BEMIDJI -- Bemidji High School’s Lumberjack Live used to create weekly broadcasts for students to enjoy, covering student life, academics and athletics. But times have changed.

Now that the high school is in its fourth week of full distance learning, the Lumberjack Live crew, who are part of Bryan Hammitt’s advanced video production class, has shifted their coverage, focusing outward on the Bemidji community rather than inside the high school halls.

Earlier in the week, the students released a video titled, “Lumberjack Live small business appreciation show” where groups of students visited area businesses and featured the business owners and products to encourage their fellow students and community members to shop local this season.

“This show is dedicated to all the local small businesses in the Bemidji area and beyond. We wanted to raise awareness and help support them by creating features about several businesses in Bemidji, Minnesota,” the video’s YouTube description reads.

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The featured area businesses included Boutique on Fox, Up Thrift, Petopia, Bluebelle Event Venue, Ruttger's Birchmont Lodge, Buena Vista Ski Area and North Country Skate Shop.

One student also conducted a Q&A story, which featured some of the listed businesses as well as a few others, like Brigid’s Pub and Twice but Nice.

Hammitt said this assignment served multiple purposes -- teaching students how to make and keep appointments, learning to work more independently, and to shift focus from the school to the community.

“From a teacher’s perspective, I was looking at it as 'this will work really well to encourage a group of teenagers who typically sit behind a computer, or play games,' that sort of thing, to reach out and learn how to be an adult," he said. "You have to make contacts in the community, find people you might not even know and actually talk to them on the phone, make an appointment and stick to an appointment, make sure you’re not late, act professional, make sure your gear works. What a great opportunity to take these kids and shove them into some real-life situations.”

A Bemidji High School student showcases Up Thrift, a locally owned thrift store in the Paul Bunyan Mall. Screenshot from Lumberjack Live video.
A Bemidji High School student showcases Up Thrift, a locally owned thrift store in the Paul Bunyan Mall. Screenshot from Lumberjack Live video.

Hammitt said students wouldn’t have nearly the amount of guidance from him when they were out filming on their own, so he gave students a lot of credit for going out and trying.

“Generally speaking, this was the kids’ idea. They aren’t in school so they have to think beyond themselves to make features. The show must go on. They had to not necessarily focus on things happening inside of school but we decided to focus on the community instead,” he said of the project. “Some of the features turned out fantastic.”

BHS student Lindsey Nelsen was the producer and editor of the small business video. Seeing Lumberjack Live played at school initially piqued Nelsen’s interest in video production classes with Hammitt, which in turn has inspired her to pursue a career in video production one day.

“Through taking that class, I actually learned that I want to go into video production as a career down the line. This class really helps you learn how to use basic video equipment and get creative with projects and short deadlines,” she said.

Nelsen visited the local Bluebell Event Venue for the small business video. She said she was surprised to learn the business was completely shut down under the governor’s most recent order.

“I was under the impression that they were still operating at a limited capacity,” Nelsen said. “I was surprised to learn they had no way of making any revenue right now.”

Hammitt said that while teaching a class like video production virtually can be difficult, there are some things from the experience he plans to incorporate into future years, particularly the community aspect.

“We learned a lot of valuable lessons about reaching out, not making the videos necessarily about ourselves, but more about other people,” said Hammitt. “That was huge, we talked about that at length at our class meeting, how rewarding it was to reach out to the community.”

Nelsen agreed with this sentiment saying, “We usually focus on kind of the student life during school days because that’s what was easy to film for us, and we wanted to focus on the students. I think what 2020 has really showed us is that it’s not just about us anymore, it’s about everybody being affected by this pandemic, so we really wanted to make changes to Lumberjack Live to involve the community more.”

Since Lumberjack Live’s videos would ordinarily be watched in school, during a weekly homeroom, they have now been more widely circulated on social media than ever before. Videos can be seen on the class Facebook page, on Instagram at Lumberjack Live and on YouTube.