It took Clifton (Paul) Robinson two minutes to decide what his senior project was going to be.
Two minutes and 17 seconds, to be more exact. That’s how long the video montage was that Paul created last spring in his film editing class, as he stitched together clips from the MVTV archives of high school sports footage. The 2012-2013 season was filled with milestones for Vineyard teams — state championships, trips to the TD Garden, and last-second rivalry victories, to name a few — and editing the project got Paul thinking. What happened after the games were over? How did playing for the Vineyard impact athletes?
He’d already decided that he wanted to do a senior project, drawn to both the flexibility granted to seniors and the opportunity for in-depth study.
“I thought it was cool to have a whole day off just to work on something you might be doing in real life,” he said. “It gives you a little bit of freedom to learn the responsibility of being on a time schedule that you make yourself.”
And a sports documentary seemed like the perfect fit. An athlete himself — Paul is captain of the track team and a varsity football player — he also had a foot in the door in terms of filmmaking. For the past two years, he was part of MVTV chairman Anne Lemenager’s student crew, helping film home games. Ms. Lemenager became one of his two senior project mentors. Regional high school librarian Kevin McGrath was his in-house mentor, offering help with the planning process and time management.
Originally, Paul envisioned an hour-long project in the style of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, featuring interviews with both current and former athletes spliced together with archived footage and photographs. The format stayed the same, but the length of the documentary was scaled back to a half-hour.
“I had a really big idea, and we had to make sure it would all work together,” Paul said. Still, the completed project features 42 interviews — Paul did six in one day earlier this year — with athletes representing all 22 of the high school’s sports teams. Tracking down current students presented little difficulty, but getting in touch with alumni was trickier. An interview with soccer and lacrosse alum Kelsey MacDonald was recorded via Skype. Golf alum Tony Grillo, who played for Harvard and now works for the PGA tour, called in for his interview.
Most interviews were conducted at the MVTV studios. Prior to the senior project, Paul had only conducted sideline interviews during basketball games.
“It’s very personal with this type of interview because it’s talking about more than one game. It’s talking about their whole career, and probably one of the biggest parts of their lives,” he said.
“Sometimes we get the same answer, like ‘Making lifelong friends in sports’ has been a big answer for everyone,” Paul said. “But also there have been some really deep ones. It really has either saved or changed people’s lives.”
Interviews began in late February, but most of Paul’s time has been spent in the editing room
“You could be sitting there and it feels like five minutes, but it’s actually an hour and a half,” he said. He estimates that he’s spent about 100 hours total working on the project.
“I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am right now without Anne or Mr. McGrath, or any of the people over at the TV station . . . without them I wouldn’t have been as organized. I wouldn’t have half the clips I have,” he said.
And though Paul has learned a great deal about filmmaking and the documentary through the senior project, the biggest takeaway was how much of a team effort the final product was. “When you’re working on a project this big, it’s really nice to have people by you,” Paul said.
“You can’t do this all by yourself; you need people around you that support you. On the Island it’s really easy. When you need help with something, the community will come out and help you,” he continued. “Especially in sports, you always see the community coming out and supporting all of the teams, and this is really a branching off onto every sport . . . so you get all the support of all the fans.”
View the trailer for 22 Sports, 1 School here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw1-b09ghek&feature=youtu.be
For the past semester, 13 graduating seniors at the regional high school have focused on a single research question as part of their senior projects. Project presentations began Monday afternoon and continue through Friday.