Hillsboro videographer puts Forest Hills Lutheran School under the lens

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a video can draw a crowd.

At least that's the philosophy at Forest Hills Lutheran School in Cornelius, where a new promotional video is putting the campus in the public eye.

"We're pretty rural out here, so our goal, first of all, was to let people know we exist," said Audrea Lotman, director of admissions at the small, private school on Southwest Golf Course Road. "We want them to know what our campus is like and we have a family atmosphere.

"It's kind of a 'check us out before you check us out' thing."

In today's pedagogical environment — which often has parents choosing between a free public education that comes with large class sizes or a more expensive private education with a more favorable teacher-student ratio — it sometimes takes extra effort to get a school's message across. Lotman, whose two children are enrolled at the 151-student school, came up with the idea for a multimedia presentation.

"One of our advantages is that we're located on 12 beautiful acres out in the country," Lotman said. "The down side is, people don't just drive by and happen upon us."

Forest Hills' video, featuring students, teachers and Principal Dan Seim sharing their impressions of their school, appears on the FHLS homepage and is carried by Vimeo, a U.S.-based video-sharing website on which users can upload, share and view videos.

Hillsboro resident Shaun Bailey, a friend of Lotman's and a video hobbyist, shot the seven-minute presentation.

Two days of filming

The bulk of the project took place in November, when the autumn leaves were turning and prospects for shooting gorgeous photos were optimal.

"I was out at the school two different days," said Bailey, who spent a week brainstorming ideas with Lotman and other administrators before the group settled on a concept and plan for the project. "We started talking about the nitty-gritties, and then we got to work."

The opening scene shows Lotman's son, Levi, a kindergartner, staring up into a giant oak tree at a red ball stuck in its branches. A voiceover has Seim speaking about the school's faculty providing students with a quality education and providing them with "the skills to handle life's little emergencies."

Other clips show classroom scenes and record the thoughts of teachers and parents — such as Forest Grove resident Jennifer BeLusko — about why FHLS is their choice for a K-8 school.

"This is our second year at Forest Hills, and we couldn't have had a better start," said BeLusko, whose son Ryder is in second-grade and daughter Macy is in fourth-grade.

BeLusko, who described herself as an inactive Catholic, had high praise for the school's religious education.

"Our kids had never experienced church before attending there," she said. "Now we're talking about God in our home. They teach me — it's been really incredible."

One thing that impressed Lotman about BeLusko's contribution to the video was her statement that she would be comfortable "inviting them to her dinner table."

"I think that speaks volumes about our staff," Lotman noted.

Small classrooms — the largest have 19 students but the average is 15 students — are another thing the video touts. Renee Reitmeier, who teaches writing and history to sixth- through eighth-grade students, said opportunities for professional development help FHLS teachers stay a leap ahead of their peers at other schools.

"We as a staff really strive to be regional leaders in education, and we push ourselves to be the best we can be at our profession," Reitmeier said, an idea she tried to get across in the video.

Two of Reitmeier's students, seventh-graders Emmeline Rockford and Gabe Henkemeyer, were interviewed for the video as well. "I thought they gave really thoughtful answers," she said.

YouTube next?

For Bailey, who admits to having "a big passion" for videography, producing the Forest Hills piece meant writing a full script as well. Still, he said, when it came down to the actual taping — much of which was accomplished inside the school library — many of the conversations "were absolutely not scripted."

From start to finish, including a fair amount of editing, Bailey put in about 75 hours of work on the video. His favorite moment is the opening scene.

"It's catchy — it kind of lures you in," he said. "To me, it's an emotional thing … then it goes on to tell the story of the quality of the people and the staff at this school."

Lotman said she hopes to get the video up on YouTube in the near future.

"We're really proud of it, and I know it's been viewed a lot already," she said. "We also have footage of almost all our teachers, but we couldn't use it all. This was serious business."

Full capacity at the school is 240 students, Lotman noted, "so there's room for more."

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