BOUNTIFUL — For the last few years, the drama department at Viewmont High School has experienced a significant decline in participation as the graduation credit requirements have increased, resulting in less free time for students to take elective classes.
Steve Anderson has been the drama coach at Viewmont High for 26 years. He once taught six drama classes, involving more than 200 students each semester. Now he teaches three classes, hovering around 30 participating students, a far cry from the old numbers.
Anderson understands the need for students to fit in required classes, but feels students are missing out on several critical skills they gain in drama.
“To rise in the business world, you need to have confidence and the ability to stand up in front of others,” Anderson said. “We are teaching drama students these critical skills for their future, but that’s the thing that is getting lost.”
In an effort to bring back some excitement for the drama department and allow students to see the possibilities in the industry, Anderson and one of his former student teachers decided to host a film festival.
“We were afraid students aren’t as into theater as they should be, so we wanted to remind them how cool it is,” said Kellie Johnson, who did her student teaching at Viewmont in 2011 and has remained involved with the program.
The film festival was held this past week with nearly a dozen short films created by theater students. The kids and the nearly 200 attendees were having so much fun at the event that Johnson had a hard time getting everyone to go home.
“I think it was the uniting effort we were looking for by letting other students come and see that film and theater can be really fun,” Johnson said. “Drama really brings kids out of their shell, and you see kids that have no self-esteem come into drama where everyone’s on the same page, and they come out of their shell and gain self-esteem by getting to be somebody they aren’t typically.”
Johnson invited a professional from the industry to participate in workshops with students before the film festival.
Anderson said it definitely generated a lot of excitement when Richard Sharrah, co-creator of the Web-based hit “Kid History” walked into the room.
Sharrah spent several hours with the Viewmont drama students, teaching them some of the ins and outs of the film industry.
He began by teaching them how to open up their voices. During the voice exercises, he pointed out how many of the students were hesitant, obviously afraid of being too loud.
“We need to get rid of everything that tells you to fit in with everyone else,” Sharrah said.
Ultimately, he wanted to move at least a few of the students during the workshop.
“I’m hoping to inspire them to chase a dream,” he said. “Any profession is hard, but the rewards are three times as much when you locate your passion and don’t take no for an answer. Sometimes the biggest naysayer is yourself, so I want to help them overcome that and attack a dream — because when you achieve it, it’s that much greater.”
Senior Trevon Johnson, whose dream is to pursue a career in acting, was excited to hear from Sharrah.
“I just really wanted to see someone famous come and show me how to reach my goals of becoming an actor,” Trevon said. “I learned how to make sure to stand out from someone else and do things no one else can do.”
Whether it’s in film, or any another career, it’s exactly what Kellie Johnson was hoping the students would learn from Sharrah.
“We want the students to know that whatever they want in life, to just go after it because it’s possible,” said Johnson, who hopes the film festival can be continued in years ahead.