Ripples 2002

The footage collected HERE was recorded in March and April 2002 when I was 16 years old. I wanted to make a feature-length documentary about Ripples, an annual theatre production run almost entirely by students at IPS Broad Ripple High School. That year, Ripples consisted of three acts – each one was a short musical that had been chosen from a number of student script submissions. Those students would then cast, direct, choreograph, and design their act for a two-night performance. Each act would be judged and given awards in a variety of categories. This added an edge of competitiveness to the process that some students took more seriously than others, but which I (as a deliriously ambitious wannabe filmmaker) thought would be a dramatically ripe subject for a documentary.

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Looking at this footage now, I still think I was onto something. Unfortunately, wrangling the 14+ hours of footage into a cohesive narrative was a task my teenage self was unable (or unwilling?) to pull off. Not to mention the fact that I was incredibly unorganized. The first tape I recorded – which showed the audition process, crucial introductory interviews, and an incredible scene in which the three pairs of student directors haggled over which cast members they wanted – mysteriously disappeared during shooting.

So the project was abandoned. The tapes collected dust in a box that has traveled with me through several living situations, college, the births of my children, marriage, and the sprouting of my artistic career. Life moved on.

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In 2018, Broad Ripple High School shut down, and one of the school’s most beloved teachers, Doris Young (mother of my late friend, Liz, who shows up in some of the clips), passed away later that same year. I found myself becoming obsessed with the idea of salvaging something from the tapes and sharing them with others who wanted to revisit that time. In September of 2019, I found a local videographer who was able to digitize all my Hi-8 tapes which meant I could finally scrub through and find the most watchable pieces.

I tried to keep each clip pretty short (mostly under 6 minutes, but there are a few 10-minute compilations), and organized them chronologically while also retaining the roughness and aimlessness of the raw footage. I don’t know if people unfamiliar with the school could get much out of this. Without the first tape, which would have helped orient an unfamiliar audience, it seems this might only be for the people who lived it. But maybe I’m too close to it to see its potential value to newcomers. At the very least, it’s a bit of recorded history.

I’ve left names out of the video descriptions and, according to Vimeo, the showcase is not visible to search engines. These videos seem harmless to me, but I didn’t want to assume that anyone involved wanted to be associated with this. Not everyone may have as fond a memory of this as I do.

For me, it’s been incredibly surreal to revisit this. It’s such an alien feeling to see things that clearly happened to me and yet I have almost no memory of them whatsoever. I also felt a bit of that “High School Reunion” feeling. As adults, far removed from our teenage years, we want to believe that we’ve evolved into completely different people, but being faced with who we used to be can make us confront to what degree that is or isn’t true.

Aside from that discomfort though, it moved me. I’m a sentimental person, so that’s not terribly hard to do, but there is something special about seeing a bunch of kids, in all their earnestness and awkwardness, trying to make something together.

This assortment of loosely edited clips is definitely not what my 16-year old self envisioned for this footage. The goals were lofty: film festivals, home release, voice over, original music. But I barely had the means to pull it off. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And that is, of course, the blessing and the curse of that sort of youthful ambition.

It’s also clear to me now that my filmmaker ambitions were largely motivated by the simple need to be around people. It was a way to bond with them and share experiences with them in a way I was too socially anxious to keep up with otherwise. So although a feature documentary would have been impressive, part of me believes this is the form the footage was always meant to take.

I hope you’re able to get something valuable from it, too.

– Josh Eckert, 2020