Growing up, I watched my dad pull out our family camcorder at all our trips, events, and holidays, capturing our special memories. From Christmas cookie decorating to going on a ride at Disney World, I always remember smiling and waving at our small, handheld camera. I quickly became intrigued at how a short video could convey so much; how our family videos effectively shared our story simply through visuals. I started to make fun videos with my friends in our basement during sleepovers, attempting to understand how I could put different pieces of video together to capture those special moments. Through these experiences, by taking that same family camcorder and trying my hand at these skills, I found a passion. A spark.
As a 14-year 4-H member from Athens County, I continuously learned about leadership, citizenship, and teamwork by participating in an array of projects, including dogs, rabbits, food and nutrition, and public speaking. In 2015, I discovered an opportunity that would, quite literally, change my life by combining those skills with my passion for video and storytelling. It was FilmFest 4-H: the National 4-H Film Festival.
I was a high school freshman and more than a bit nervous to create a documentary, fly to St. Louis, and share my work with a national audience. Before FilmFest 4-H, my parents and Girl Scout troop had been the only ones to watch my videos on a small screen. However, I arrived in Missouri to find a welcoming 4-H environment that provided amazing moments for learning and, yes, a safe and positive place for viewing my work—this time on quite a larger screen and national stage. I will never forget talking about my choices during the filmmaker Q & A after my very first film was screened. Or how much I valued meeting professional filmmakers (such as an Emmy Award winning make-up artist and an actor who I had watched on Disney Channel), as well as other rising 4-H members who love this industry.
For four years I submitted my work to the National 4-H Film Festival and each year, I met more filmmakers from across the nation, learned from talented industry professionals, and showcased my documentary and promotional videos. My films ranged from documentaries about the Ohio 4-H PetPALS Program and food insecurity to promotional videos about 4-H events across the state.
Over those four years, I was honored to receive multiple top awards, including the National Leadership Award for Youth Produced Media. I was inspired by the opportunities and encouragement to keep learning more about important societal issues and telling impactful stories with fellow 4-H members from all over the country and beyond.
FilmFest 4-H was the catalyst for my professional career. The workshops, sessions, and networking experiences at FilmFest 4-H allowed me to understand that media production could be more than a hobby; it could be my future career.
FilmFest 4-H taught me I could use my passion to make a positive impact on the communities around me. Currently, as a college junior, I serve as the Communications Director for a North Carolina Senate campaign and hold leadership positions within several student-run broadcasts at High Point University.
This year, I was honored to serve as the alumni presenter for the National 4-H FilmFestival’s tenth anniversary. I was deeply humbled to be invited to return to the festival in this capacity, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting everyone through the virtual setting this year. In my workshop, titled “4-H Horizons,” I discussed how the future is bright and open as attendees look toward the next phase of their life. I shared about the importance of finding and cultivating their own unique spark, the element that makes them enjoy this industry. We discussed how to embrace unknown aspects of their future careers by always continuing to connect with other filmmakers, gain new experiences, and create more films.
4-H has exponentially expanded from our agricultural roots, and I am so grateful to have been active in a program that encourages young people to find their passions and use them to create change, motivate action, and inspire others. Through 4-H, I gained incredible, transferable skills that will enhance my ability to lead, communicate, set goals, organize work, collaborate with teams, and so much more. I will always be so appreciative to FilmFest 4-H for giving me the confidence, connections, and courage to pursue a career in the media production industry. Thanks to the National 4-H Film Festival, filmmaking transitioned from a family hobby into a quest to tell stories that will make a difference in our world.
Emmy enjoys making videos to support Ohio 4-H. One of her most recent videos is the one below on how to have a safe in-person 4-H meeting.