Freshman finalist in National Geographic video contest

Lauren Lee

The Upper Peninsula has been described as many different things, but thanks to freshman digital cinema major Jake Lamons, National Geographic is calling Marquette “exotic.”

re-Nat.Geo.Video 2

Lamons was nominated for National Geographic’s “Wild to Inspire” short film competition for footage he shot the first three weeks he arrived in Marquette, exploring areas NMU students visit regularly.

Lamons said he couldn’t believe his footage of students exploring in the woods received so much recognition.

“I saw everyone else’s submissions and there were lions and buffalo, just crazy exotic animals, and I didn’t have any of that. I just had people exploring nature and in the woods,” Lamons said. “I got the email saying I was chosen to be a finalist and flown out there and I couldn’t believe it. My video next to people shooting gorillas in the Congo, shooting in Honduras and people across the United States – I couldn’t believe my video was chosen.”

This was the second annual “Wild to Inspire” by National Geographic held at the Sun Valley Film Festival March 4-8 at Sun Valley, Id.

Lamons came across the contest on Vimeo, a site where he keeps his work. The contest description asked filmmakers to submit their version of “Destination Wild.”

The other nominees were Filipe DeAndrade for “Adapt,” Alex Goetz for “Living Isle” and Austin Haeberle and Wendy Jacques for “Not on Our Watch: Keeping the Congo’s Gorillas From Extinction.”

Lamons was the youngest filmmaker out of the four nominees. The other competitors are established in the film industry. Lamons said he didn’t expect his work to explode early in college.

“It feels amazing because everyone else was 29, 28 and the couple was 40, so as a 19-year-old in something this big in the scope of that big of a contest it’s amazing. It feels great,” Lamons said.

“When I got there, everyone couldn’t believe my age, and I couldn’t believe I was there. I always dreamed of where my career with film would go, but I never saw it happening on that big of a scale that early in my life.”

The short film he took for fun now has 1,327 views on YouTube. Assistant professor Gabrielle McNally said Lamons was talented before he entered her class and the nomination is no surprise.

“I think it’s the way he presents Marquette through the eyes of young people,” McNally said. “The people that think of exotic places are older, more cultured trips around the world like Africa.

“What he did was show how simple nature can be right in your own backyard and how many young people are missing out on that. That’s what makes it exotic – the way of looking at it compared to the subject matter.”

National Geographic flew Lamons out over spring break for the festival. His video was screened Thursday, March 5 in front of 200 people.

Lamons said he was allowed a plus one for the event.

“I brought my dad, my biggest supporter,” Lamons said. “I didn’t win, unfortunately, but just winning the experience was huge. Filipe DeAndrade for “Adapt” won. He deserved it, he killed it. He was 28 and had been working for a long time. I loved seeing him win. He gave a super passionate speech on stage so it was his time to win and my time will come later. It’s not my time yet.”

NMU freshman human centered design major Shane O’Brien grew up with Lamons in Kalamazoo and said he knew his hometown friend would go far.

“I’ve been friends with Jake for a really long time,” O’Brien said. “So I was used to him filming and I figured he would do something amazing with it but never expected it to amount to what it has. I think that just shows how talented he really is and how much better he’s going to become. Not many kids our age can say they’ve accomplished something that grand.”

The judges for the prize were National Geographic, Vice, the Huffington Post and Earth Touch.

After winning “Wild to Inspire,” DeAndrade received an opportunity to study filmmaking and wildlife in the Maasai Steppe landscape in Tanzania, Africa with Emmy Award-winning cinematographer, Bob Poole.

To see Lamons’ portfolio go to www.vimeo.com/channels/710560.