"I’ve been communicating through images since I was 2. Now I have branched out to actual images on screen."
Move over, Ken Burns. Lucas Schroeder ’18 would love to take your place as a premiere documentary filmmaker.
“Ken Burns is one of my favorite filmmakers,” he says. “In fifth grade, my mom took me to see him speak. If I could go down and follow his footsteps, that would be a dream come true for me.”
Schroeder is already making a name for himself on campus with his films. During the 2015-16 school year,he started a film club, Reel Life Productions, with his older brother, Devin ‘16 and Matt Alburn ’18. The club is devoted to making films rather than viewing them. Schroeder and Alburn are heads of the club’s documentary pursuits.
“We make documentaries [about Exeter life] and cover events,” he says. Last year, for instance, they made a documentary about Relay for Life, a charitable run to raise funds and awareness about cancer that was organized on campus by the Exeter Social Service Organization. It was shown during Exeter’s closing assembly.
Schroeder’s favorite film so far is one called Everyday Heroes. It focused on the Academy’s many student-run organizations. He spent his whole prep year filming it, interviewing club heads. Over the summer he edited it. The film, which was well-received, aired early last fall. “It was great to see the work I did over the summer pay off,” Schroeder says. “We make documentaries to show people what kind of events happen on campus.” The club has its own Facebook page where members can share their work beyond the Academy community.
Initially it was his brother’s dinner-table talk about the classes and overall atmosphere at Exeter that made him want to attend. “The small classes drew me here,” Schroeder says. “I’m a quiet person. It was the Harkness that drew me here initially.”
But Schroeder, who is a day student, also thought he would have more opportunities to hone his interest in film here. “My local school doesn’t have as many opportunities with the equipment and endowment. I could start my own film club [at Exeter].”
He could also, as a day student, enjoy the best of both worlds. “I like the option of going home to see family,” he says. Lucas also liked having the 25-minute drive each way to catch up with Devin. “We grew closer,” he says. “It was a nice time to connect with him.
Schroeder’s interest in images started at a very young age; he was a late talker. “I actually used sign language,” he says of his early communication choices. “I’ve been communicating through images since I was 2. Now I have branched out to actual images on screen. I love having a reason to go out and talk to people in the community,” he says.
So who inspires him — besides Ken Burns, of course? Steven Spielberg (Indiana Jones series, E. T.) and James Cameron (Titanic and Avatar) top Schroeder’s list. His favorite film though is The Usual Suspects. Directed by Bryan Singer, it is a crime thriller that features, among other actors, Kevin Spacey and Gabriel Byrne. “I had to watch it twice to see what was really going on,” he says.
When Schroeder is not behind the lens, you can find him on the soccer field, on the ice or in a scull. As for his next film, he’s thinking about a documentary about ITP, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. It’s an autoimmune disorder that makes it difficult for blood to clot; a family member has ITP. “I’ve been thinking of making a documentary about that because not many people know about it,” Schroeder says.
And, of course, with two more years to go at Exeter, he’s already turning his lens back to campus life to share the stories he finds there.