The Harbinger Online

Freshman Lawder DeSantis: Stop Motion Filmmaker

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Photo by Kate Nixon

Multimedia by Sarah Bledsoe 

Camera in hand and sitting at his old wooden desk in his basement, freshman Lawder DeSantis is in his element. Here, on this brown, scratched surface, is where he films his Lego stop motion films. This is where he spends hours at a time moving a single Lego figure a fraction of an inch, which forms the thousands of individual frames that make up a video.

Ever since he could remember, Lawder has loved Legos. But when his father, Vincent DeSantis, showed him an old Star Wars video that was made using stop motion, Lawder decided to take his childhood pastime to a new level. By fourth grade, Lawder had created his first Lego stop motion film: “Pirate Stop Motion.”

Now, five years later, Lawder’s interest in Lego stop motion combined with his YouTube experience has developed into a passion for filmmaking and storytelling that he hopes to pursue in his future career.

“From an incredibly early age, [Lawder] always said ‘I want to be a writer,’ or ‘I want to be a filmmaker.’ It’s what wires him,” Vincent said.

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Until then, Lawder is focusing on his YouTube channel and expanding his filming skills. Inspired by the channels of other stop motion YouTubers like “Forestfire101,” Lawder created his own channel called “GOLDBRICKANIMATIONS” in the summer following sixth grade.

Roughly 3 years and 813 subscribers later, Lawder is still creating content for his channel. Lawder has no filming schedule or deadlines he creates for himself, but rather focuses on the principle “quality over quantity.” When he is filming, he usually works on the video a couple times during the week. After all the building, filming, and editing, the videos usually take one to three months to finish.

The first step in Lawder’s video-making process is deciding on a plot for the story. When he was younger, Lawder’s films were mainly focused around superheroes, like Batman, Deadpool, and Hulk. Now, Lawder has drifted more toward filming comedy shorts, or one to three minute humorous films centered around more ordinary characters. According to Lawder, he usually gains inspiration for these videos from real life experiences. For example, the idea for his latest comedy, “The Skater,” which is about a skateboarder challenged to jump over a wall, came to him after he fell while jumping over a fence.

Next, he builds the set. The sets for his films range from indoor coffee shops to outside in dark alleyways. After this, depending on if it’s a short or longer film, Lawder may write his own script.

After all this, he’s ready to film. Depending on the length and complexity of the video, they usually take one to three months to film and edit.

After extensive hours of filming with his iTouch, Lawder loves the feeling of finally uploading his finished product to YouTube. He feels a rush of excitement when the video he’s been working on for months is finally up for the world to see. Positive feedback like “That was awesome man,” and “Nice job dude” in the comment section boosts his confidence and motivates him to keep creating.

The skills Lawder has developed in his Video Productions class have been helpful to him, as he seeks to expand his career beyond YouTube and stop motion when he is older.  His work with “GOLDBRICKANIMATIONS” has inspired him to work toward a career in the film industry. Though he is not completely sure on the title he wishes to hold, Lawder is aiming to become either a screenwriter or director.

Because of East’s video-related classes and programs, Lawder has already been able to expand his knowledge of filmmaking in his first few months of high school. Through his Video Productions class, he has learned how to use editing softwares, like Adobe Premiere and has shot different types of videos from simple angle projects to a music video along to “Careless Whisper” by George Michael.

Sure, he may hear someone refer to him as “Lego man” every once in a while – or he may feel a twinge of embarrassment after hearing “Shut up, you play with Legos” in the hall – but Lawder doesn’t seek approval from his peers. He doesn’t need it, because this is what he loves to do.

“It’s a creative outlet for me. I really love putting together movies and I’ve always just kind of loved making my own story and putting it into a video,” Lawder said.

Lawder is looking forward to his future in filmmaking where he can turn his creative outlet into his career. But for now, he’s happy where he’s at: making videos; doing what he loves—in his element.

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