NDA Productions: Making Its Mark on the World

Hannah Dercks

“You know how NDA has a film club but not a filmmaking club?”

I sat there in my firm pink chair for a moment, contemplating what these words would do once I sent them.  I would start a new club–a club where individuals could express their love for filmmaking.  They could uncover the magical realms within themselves, sharing a story the world has never seen.  All this promise and joy lived within that one text.  No one had taken the  leap to this world.  If I were the first, the brave soul to start this campaign, a spark of creativity might ignite amongst the students at Notre Dame Academy.  But I couldn’t do it alone; it would be a long, tedious process.  I needed someone who shared this passion with me.  We would embark on this journey together, taking NDA by storm with our passion for film.  It didn’t take long for a name to come to mind.  Sending him this text would change everything.  I took a deep breath.  It was time.  I hit send, and a reply came soon later.

“I know what you’re thinking.  I want to do it.”

And that’s how Alex Eclavea and I began our filmmaking club.  The whole night we messaged, discussing our hopes and dreams for the club, comparing and contrasting possible activities.  So many ideas floated in our minds that May evening.  A week later we met for coffee.  We contacted Frau to be our club monitor, organized points for a proposal, and arranged a meeting with Mr. Masarik, Notre Dame’s Vice Principal.  We were determined to make this dream a reality.  

As the end of our sophomore year drew near, Alex and I talked, texted, and emailed about the club.  It was so hard to contain our excitement–we couldn’t believe we were about to be the ones to start the first filmmaking club at Notre Dame.  We imagined what the club would be like: a collaborative, joyful, and positive environment for all students to express themselves.  The more we dreamed, the faster time seemed to fly.  Before we knew it, finals were upon us, and so was our meeting with Mr. Masarik.  I remember the feelings and thoughts I had as Alex and I walked to his office.  I was excited, energetic, ecstatic.  But I was also terrified.  Would the club be approved?  What if this club wouldn’t be as successful as we wanted it to be?  What if we failed?

“Well, this is it.  I’m kind of nervous,” I exhaled.

“Don’t be,” Alex said calmly.

And he was right.  We went into his office, and together we conversed with Mr. Masarik, explaining why the school should have a club dedicated to the art of filmmaking.  My fear vanished as I spoke.  I became so invested in the club, so invested in my passion that I didn’t have time to be afraid.  Alex and I had a point to prove.  Notre Dame needed this club–our Triton filmmakers needed to be heard.  When you truly want to achieve something, you’ll do anything in your power to reach your goal.  And that’s what we did.  Our conversation went perfectly.  All we needed was a club monitor, some guaranteed members, and a proposal.  If we did those things, we would be able to then seek official approval.  Alex and I left the office, feeling determined and exhilarated.  We could do this.  We could do this.

A picture of me during my writing seminar at Northwestern University.

Summer came the next day.  Sophomore year was finished, and it was time to enjoy some well-deserved relaxation.  As we entered a time of swimming, late nights, and parties, Alex and I began to shift our focus to other parts of our lives.  Alex traveled to Chicago and went to Los Angeles to learn more about filmmaking.  I went to a leadership seminar in Whitewater and attended a writing seminar at Northwestern University.  We were both enjoying the freedom from school–the school year seemed so far away.  But, as summer always does, it quickly came to a close.  The last month I started to buckle down.  Frau had most graciously agreed to be our club monitor, and we already had ten incredible individuals who pledged to join the club.  All that was left was the proposal.  I began composing a proposal, including all of the aspects of our club.  Our club would be welcome to all, beginners or experienced, directors or actors, freshmen or seniors.  This club would give students the opportunity to converse with one another, collaborate to achieve a common goal, and work on time management.  Together the Tritons would help each other grow.  And, most importantly, our goal was to have fun.

My awesome NDA Productions co-founder–Alex Eclavea.

I furiously typed out the goals of the club, making sure I included all of those key points.  As I finished, I looked at the proposal with pride.  I had taken a giant step by trying to start the club.  The idea of me and someone else tackling this mission was intimidating.  But here I was, sending in the proposal, getting one step closer to starting the club.  While I was writing, I realized we needed a name for the club.  People often confused the film club at our school for a filmmaking club.  Alex and I had exchanged various names for the club, but we struggled to decide on a particular name.  It hit me, however, that Alex had made a name suggestion we were both fond of.  I immediately messaged him, and my heart swelled when I saw our club name–NDA Productions.  And with that, I sent in the proposal, praying to St. Clare, our club’s patron saint, that our dreams would become a reality.  

As our junior year started, we anxiously awaited to hear the results.  I checked my email as often as I could, and Alex checked in with me everyday.  Would we be able to represent our club at the club fair?  Would we be able to gather enough people?  Would we even be approved?  A feeling of uncertainty hung in the air as we awaited a response.  But finally, on Thursday September 1, 2016, we received the news we had been waiting to hear for five months–NDA Productions, Notre Dame Academy’s first filmmaking club, was now a “sanctioned” club.  A smile spread on my face as I saw the fantastic news.  I notified Alex, and we began preparations for the club fair.  We had a week until our club would be unveiled, and we were determined to make a good impression.

We worked hard.  Alex worked on a film to encourage members to join (which is shown above), and I prepared the props for the club fair.  We wanted to make sure that students would be aware of the goals of this new club, so our work had to be perfect.  I made posters and signs and bought popcorn to draw in students (unfortunately I overestimated the amount of popcorn, but I was able to distribute some bags to some hungry Tritons at the end of the school day).  It seemed like things were finally coming together.  However, I have to admit that the week before the fair, particularly the night before, I was extremely stressed–I had to do the poster, organize the props, and study for two tests and a quiz.  It was a little overwhelming.  The dream we both had was finally coming true, but I was running out of breath as we approached the finish line.  Thankfully, my mom stepped in and offered me a hand.  A great sum of anxiety was lifted from me because of her.  My mom and I worked late into the night, but the results were worth it.  If it weren’t for her, I don’t think I could have made the presentation of the club as fantastic as it was.

Payton Van Pelt (junior) and I representing NDA Productions at the 2016 Club Fair.

Finally, the day arrived.  I brought the props to school, and Alex uploaded the club trailer onto YouTube that he too fervently worked on into the wee hours of the night before.  Frau kindly organized the stand for us, and when I entered into the gymnasium during my 5A lunch period, there I saw all our hard work in front of us–the fruits of our labor were spectacular.  I saw Payton Van Pelt, one of the club’s original ten members, beaming as I walked towards the stand.  Her enthusiasm was clear, and I felt even more joy as I joined her at the NDA Productions booth.  We threw on our director berets and got to work.  We told others about our club, our goals and ideas.  We handed out popcorn and information about the club.  I am proud to say that NDA Productions, in its first year of operation, drew in over forty Notre Dame Academy students.  Our club, only a week old, has already begun to flourish.

The time, energy, love, sweat, and tears invested in this club are immeasurable.  But each moment, each moment of excitement, aggravation, or anticipation was worth it.  The work and determination we put into this club made me a better person.  I feel stronger, more organized, and confident.  I began a new club with a boy who shared my passion.  Together we created a beautiful outlet for students to let their voices be heard.  It is place where Tritons can come together and be themselves.  It is a place where they can let their imaginations run wild.  And to me, that is the greatest gift this club could give–joy.  As our joy grows, so will NDA Productions.  So, as our first club meeting approaches, we are ready to make our mark on the world.