The end credits have rolled on the 2020-2021 school year in Detroit Lakes, and that means “That’s a wrap!” on the latest season of the high school’s Laker Live videography class.

The 20 or so students in the spring semester class finished the year on a fun note, creating a “Survivor”-style parody show that kept them laughing -- and learning -- long after the cameras were turned off.

It was an exercise in videomaking, and also just plain exercise, as the kids competed to climb the highest and run the fastest in order to outdo the competition and "survive" on the show. Their arms quivered as they climbed the rope at the Minnesota Flyers gymnastics center; their feet flew as they raced barefoot on the City Beach; and their faces beamed as they cheered each other on and cracked jokes along the way.

The whole time, two video cameras were aimed squarely at them, documenting every minute of the experience.

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A Laker Live student climbs the rope at the Minnesota Flyers gymnastics center while another films it for the class's final video project, a "Survivor"-style challenge show, on May 20, 2021. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)
A Laker Live student climbs the rope at the Minnesota Flyers gymnastics center while another films it for the class's final video project, a "Survivor"-style challenge show, on May 20, 2021. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)

After that, it was back to the classroom to shoot the “Tribal Council” finale and then piece together the footage they’d captured. They were used to the editing process by then, having made multiple videos already that semester. Over the course of just a couple class periods, they whittled over two hours’ worth of “Survivor” footage down to only the most interesting stuff, added music and graphics to liven it up and give it an authentic feel, and, viola! Eight minutes of local TV magic.

“It’s really fun to do,” said senior Lauren McDougall of making videos with the class. “There are lots of laughs.”

Laker Live is a semester-long English elective course for juniors and seniors. It's been around for years at Detroit Lakes High School and has a good reputation as a “fun and laid-back” class, the recent spring semester students said. Thus, it's popular with kids, and even students who don’t plan to pursue a career in filmmaking or media or anything along those lines are drawn to the course for its fun factor.

Abby Jasken plays up her "Survivor" character's competitiveness during filming at the City Beach on May 20, 2021. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)
Abby Jasken plays up her "Survivor" character's competitiveness during filming at the City Beach on May 20, 2021. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)

Mary Kvebak, who’s been teaching Laker Live since 2014, said the class motto is to “celebrate all things Laker: Our students, schools, and community. #LakerPride.”

“Truly a video yearbook for the school year,” Kvebak explained of the class, students create videos “in several different categories ranging from informational to entertainment… We have created several videos for our academic organizations, athletic teams and for our graduation ceremonies.”

The class also makes videos for businesses in town, when requested.

Usually, the kids said, it’s up to them to decide what to make a video about, but Kvebak sets guidelines and will offer up ideas when needed. Once the students have their idea, they pitch it to the rest of the class and create a storyboard and plot line before diving into filming.

The students work on their videos individually or, more often, in groups of two to four people. They’re tasked with creating one new video about every two weeks. The content of the videos must vary -- if a group makes a sports-themed video one week, for example, then they’re expected to make something different, like a game show or documentary, the next time.

They come up with a wide variety of creative content. This past year alone, Laker Live students have made videos about prom, construction projects at the schools, the Sidekicks club, girls hockey and many other topics. For example, the group McDougall was with, which included Cadee Henderson and Abby Jasken, created videos inspired by “Carpool Karaoke” and “Family Feud.” Others did humorous food reviews or conducted “man-on-the-street” interviews with their peers, asking questions like, “What’s your superpower?” or “What’s something new you learned during quarantine?”

The videos served an especially unique purpose during this past year of the pandemic. From kids in facemasks being featured in nearly every video to entire segments devoted to COVID-19 -- one group's interview-style "COVID Confessions" stands out as a prime example -- the videos have provided a window into students' daily lives, as well as a platform from which they've been able to share their thoughts on things like social distancing and remote learning.

The videos air during the school’s Advisory period every other week, and on the school’s video boards in places like the gym and at the football field. They're also uploaded to the Laker Live YouTube channel, DLLakerLive, where they can be viewed by anyone, any time. Leighton Broadcasting’s local channel TV3 airs the videos, too.

The videos don’t always turn out as originally planned, the students freely admit, and that’s part of the learning process -- and the fun.

“We try to make a plan, and it never goes as planned,” laughed senior Logan Johnston. “So we just go with the flow and try to make it funny. We’ve learned to improvise, and it somehow turns out; everyone loves our videos… We did a ‘Wrestlemania’ video that a lot of people liked.”

Thomas Fritz, Carsen Wold and Lily Gilbertson strike a pose for their intro shot in the Laker Live class's "Survivor" video, at the City Beach on May 20, 2021. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)
Thomas Fritz, Carsen Wold and Lily Gilbertson strike a pose for their intro shot in the Laker Live class's "Survivor" video, at the City Beach on May 20, 2021. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)

The class uses iMovie and WeVideo editing software, learning how to use them mostly by watching tutorials on YouTube. The editing process can be a little challenging at first, the kids said, but it doesn’t take long to figure out. Kvebak is always there to offer tips and advice, too.

“I enjoy seeing what our students can create and share with our audiences,” said Kvebak, adding a ‘thank you’ to the Detroit Lakes Education Foundation “for providing a grant in the total of $4,000 for new equipment to be used for our class and in our new studio at the high school.”

Looking back on their semester of fun as the school year was coming to an end, the spring 2021 Laker Live class said they’d miss their friends and the laughs -- but the videos will always be there. As Johnston said, “I can always look back at the videos, and all the memories we made.”