advocacy organizations, and played at festivals.

Leo has elevated the climate and learning of every class he’s been in.  He enjoys other students and he listens to them.  Although he always brings his own ideas to the table, on multiple occasions I’ve seen him listen for the best ideas in the room and support them.  He’s one of those rare students equally adept at the social, collaborative elements of filmmaking as the technical elements.  He never fails to master the technical skills necessary to realize his creative ideas.”

— Matt Lawrence, Video Production Teacher
Ballard High School

Leo personally enjoys filmmaking because of the incredible places it's taken him and the people it's allowed him to meet. In 2014, he was hired to make a film for the organization GeoFORCE Alaska. It followed one of their trips across the United States as they taught rural Alaskan youth about geology. Leo hopes to build a career on work like this, as well as creating his own films.

2015 Scholar: Bogui Adjorlolo

The King of the Sun, Episode 1
• Bogui’s YouTube channel: MindControlFilms

For me, the point of filmmaking is to tell stories that relate to people on a deeper level than pure entertainment. I live and breathe filmmaking. It is not simply a hobby, but a passion of mine that keeps me up at night, and ignites a fire within me that only grows with each passing day.

Bogui Adjorlolo has completed his third year at University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, and has embarked on his senior year!

“And what did I learn? I believe I’ve learned quite a lot about self-doubt and how I can move beyond it. The professors in my junior thesis class—where I made ‘William Tell’s Goin’ to Hell’—especially the directing professor, Phil Casnoff, made it apparent to me that the most important thing about making movies was to tell stories that resonated with audiences because they resonated with me, as writer and director. While I may be scared of the work, scared that I’m not good enough, scared that progress is impossible, I must feel confident in myself in order to continue into this career that I’ve chosen, a career that consists of doing something I’ve loved doing for my entire life. For me, there is no other life without filmmaking.”

Bogui’s junior thesis class film, William Tell’s Goin’ to Hell, screened at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) in May 2018, and the National Film Festival for Talented Youth in October 2018.

“Bogui was an exceptional student in the 310 Film Production class in which I participated as directing faculty. As a director/writer, his project 'William Tell's Goin To Hell’, was a terrific success on many levels. It was audacious and imaginative both visually and narratively — in other words, risky — but with attention to detail and thoughtful use of input from the class and professors, he achieved a wonderful result in the final version of the film. Also, Bogui was an excellent collaborator on the other two projects he worked on, willing to learn on the fly what was required of him.”

— Philip L. Casnoff
Adjunct Professor Cinema, Directing Faculty
University of California School of Cinematic Arts

Bogui graduated from Shorecrest High school in 2015. During his high school career, Bogui received seven Northwest High School Film Festival Awards. In 2015 his film, Goldfish, was an Official Selection of the National Film Festival for Talented Youth.

What his high school teachers say:  

Bogui is, without a doubt, the most talented video student I've ever had the pleasure to teach at Shorecrest. Most students excel at one part of the video making process. However, Bogui excels at writing, directing, acting, and editing…Bogui is a team leader and helps to pull other students up to his level. Bogui’s storytelling ability, technical knowledge, and calm demeanor are just a few of the many assets that will help him become an excellent producer and director. His body of work speaks for itself, but he is also a caring individual who keeps improving his craft without the need of outside motivation.

— Trent Mitchell, Video Production Teacher
Shorecrest High School

Bogui’s work ranges from art film through dramatic narrative to documentary, and often grapples with subjects that challenge seasoned filmmakers. His 2013 short film, Tennis Ball, tells the story of a young man reflecting on the loss of a close friend and finishes with the young man visiting his friend's gravesite at the cemetery. The story is powerful, emotional, and very mature in subject matter. The cinematography is gorgeous and the editing choices are spot on. In Sable Mire, a 2015 film, Bogui hired and directed professional and student actors to tell the story of a family that struggles to stay together after losing a loved one.

Bogui enjoyed several years of school music, playing the tenor saxophone and performing in two High School drama productions in his senior year. He enjoys traveling, skateboarding, and sleeping (when he can find the time)

2014 Scholar: Raven Two Feathers

Raven with crew.

Raven with crew.

We are in a battle ground of ideas and we are in a war over narrative power.

— Tracy Rector (Raven’s long-time mentor)

Raven Two Feathers is our second JDogg graduate! In spring 2018, Raven graduated Magna Cum Laude from Santa Fe University of Art and Design. After spending the summer in Seattle with family, Raven worked as Assistant Director (AD) with long time mentor, Tracy Rector, on her latest VR (virtual reality) film in late October. In November 2018, Raven became the inaugural fellow in Baobab Studio’s #GenIndigenous Youth Fellowship, a yearlong program culminating in a monthlong residency at Baobab. Raven also has several shorts in post-production and is continuing development on two new series.

Two Feathers hails from the Cherokee, Comanchee, Seneca and Cayuga tribes and identifies as Two Spirit, which is the third gender in Native culture, using the pronoun "they."

Raven’s biggest takeaways from college are: keep working at what you are doing at a safe and steady pace, and of course, be up front, honest, and quickly communicative.

“Film has made me the person I always wanted to be; confident, perseverant, and conscientious. It taught me how to convey my ideas, motivate people, and trust others that such a collaborative art form requires. I went from rarely putting ideas out to friends, to pitching ideas to clients. Seeing myself accomplish feats that seemed only for those I thought of as betters has lifted my self-worth immensely. Even better is seeing the relief and delight in friends after we all put 110% and sleepless nights into a film because we all love bringing stories to life, and the journey that bonds us together while making the production happen.”

Raven was most recently the AD fellow on Disclosure, a documentary on the evolution of trans lives as depicted in popular media.  There they fine-tuned the speed of producing call sheets and learned what goes into the documentary side of AD work.

Through their connections at Santa Fe University, Raven snagged a volunteer position at the Sundance Directors’ Lab during the summer of 2017 where they were assistant to the production supervisor. They worked as a juicer and grip during most of their time at the lab, with some substitute script supervising. It was a fantastic networking opportunity and familial environment they hope to experience in the rest of their career.

Raven worked to make student voices and concerns heard during the closure of SFUAD, in both activism and documentary work after seeing the frustration and fear in fellow students when the school’s possible closure was first announced. Simply documenting led to concern about lack of communication leading to the formation of a collective, becoming the middleman for students to get the latest news and sharing information with one another via a Facebook group. The activism Raven has engaged in has helped teach them about the process and the commitment that truly goes into a cause.

On the production side, Raven has been fine tuning their directing in both documentary and narrative forms over the course of the previous year with pieces exploring gender and sexuality. Raven has continued to serve in a 1st AD role — one that is appealing more and more as a career choice — along with continuing producing and directing.

Raven Two Feathers was a 2014 graduate of Ballard High School. At Ballard, Raven was president of the Future Filmmakers Club, and producer of Just Plane Lucky in the 2014 NFFTY 48-hour Film-Off, which placed second overall. Raven has used their experiences of moving around the U.S. from the age of five to give them a fresh perspective of the world with the goal to tell stories that aren’t normally heard — stories about “the diversity that life has to offer.” In 2013 Raven, along with teens from around the country, participated in the SuperFly Filmmaking Experience workshop where they told the story of the Suquamish Tribe in the Kitsap Peninsula. The film, Live to Remember, which they produced with other participants, screened at the Seattle International Film Festival and was added to the collection at Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

2013 Scholar: Vann Fulfs

Vann Fulfs (photo by Holly Leonard)

For more on Vann:
• See the documentary series “Undercover High” on A&E
• Vann’s Reel 2017 here
At Large In Ballard: The Bright Flame of Justin's Legacy

I’m happy to announce that I have graduated with high honors from Columbia College Chicago. Your ability to take such a tragedy and transform it into something so positive is inspiring and deeply moving. And has the power to change lives like mine.

My journey would not have been possible without your combined efforts, and I hope I can hold a candle to the bright flame of Justin’s legacy.

Vann Fulfs, the 2013 scholarship winner, became our first JDogg college graduate! Vann wrote in 2018 to update and speak to our donors:

It’s been about five years since I first received the JDogg scholarship and I’ve already come farther than I ever thought possible. I’ve moved to New York City, coordinated a complicated and difficult documentary series, and now sit as the Lead Video Creative at a digital marketing agency.

Your contribution to the scholarship cannot be understated. The JDogg community has built more than just a path to higher education for young filmmakers, you have directly put passion into progress.

Vann Fulfs was a 2013 graduate of Ballard High School, Justin’s high school alma mater. In 2016, Vann graduated from Columbia College of the Arts in Chicago, after busting it out to finish college in 3 years! He said at the time, “My future has never looked so bright and that is thanks to what you have all done.”

Vann’s personal projects investigate the subcultures in the greater Chicago area, for example:
Free Street Theater: Underprivileged Youth Theater
22: Veterans Dealing with PTSD
Nightrider: Exploring the Underground Drag-Racing Community

At Ballard High, Vann served as president of the Future Filmmakers Club and performed community outreach and fundraising for the school’s Video Production Program. His very first video, Leisure Biking, received an Award of Excellence in the News Feature category at the 2010 Northwest High School Film Festival. His dramatic/horror story, At First Sight, received an honorable mention at the same festival and was judged a Work of Merit at the Young People’s Film Festival. In 2012, Vann’s comedic digital short Love at First Bite received a Creative Self-Expression Award in the five-state regional festival Fresh Film Northwest for outstanding achievement in cinematic storytelling.

In the words of one of his teachers:

It’s rare for students to achieve festival recognition with their first productions, but that’s been the case with Vann. He has perseverance, dedication, and creativity. He’s productive working alone or with peers. Although he often emerges as the leader of his groups, he is not dominating and is equally comfortable as a leader or in a supporting role. His critical and creative mind is also apparent in his strong visual designs and media strategies. He is also one of those rare and rewarding students who return to projects after evaluation in an effort to do the best possible work.

— Matt Lawrence, Video Production Teacher
Ballard High School

As the Ballard News-Tribune reported, Vann describes the announcement of his selection like this: “I actually think I started crying, to be honest…It was very emotional for a lot of people in the room. It’s hard for me to express it…just being put to where Justin was, was a huge honor.”

The JDogg Scholarship Fund would like to thank photographer Jerry Gay and the Ballard News-Tribune (Ken Robinson, managing editor, Zachariah Bryan and Peggy Sturdivant, writers).

"This would not have been possible without Justin & Blair & Craig…it is so touching to see tragedy & heartbreak transformed into such a poignant, moving tribute. Blair & Craig — you are so beautiful, incredible, & inspirational. I did not have the pleasure of meeting Justin; but with parents like you guiding him, I can totally see how he made such a huge, lasting impact on everyone he encountered!
This would not have been possible without ALL of you and your hard work and dedication!!!
Thank you, thank you, thank you — to all of you and all the JDogg supporters & community!
I am so darn proud of Vann. This is so very special & dear.

All my love & gratitude,

— Holly (Mother of Vann)

2012 Scholar: Sophie Mitchell

sophie 2018 rev.jpg

Some of Sophie’s work:
Forest Girl
What Ever Happened to Saturday Night

Sophie Mitchell was the first recipient of the Justin Amorratanasuchad Scholarship. She was a 2012 graduate of The Center School, a public high school in Seattle. In Sophie’s words (from November, 2018):

Since receiving the scholarship, I graduated from Bournemouth University with a bachelor's degree in Film Production and Cinematography. Upon graduation, I moved to New York City for an internship at a production company called Anonymous Content. During that time and after months of taking on any on-set opportunities I could, other internships and working in a restaurant, I found myself taking on a runner (client services) position at a post production studio called The Mill.

I've been at The Mill for three years now and worked up from a couple client services positions to Production Coordinator, then to Associate Producer, and to my recent promotion to a Post Producer. Visual Effects is not the career turn I anticipated but I am grateful for the experience of working in this highly creative field. 

On the side, I still spend my time writing scripts, working on independent shoots when I can and being involved in creative communities around the city. There's still a lot to aspire to and I'm still so thankful to have been awarded this scholarship as it allowed my 18-year old self the confidence to identify as a filmmaker, and thank you for reminding me once again. 

Sophie was the winner of The Center School’s 2011 Intermediate Film Student Award for Achievement and the NFFTY 48-Hour Film-Off Award. Her work received an Award of Excellence and an Honorable Mention at the 2012 Northwest High School Film Festival. Sophie was also a member of the National Honor Society.

Sophie used the scholarship for the 2012-2013 academic year at Bournemouth University. Here are Sophie’s comments upon receiving the JDogg Scholarship in 2012:

Film has had an immense impact on how I view myself and how I view the world. I have developed skills that have provided me with the self-confidence I never had but always needed and has helped to further my voice in a whole new light… Film has changed the way our society runs and film has truly impacted how we get our information.

In my opinion the biggest and most important issue in film making today is diversity. What I would love to help do is change the disproportionate system and allow people who never thought their dreams could come true, have the confidence to make them come true, like myself. I aspire to educate people not just by speaking and writing, but by inspiring people by the movies I someday will make and sharing my story… Thank you for this amazing opportunity.