JENKS - At 19, filmmaker Crystal Kayiza already has an Emmy award for a documentary piece she did in high school.
She credits much of her achievement to the Jenks High School Film and TV program and Clifton Raphael, the teacher who leads it.
"I feel like any amount of success I have always comes back to how encouraging my school was and how encouraging Mr. Raphael was," Kayiza said.
She won the Emmy in the professional - not student - division of the Heartland Region of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
"It's a real, honest-to-God Emmy," said Raphael, who won his own statue as executive producer of the piece.
Kayiza's segment beat out submissions from two Denver television stations and tied with a Denver Post video piece in the historic/cultural feature category.
"It's rare for a college to win in the professional division, and it may be unprecedented for a high school to do so," said Raphael, who noted that Denver is the 19th-largest television market in the country.
Kayiza's feature, "All That Remains," is about the historic black town of Boley. The film focuses on the Okfuskee County town's rich history and its decline as young people leave for college and professions elsewhere.
As a child, Kayiza enjoyed photography and film. Until Raphael's class, though, she hadn't thought she could be a filmmaker.
"I never really understood you could apply that passion to an actual profession," she said.
The child of Ugandan immigrants, Kayiza was blessed with parents who supported her passion and encouraged her to be the best.
She applied for and received a full scholarship to Ithaca College's Park School of Communications in New York.
The scholarship is valued at $50,000 per year, which includes tuition, room and board; an expense-paid semester in New York, Los Angeles, the District of Columbia or London; and another expense-paid semester anywhere in the world.
"My parents taught me to take the risk and see what happens," Kayiza said.
Her Ugandan grandfather was also a filmmaker and playwright.
"He used film and stage to release his political voice," she said. "He grew up in an oppressive time. He made an impact on his country. I hope that I am as responsible with my filmmaking as he was."
Kayiza said she found that Jenks Public Schools prepared her well for college, particularly when she compares her high school experience with those of some fellow college students who had the "typical teenage sitcom experience."
She said Raphael was blunt when her work wasn't up to par, which readied her for the real world.
"There's something to be said for not being treated as a high school student but as a professional," she said.
Kayiza's piece aired last year in an edition of "Behind the Lens with Oklahoma's Future Filmmakers" on OETA.
"How often do you get a chance to apply for an Emmy when you're 19 years old? I guess it turned out great," she said with a quick smile.
Kim Archer 918-581-8315
Original Print Headline: Emmy winner
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