Last year, when Gary "Griz" Drylie was looking for help bringing Hesperia's history to life, the curator of the Old Town Hesperia Museum asked former school district public information officer Deb Baker if she had any ideas on a potential collaborator. Her response: the Sultana High School video production class.
"Griz approached us last year," said Shawn Brown, the second-year instructor for the SHS class. "He wanted to team up with us."
Drylie's plan was to produce one documentary a year. The inaugural installment was an interview with longtime resident Ruth Sharpe on the history of the Old School House at the corner C Avenue and Main Street. For this year's edition, Drylie decided he wanted to dig a little deeper - into the earthy history of Hesperia's little-known potato and onion production of the 1940s and 1950s.
Brown organized a core production team to help bring Drylie's dream to fruition. Senior Kevin Chacon was selected to head the ensemble as director. Fellow video production students Nathaniel Price, Ryan Sidney and Eric Salgado also participated in the three-day shoot that took the students from the confines of the Sultana campus to a remote location on Deep Creek Road.
"This is the first one I'm directing," said Chacon, who will attend Los Angeles Film School next fall. "It's going to look real good."
The first day of shooting, however, was "in studio" with Drylie interviewing Jim Walker whose father partnered with Victor Valley pioneer Clyde Tatum on the potato fields. The two talked about the challenges and rewards of growing potatoes locally, which were subsequently sold to area grocery stores. At the end of the segment, Drylie suggested the two take a road trip to see the field up close and personal.
Because the field sits on government-owned land, the crew couldn't actually walk on it. But on the second day they went down by the Mojave river and had a clear angle on the old flume, which feeds water into the fields and other nearby land.
"We shot an opening scene and did another interview with Jim and Griz," Brown said. "They're standing there where the old pipe would have gone."
The third day of shooting consisted of filming some "pickup shots" to help the story flow better.
"We shoot things out of order," he added.
Following the three-day shoot, the students began editing the project on a Macintosh-based Final Cut Studio system. The crew is also scanning in hundreds of photos that will be interspersed with the video similar to the technique used by famous documentary producer Ken Burns.
"We're using the real deal professional stuff," according to Brown. "They're using the industry standard."
Brown, who taught sixth grade a Eucalyptus Elementary for 10 years before joining the Sultana teacher staff last year, couldn't be happier with this and other projects produced by his students.
"It's perfect. I love being here," Brown said. "There's something new every day. There's a lot of creativity happening on a daily basis."
And, in the case of the potato field documentary, Drylie says that the students are doing something greater than just producing video.
"The students are going to be a part of history," Drylie said.
Peter Day can be reached at email@example.com.