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Lessons from failed youth leadership

Dec 07, 2012

Lessons from failed youth leadership

photo credit: ktpupp photo licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

By Robin Bortner

It was the best idea in the world.

At the very least, it was the best idea I’d had in the past several hours. My best friend Kelly and I, bored young teenagers in northern Indiana, were going to turn Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire into a movie. It was early 2001 and before Warner Brothers had released the first movie; we decided to beat them to it.

Channeling our best Alfred Hitchcock, we cast nearly the entire 6th grade, recruited other friends to become cameramen and divided up 752 pages into scenes. The term "big deal" fails to capture the film's magnitude. One classmate dyed his hair black to be cast as Harry. 

After the first shoot—a Christmas scene where the weather failed to provide the scripted snow—it was clear I’d bitten off more than I could chew. Harry Potter was probably better left to Warner Brothers.

Complications really began when we attempted to realistically shoot the underwater lake scene by draping blue sheets over furniture. Soon after absent cast members required me to play three characters in one scene, my classmates deserted.

We finished the film, namely by patching together our completed dozen scenes with long shots of narration, and called it The Blairy Potter Project in an allusion to the camerawork of The Blair Witch Project.

Occasionally, the movie still becomes the object of japes when I see those old friends, but in the end, I not only earned some laughs and also learned some valuable lessons that I apply when I step up as a leader to chase my big dreams and undertake projects.

  • First, accommodate your dreams to fit your limitations, but don’t give them up.

Analyze your organization skill, finances and commitment to pull off your project. Is this project realistic? If not, can you achieve similar results with a different approach? 

  • Second, make sure everyone is on board.

Sell your idea so others can take ownership of your project and share your passion. When you plan your project, know who you can rely on for the long-term, when the road turns rough.

  • Third, learn something along the way.

Be a life-long learner and reflect how your project helped you. Beyond the life-lessons and leadership skills I learned through my misadventure, I gained practical skills with video cameras, film editing, script writing and event organizing.

  • Fourth, and finally, enjoy the journey even if your results are unexpected.

“Blairy Potter” might not be the cinematic masterpiece I’d envisioned, but it’s a product of my love for J.K. Rowling’s series and, speaking from nostalgia, a lot of laughs and a good experience. Youth leadership at its finest.

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