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Getting it All on Film and Dreaming Big

Student Shoots for Hollywood While Promoting School

If you want to know a bit about David Tay and the pride he takes in his school, watch this video.

It’s a lip-dub he filmed of the high school last spring, a catchy cavalcade of students dancing, running up and down stairs, blowing bubbles, striking frozen poses and generally acting up with the coolness of being Wildcats. Lugging a heavy camera-on-handlebars, along with classmate Ellie Haveman, David takes you on a tour of the entire school to a high-energy pop-tune medley.

He did it in one take, along with about 1,200 students.

“It took a lot out of me,” David admits with a smile. “But it was super-cool.”

If you still want to know more about David, you could watch the video he recently made of the high school athletic program. It features beautiful slow-mo shots of students diving, running and playing football, as part of an application to the Powerade Power Your School competition. It potentially could reap $2,000 for the school athletic program.

In fact, you can find out a whole lot about David Tay by watching his films, about two dozen of which he’s posted on YouTube. They include a short video he made for the College Board promoting the Khan Academy’s Official SAT Practice program, as well as films about NVHS classes such as Creative Problem Solving.

For the easy-going, good-humored senior class president, such ventures are a way to advocate for his fellow students while pursuing his dream — being a Hollywood filmmaker.

“Representing Northview, it’s something I want to take seriously,” he says.

David Tay began making films in elementary school

Using Talent for Others

David does that well, says Principal Mark Thomas, who is chair-elect of the College Board’s Midwestern Regional Office. He calls David an engaging, talented student who has helped Thomas build “a safe and successful learning environment” at Northview.

“What I love about him is that he uses his talents to pursue good and worthy causes which help others,” Thomas says. “His leadership legacy at Northview High School will be easily remembered based on the fact that he will have left behind a trail of videos which he created and produced.”

David’s passion for filmmaking began in fifth grade, when he and a friend made a video as an alternative to a science assignment. That led to more videos on iPads and a growing interest in film, somewhat to the surprise of his STEM-oriented parents, Eugene and Laura Jane Tay, a physician and veterinarian, respectively. He jokes they can see him as a starving artist, “making B films and living under a bridge,” but says they support his chosen path.

‘I love telling stories and being able to share a story.’ – David Tay

He got a big boost on that journey after spending the summer after his sophomore year studying film and video production at Northwestern University. He learned a ton from other students from as far as New York and China.

“After that program I remember thinking, ‘There’s no way I can’t do this. I love this so much,’” he recalls.

What Makes Life Worth Living

What he loves is creating worlds of the imagination, such as in the Star Wars and Wes Anderson movies he adores, but also creating films about the world he knows, such as his fellow students at Northview.

“I love telling stories and being able to share a story,” he says, and references a line from “The Dead Poets Society”: that things like science and engineering are necessary to sustain life, but poetry and beauty “are what we stay alive for.” The same with film, he says: “Being able to share stories and share different aspects of life, I think that’s a big part of what makes us human.”

He’s gotten great encouragement and hands-on expertise from filmmaker Steve Harryman, a 1981 Northview grad who created a short film, “The Last Lesson,” about his former art teacher Ruth Bitting.

“Steve understands my passion,” says David, who is taking an independent study on film. “We’re both gearheads. We both love talking about our lenses.”

His latest project: a video application to film school. Two 14-hour days of shooting went into the film, a story involving two Northview students about going beyond conventional expectations. He’ll send it to a dozen schools, including Northwestern and the University of Southern California.

He has his sights on a career in film based in Los Angeles. Although he could be happy making documentaries, “The dream is to go to Hollywood and direct feature movies,” he boldly admits. “I know it’s a goal a lot of people reach for and don’t get.”

He’s prepared to work his way up.

“I’m willing to spend years getting coffee for an important guy, so someday I can be that important guy.”


More David Tay videos on YouTube

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey
Charles Honey is editor-in-chief of SNN, and covers series and issues stories for all districts. As a reporter for The Grand Rapids Press/mLive from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years and its columnist for 20. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion News Service and Faith & Leadership magazine. Read Charles' full bio


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