Charley Voorhis helps clients, students express their passion
Blog: Common Ground
January 12, 2012
Leavenworth videographer Charley Voorhis finds inspiration in mixing images and music in a way that takes viewers on a "journey of emotions."
He looks for clients who "are as passionate about their area of expertise as I am about mine," Voorhis told me as we sipped tea at Tastebuds in Wenatchee this week. That approach translates perfectly to his job at the Wenatchee Tech Center, where he's helping high school students discover their own passions through film.
This 28-year-old Wenatchee native is another in a growing community of gifted videographers who are making a name for themselves in the valley, a list that includes Malcolm Keithley and his crew at M&M Productions and Jamie Howell, Jeff Ostenson and the staff at Howell at the Moon Productions. Voorhis, who teaches cinematography and production at the Tech Center (formerly the Wenatchee Technical Skills Center), is making a splash with videos he's producing with his company, Voortex Productions.
A few weeks ago, he released 2011 Reel, a stunning five-minute retrospective of the commercial and personal work he did last year. The images of people, landscapes, wildlife and musicians set to music is simply captivating. You can see it by logging in to vimeo.com and searching for "Voortex Productions 2011 Reel."
Voorhis knows all about the value of the Tech Center, where he spent his junior and senior year of high school learning about cinematography. At the time, he was more passionate about doing aerial tricks with his snowboard, but a catastrophic accident at a competition at Schweitzer Mountain nearly cost him his life. If you go to Youtube.com and search for "snowboarding almost killed me," you can see the awful crash. The accident dimmed his interest in extreme sports and he instead discovered a passion for the artistry of film.
After attending the film program of Brooks Institute of Photography in Ventura, Ca, he moved back to the valley to continued his freelance videography work. He ran a video store and coffee shop in Leavenworth before landing a job teaching at Wenatchee Valley Tech.
The clients he attracts for his productio company are those that bring a sense of purpose to their work, ranging from L-Bow-the-Clown (Luke Boyce), Snowdrift Cider Co. in East Wenatchee, Olympia Coffee Roasters, and Wenatchee Learns, an effort by the Wenatchee School District to engage the community in building a better educational system.
What's striking about his work is that he rarely uses dialogue but instead stitches together scenes and images with music in a way that allows the viewer to construct his or her own story. The emotions and passion come through in a way that is experienced uniquely by the viewer.
This approach lends great power in his 2011 Reel. When I watched the film, I saw myself rediscovering the majesty and beauty of North Central Washington through his work.
Voorhis has a fascinating project coming up with Olympia Coffee Roasters. The owner, Oliver Stormshak, has invited him to travel to Central America with their coffee buyer to capture to images of the people and the land where the coffee is grown.
In his work at the Tech Center, what Voorhis finds most inspiring is helping kids "find their own voice - what they're personally passionate about." He says the classes are more about personal creativity than technical skills because the technology changes so fast. By discovering their artistic abilities, they can adapt to the changing technology, he believes.
Voorhis cherishes the times when a student checks out the camera for a personal project rather than a class assignment. That's the moment he knows the fire of passion has been lit and they're not just doing schoolwork but are creating. The formula is working.
Last year, the Tech Center hosted a Skills USA competition in videography and his teams placed first, second and third. The top team went on to win state and then second in nationals.
"A lot of students say that they're excited to come to class, that they don't think of it as class but as play," Voorhis said.
Getting that kind of student engagement and firing their passion for self expression is a remarkable achievement and is something that will serve them well in this fast-changing economy, where creativity and self motivation are crucial to success.
Education as self discovery is an education for a lifetime.
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