Encore: Marion Class Act: Linn-Mar Student Gains Following as Award-Winning Videographer
Linn-Mar junior Sam Fathallah has earned a reputation in his school for his inventive videos.
Editor's note: Class Act is a running series that highlights passionate students in the Linn-Mar and Marion Independent School Districts. Feel free to nominate any student who does something exceptional.
In sixth grade, Sam Fathallah created a webpage to post amusing pictures with his friends.
A year later they posted a picture of an obese child in a wheel barrel under a McDonald's logo. Google displayed it as a top image referral for the word “funny” and their small site grew and attracted more than 1 million readers quickly.
Since then Fathallah, who is now a 16-year-old junior at Linn-Mar High School this fall, has earned a reputation school-wide for his new obsession: Creating professional grade, award-winning videos about anything that fascinates him.
He’s been recording video for years and he’s completely self-taught.
"I really don’t stick to filmmaking rules. I don’t like the constraint," he said. "I just pick up the camera."
His YouTube handle is ThePanicButtonBlog. The videos he publishes range from simple ones of him making breakfast to intensive, conceptual videos, such as his dream video. This is a short film that features his friends writing their dreams on a transparant white board, mixed with Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream speech and Chris Garneau's Dirty Night Clowns.
When Deb Connerly, his freshman-year teacher, was handed Fathallah’s video - his submission for a class project - she had relatively low expectations. Usually, the videos she gets are well intentioned, "cute" student videos.
Fathallah's submission was a stop-motion video. In it, pocket change crosses Fathallah’s house and into a plastic bag featuring a donation advertisement for the Salvation Army. When she sent it to Linn-Mar Television, they told her it was stolen.
She said she had to look at his other videos to establish that the video took place in his house, and thus was made by him.
She encouraged him to enter his video in a competition for a cash prize. And he did. Since then, he’s won $1,000 for second place in a video contest held by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. He also won a contest promoting anti-piracy and another one held by Numerica Credit Union. Other videos he has produced for the school and have been recognized at a Linn-Mar School District Board of Education meeting.
"What has been delightful is watching how he is just exploring video," she said. "Sometimes they are thoughtful and more serious and sometimes they are a teen sharing the joys of life."
But her admiration for her student doesn’t just concern his work with video, rather with who he is. Connely said he’s an excellent student, taking advanced classes and earning a "very lovely" GPA of 4.3. Beyond that, she sees him as a well rounded, good-hearted kid.
"He’s the kind of kid that has lots of fun," she said. "He’s clever and he’s funny. He thinks outside the box and he cares."
Sam Fathallah is also a blogger with Patch. Read his first entry here.