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Gurnee school safety video one of security

ColumbiCollege televisidepartment director Matt Till Grayslake consults with stedicam operator Tom Szklarski Brookfield before shooting scene with dramstudents Riley Doyle

Columbia College television department director Matt Till of Grayslake consults with stedicam operator Tom Szklarski of Brookfield before shooting a scene with drama students Riley Doyle (left), 12, of Gurnee and Morgan Niesen, 12, of Gurnee in a safety video at Woodland Middle School. Woodland School District 50 and the Gurnee Police Department collaborated on the video to help with school safety. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 23, 2013 6:01AM

GURNEE — Audrey King, 12, of Gurnee and her friend, Kristy Heerdegen, 11, of Grayslake, were standing just behind the film director and his crew at Woodland Intermediate School holding cameras of their own when they fist bumped and then did crazy fingers like it was an explosion and laughed.

They were celebrating their small part in a partnership between Woodland Community Consolidated School District 50 and the Gurnee Police Department to produce a professional video to help enhance safety in schools and what happens during a lockdown because of an intruder inside the school.

The young Kathryn Bigelows (“Zero Dark Thirty” director) volunteered to make a film about the film, showing the behind-the-scenes action, for their technology class. They were clearly enjoying themselves along with the rest of the members of the Woodland Middle School Drama Club.

Both of the young ladies were surprised at how the film crew and the equipment they were using was so professional.

“I didn’t expect all the sound and video lights,” said King. “I didn’t think they would have a big screen showing everything they were filming,” said Heerdegen.

The project started out with Gurnee Police Department’s Crime Prevention Technician Tom Agos suggesting the police and school district partner to develop a DVD that all new school staff would watch to learn what to do in the event of a lockdown. Police train the teachers and substitutes at the beginning of the year on lockdown procedures, but staff hired after that wait until the beginning of the new year.

“This is common practice in most school districts,” said Woodland Associate Superintendent of Education Lori Casey. “The safety of our students and staff remains a priority. We are constantly looking to analyze and improve safety in the district and as such, look to implement new strategies when appropriate.”

Can you say lights, sound, camera, action?

Agos’ brother, Chris, is a television actor and voice-over veteran who has appeared on the television shows “Chicago Fire” and “Mob Doctor.”

He’s been in the business for 17 years and when his police officer brother suggested a short film made with an iPad considering the recent mass killings in Newton, Conn., Chris thought it was a great idea.

“Then I thought, ‘Let’s make it more professional’,” he said, which led to contacting Matt Till of Grayslake, a film director and professor at Columbia College in Chicago.

Till agreed and offered his students extra credit to do the project.

Nearly a dozen showed up last week to manage all the different aspects of a professional shoot. They even got makeup/hair stylists from Octagon Spa in Gurnee. The crew and cast (over 60 people) were supplied dinner by the Savanna House restaurant in Wadsworth.

During the filming, Ellen Crahan was the Woodland teacher doing the lockdown. She assists with the school’s drama club and enjoyed the whole experience. “I think this is just great for the kids to experience this. Here’s an opportunity for them to do real film-making. I’m so excited for them,” she said.

Aliyah Blumenthal, 12, and Elizabeth Fenelon, 12, both of Gurnee, were sitting in the first row front seats pretending to do homework.

“I got all my homework done,” admitted Blumenthal, who was just scribbling for the camera. “I just finished social studies and I have four problems in math,” said Fenelon. They both loved the experience.

“It’s nice it’s going to help other people,” said Blumenthal.

“It was very cool. It’s nice that we are all going to make a difference,” said Fenelon.

They did the lockdown drill numerous times and at the end they all had to crowd into a closet.

Till also had fun directing, “Good job, ladies,” he said to seventh-graders Morgan Niesen and Riley Doyle, “Can we wait for me to say, ‘Action’ next time?” he said with a smile and everyone laughed.

The film will feature a short intro and then go into the lockdown situation. The school district will use it in-house, but officials also wanted it vague enough that any school could use it.

“While the original purpose of this video was to share it with new Woodland employees, we are also hopeful that other school districts may find the DVD beneficial,” said District 50 Superintendent Joy Swoboda.

“We are most appreciative of the collaborative relationship we have with the Gurnee Police Department and thank them for their support to further enhance safety measures so that our district will remain a safe learning environment for our children and staff,” she said.

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