WATERVILLE — Brad Carver toted his video camera around downtown Wednesday, ducking in and out of shops, recording business people talking about their jobs and capturing the spirit of the city’s center.

He walked up Main Street to Central Fire Station, where he recorded a firefighter donning his gear and asked him questions and met Fire Chief David LaFountain. Carver then hiked south on Main Street to the Children’s Book Cellar, where he met and chatted with owner Ellen Richmond.

Carver, 17, of Sidney, is not a professional videographer, but he is quickly garnering the skills necessary to become one.

A senior at Messalonskee High School in Oakland, Carver is enrolled in the mass media communications class at Mid-Maine Technical Center in Waterville, which accepts students from area high schools. Carver was out with his classmates Monday and Wednesday working to create music videos as part of a project assigned by instructor Dave Boardman.

“It’s a video production program,” Boardman said Wednesday morning in Castonguay Square. “The focus is video journalism. It’s finding stories and telling stories about people and places, using video and audio and graphics.

“I think a lot of young people today don’t have to have interactions with others beyond a phone or a group of friends. What I love about this course is it takes them out of this realm and hopefully shows them possibilities of stories they would otherwise walk by every day.”

The students produce videos that are shown not only to their peers, but also to wider audiences, including those at Railroad Square Cinema. Their videos are used by companies to promote their businesses and organizations seeking to spread awareness of their causes. The students made a mini-documentary for Waterville Main Street, as well as public service announcements for Friends of Messalonskee Lake and the Maine Film Center.

Students in the spring made public service announcements for Habitat for Humanity, for promoting volunteers and advertising Habitat’s retail store on Silver Street.

“We’re really charged with training students for the professional world,” Boardman said. “It’s very definitely professional level.”

Boardman, a former journalist and English teacher, said when he taught English it became clear to him that there was a lot more to writing than merely using a pen or a computer — that there is also a visual component. He started doing base video and teaching himself videography skills, and he took a couple of courses. He now has a small video production company, Fertile Matrix Media, and does short profiles, mini-documentaries and other projects.

The current class assignment is called “The Spirit of Waterville.”

“They’re charged with capturing the spirit of Waterville in a minute-and-a-half video set to music that they choose, and they have to get people in this video,” he said. “For teenagers, that means having to go up to strangers and businesses. For some kids, that’s very intimidating. I try to teach them early on that people are honored that you have enough respect for their story that you are willing to ask them questions. Taking a video of them is not stealing something from them, but honoring what they’re doing in a way.

“Some students at the end of the class may not want to be a videographer, but they say, ‘I know how to talk to people now.’ For me, that was a huge, huge thing.”

Sitting on a bench Wednesday morning outside the fire station, Carver said he wants to be a high school English teacher and plans to enroll in college next year.

“I’ll probably do writing on the side,” he said. “I’ve been looking at Clark University in Massachusetts, Colby-Sawyer, Wheaton College and Colby College. I did a documentary at Colby on the young curators program. It was for the art museum. Young high school kids learned about the history of art and other things. I went every week and did filming. I interned there.”

Last summer, Carver made a documentary for Waterville Main Street and spent time with that organization’s executive director, Jennifer Olsen.

“It was kind of capturing the whole essence of Main Street,” he said.

A valuable perk of taking the class is that when it is over, the students take a test, and if they pass it, they earn professional certification through Adobe and the Maine Association of Broadcasters. Boardman said that certification holds more value than a grade when students apply for jobs in the real world.

“You can say, ‘I got an A in Mr. Boardman’s class,’ but you say, ‘I have professional certification,’ and that holds a little more water,” he said.

Students taking the class also earn six credits through Southern Maine Community College’s communications and new media studies program.

Five former students of the class are enrolled at SMMC, and two worked on a crew this past summer for a Stephen King film, “Suffer the Children,” which won best short film in the Horror Hound Film Festival in Indianapolis.

One of Boardman’s students is in Taiwan this year but still taking the class, for which he is making a documentary about Taiwan. He and Boardman talk twice a week on FaceTime. The student sends him video files and Boardman issues feedback.

Carver, who is in his second year of taking the class, said it has helped him learn not only about using video equipment, but also how to feel comfortable approaching strangers and interviewing them.

“They give you college credits and you’re basically more experienced than a normal first-year college student would be,” Carver said. “It gives you a huge advantage in a sense. You’re kind of a step ahead of everyone else. Before class started, I was completely clueless with this stuff.”

At the fire station, LaFountain said he is looking at possibly having the students create a recruiting video to attract firefighters.

“It’s a good service,” he said of the students’ work.

At the Children’s Book Cellar, Carver interviewed Richmond, who spoke about having been a manager for Mr. Paperback bookstores and then buying her shop in 2002. Richmond said she thought the video production project was worthwhile.

“I think it’s great,” she said.

On Monday, another group of Boardman’s students filmed downtown, visiting the Two-Cent Bridge, the Roger Majorowicz sculpture on The Concourse, the Selah Tea shop and other city attractions.

Senior Justine Richardson, 16, of Waterville, said she plans to attend a four-year college and study journalism. She said the class is helping her to prepare questions for interviews and feel at ease talking with people, in addition to teaching her the basics of journalism and filmmaking.

“I was thinking of going to a Maine college, but I also am looking in Virginia,” Richardson said. “I’ve always wanted to be a journalist, but if I could write and do film, I think that’d be the perfect combination.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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