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.