An Invaluable Gift

Guest post by Ellery Lamm

“An Invaluable Gift” (a video I made) is a true story of what can happen when someone reaches out to encourage others.

Anna Allen, a retired social worker, supports students in UVic’s social work program. Alysha, one of the recipients of Anna’s scholarship, graciously shared her story. Using audio from an interview with Alysha, I created the visuals for the film. And while it’s ultimately a story centered on Alysha’s experience, a similar story of support exists behind my own lens.

It was easy for me to look at the homemade filming set-up in my basement and dismiss it as unprofessional. But I’ve often found that scarcity fosters ingenuity.

I used a package of construction paper, the flashlight from my iPhone and acrylic paint to create the world of this film. In the corner of my basement, my roommates kindly stepped around piles of ripped up coloured paper as I filmed during one of my last months at UVic.

One moment I’d be sitting in class and the next, standing in my make-shift studio, one hand holding a tangled mess of paper puppets while the other filmed.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the bonds you’ll make with your professors and peers. I would not have been asked to create this film had I not taken Writing 326: Digital Media for Storytellers.

During that class I made a short Claymation film. That film opened doors for me to go to the Montreal World Film festival and win best student animation. That experience created a connection with my professor and with other young filmmakers. And as my film circulated through UVic, it created a web of people who’d seen my work and knew my name.

What I’d been taught in my course became immensely important, creatively and lucratively, to what I could do when I wasn’t in class.

Take yourself and your work seriously. Yes, you are a student, but don’t let that label limit you to a desk in a classroom.

Trust that your knowledge is worth more than a grade, that what you have to offer can have a life outside your classroom. It’s possible to graduate with not only a degree but also a portfolio of paid-for and award-winning work.

It’s easy to feel a rush of overwhelm in the new months post graduation. There’s a pang of sadness knowing I don’t have to stress about signing up for classes or renewing my student card.

It’s easy to think it was a dream and that graduating means it’s over. But I have this body of work—films, a produced play, an audio project—all of which stemmed from my classes at UVic. The creations and connections I made and the support I gained didn’t disappear once I was handed my diploma and alumni keychain.  It’s just the launching pad.

While cutting out paper silhouettes and painting backdrops, I liked thinking about the link of support behind me. From Anna’s scholarship, the impact it had on Alysha, the little boy Alysha helped, to me, sitting behind my camera with the support of my professors and UVic behind me.

And so I’ll leave you with this: be open to what can happen when you use the knowledge you’ve gained at school, to transform how you engage with the world around you.







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