It’s not uncommon for high school students to try to come up with any excuse to get themselves out of class. Glacier High School junior Chad Dawson isn’t really any different, but you have to give him credit for originality and merit: Last week, the 17-year-old earned a part-day pass to attend an entrepreneurial seminar at Flathead Valley Community College with his 18-year-old business partner, Jordan Vaughan.
The two were debating the merits of becoming an LLC versus a partnership, and looking for tips on building a portfolio and clientele for their budding commercial production business. “Well, I’d say it’s a pretty good excuse,” Dawson said.
But the duo’s business, East E. Productions, is far from just an elaborate hoax to cut school. In fact, Vaughan is already done with classes. The Flathead High School senior officially graduated this past fall, six months early, in order to join an FVCC study abroad trip in Nepal. He’ll walk with his classmates this spring in their graduation ceremony as one of the class’s valedictorians.
The partners have been “making films” together since they became close friends in junior high, creating home videos, ski movies and annoying their parents, they say. Last summer, they filmed several local weddings, using scenes from before and after the nuptials and editing software to make more than “just a shaky, hand-held movie.”
Dawson and Vaughan’s first commercial aired last week – a 30-second spot for Kalispell’s Golf USA. It shows golf balls bouncing out of local business owners’ shops toward the golf equipment store. It’s professional and engaging, and obviously the product of several days work – one of the final scenes, where about 100 golf balls bounce toward the entrance, took the teens four takes.
“We were running around throwing blankets on all these golf balls, trying to collect them,” Vaughan said. “We had hoped it would only take one take, but we wanted it to be perfect so we did a few more.”
The impetus for starting the business was simple: Dawson and Vaughan didn’t think many of the area’s local commercials were very good, and knew they had the talent, equipment and creativity to do better. Dawson approached Josh Gold, a professional golfer, Golf USA employee and one of the Glacier High golf coaches, about letting him do a commercial for the store.
“I told him no, go back and write up a business proposal and come back and pitch it – do this right,” Gold said. “What they came up with is just awesome. It’s worlds better than most local commercials in originality and editing.”
Now, Dawson and Vaughan are writing up proposals for area businesses as creativity strikes them, going on the offensive to pitch their ideas. They try hard to show that, despite their age, they’re serious about the work and professional. They wear black dress pants and button-down shirts to interviews, carry business cards and type up proposal outlines. Vaughan is even considering cutting his bleach-blond mop of hair.
It’s paying off so far: Their work for Golf USA has already helped them land two more jobs for East E. Productions – Sportsman Ski Haus and Town Printer – and several more possibilities.
Dawson calls Vaughan the “business guy” for their start-up; without school, Vaughan says he has more time to research starting a business online and to meet with potential clients during the day. “He’s got a 4.0 and a full-ride academic scholarship for college,” Dawson said, doing the bragging for his friend. “That’s why he’s the lead on business.”
It’s Dawson, though, who’s getting a jumpstart on his choice career. The Glacier student body president hopes to attend Brooks Institute of Photography, a prestigious photo and film school in Santa Barbara, Calif., when he graduates. “To get to do film is really fun,” he said. “To get paid to do it – I can’t think of anything much better. This is pretty awesome.”
To contact East E Productions email Jordan and Chad at email@example.com
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