Sixth-grader wins state video contest

Published 1:41 pm Friday, June 11, 2010

William Paul Whaley, a sixth-grade student at Hutto Middle School, won the state’s “Best Picture” video contest for connecting his passion for filmmaking to the mathematical concept of integers and absolute value.

Whaley said math was never his favorite subject, but when the opportunity came his way to create a film on his not-so-favorite subject, well let’s just say things clicked.

“I have a new relationship with math now after the video,” said Whaley, the 13-year-old son of Elizabeth and Don Whaley of Bainbridge.

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This is his first video that he has had published, but he’s done approximately 12 other videos, including one he did when a group of raccoons visited his house, which he captured the reaction of his mother.

The math theory worked well for Whaley because it fit into how he’s figured out how to better edit his videos—if a video has to show something being thrown at a subject, he has to film it being thrown from the subject. Roughly, the same concept works for integers and absolute value, Whaley said.

William Paul wrote, directed, edited and starred in his movie titled “Canceled Out.” (His video may be viewed on The Post-Searchlight’s Web site, His movie was about a young man who begins to understand integers and absolute value by using his vivid imagination to make connections between math and the real world.

Fellow classmates that played a role in the movie included Emily Perkins, Alexis Jones, Mary Trawick, Braneesha Herring, Nick Allen, Tazavia Cooper, Nick Clenney and his math teacher, Amy Thomas.

“Canceled Out” will be displayed on the Georgia Department of Education’s iTunesU site. Teachers and students throughout the state will be able to use his video as an instructional tool.

All the entities were rated by a panel of judges. The movie had to be created by the student and must have left a lasting impression. It must have shown high thinking skills, as well as a clear understanding of the math concept. In addition, each student must have shown exemplary video production skills, including cinematography, sound and editing.

Thomas said Whaley’s video was by far the best one, including all the high school entries.

“I didn’t see any one better,” Thomas said.

“It’s so wonderful to have a student like William Paul who can express himself like that,” Thomas said. She said he spent at least five hours shooting the video inside the classroom, and he spent another 10 hours editing that footage. There were other portions of the video that he shot at his home.

“I thought it was amazing that he would think out of the box that way,” Thomas said of Whaley’s willingness to make the film. Because of the video, Thomas said she feels confident that her students will remember the mathematical concepts highlighted in the video.

Whaley said he spend a week on the project, boiling down hours of footage into a two-minute video.

Whaley is the grandson of famous black-and-white photographer, the late Paul Kwilecki, from whom Whaley takes his middle name. Kwilecki’s collection of negatives and archives that documented life in Decatur County are with the Duke University Special Collections Library in Durham, N.C.

Whaley said filmmaking is his passion.

When he was about 5 years old, Whaley loved to play with his mother’s still and video cameras. But instead of striving to be a still photographer, toward which his grandfather had influenced him greatly, said video has become more interesting to him.

“It was always my dream to be a filmmaker,” Whaley said. “Films can take you places where you can never go or have never been.”

Andrew Donaldson, Whaley’s brother-in-law, showed the youngster how to do some of the more advanced video editing techniques.

For “Canceled Out,” Whaley wrote the script, shot the video, directed it and then finally edited it. He said editing is his favorite task, but filming is the hardest. He also develops his own storyboards.

Whaley said his talent in filmmaking is appealing to him because of what he captures.

“You’re not capturing an image. You’re capturing an emotion and the feelings of everything,” Whaley said.

Including the concept of integers and absolute value.