By Noel Brinkerhoff
A short documentary video on the October wildfires by New Technology High School students nabbed top honors at the nation’s oldest student media festival.
The California Student Media Festival, held June 2, bestowed four grand prize awards, one of which went to a team of New Tech students for their 3-minute video about the October fires, “Fallout Napa Valley.”
“Fallout Napa Valley” also won the best journalism award among secondary schools.
New Tech High was one of only two schools in the state to win multiple awards at the California Student Media Festival, which attracted more than 200 entries this year. The other multiple winner was Burbank High School, which received two honors.
Another group of New Tech High students won the best history/social studies category for “Signed, William Lewis Moore,” about a white civil rights advocate who was killed in 1963 while marching from Tennessee to Mississippi to protest segregation.
American Canyon High School student Anthony Chow won best cinematography for his video about the school’s 2018 prom.
“Fallout Napa Valley” tells the story of the fires in Napa County using news footage and interviews with local residents.
“We started our video project with the driving question, ‘How can we, as video storytellers, bring attention to important social issues in the Napa Valley,” said New Tech High teacher Lisa Gottfried.
Gottfried said students started working on their film about two weeks after returning to school, following the districtwide closure in October prompted by the fires and widespread smoke that choked the valley.
She credited 11th-grader Dylan Keene with coming up with the idea for the project, saying he felt “pretty passionate” about covering the aftermath of the fires.
More students got involved with the project after they came up with the film’s tagline: “The Fires are out, but they’re not over,” according to Gottfried.
Student Savanna Harwood, who provided the voiceover for “Fallout Napa Valley,” said she volunteered at a local evacuation shelter during the disaster, where she saw firsthand the impact of the fires on people.