Amazing Kids 2018: Movies offer student a lens for life
Jacob Thompson grew up wanting to be like the heroes in movies.
"My parents weren't good examples," he says. "Whether it was Robin Williams or Tom Hanks, I was trying to be like the guys in the movies."
A senior at Arts and Technology High School in Wilsonville, Jacob constantly finds himself escaping reality through films — first when watching them and later when making them.
"It's a way to express. It's a way to tell a story in more than just words, but in actions, lighting, in every way visual," Jacob says. "I've always had a million thoughts a second and film really captures a million thoughts a second. It tells an entire story from beginning to end in two hours or less — or more."
Jacob discovered his passion as a 9-year-old, when his grandfather gave him a camera.
The first movie he ever made was with clips from dinosaur movies and his reactions with friends.
"It looks terrible but we made it in one day," Jacob says. "It was pretty much like little kids playing a game in the backyard, but with a camera."
The next movie he remembers making had more of a plot. He was a bad salesman with a gambling problem.
"It was a weird movie for a 10-year-old kid to make but there was no parent saying, 'Hey, don't do that,'" he says.
And through Jacob's sense of humor and his love for comedies, he can persevere through tough times at home, whether that be living in a garage with no heat, running water or bathroom — or transitioning into living with a West Linn family through a program called Second Home that finds people in the community to temporarily house homeless youth or students.
"I have what I call 'Multiple Sense of Humor Disorder,'" Jacob says. "When you've got such a roller-coaster life, it's a great thing to have. You have to be able to make fun of your life, your family and the people around you because if you can't, it's just a tragedy, and I'd rather live a comedy."
In a life full of turmoil, school often has been a refuge.
"I'd go home and there was always some problem, some disaster — whether it's being kicked out of the house, some sort of fight, grandpa's sick, he's dying — whatever it is, I could always rely on school to be there," Jacob says. "To be a safe place with a roof over my head and friends."
Saskia Dresler, principal at Art Tech, says Jacob has been a great student since coming to her school near the end of his junior year.
"He had been out of school for a while and he came back with a lot of hope. It was hard at the beginning and he persevered," says Dresler, who notes Jacob missed only one day of school last year, and that was for a school-related conference. "He really brings such a positive attitude, so much humor and also so much love."
Jacob is a straight-A student, a dramatic shift from his first three years of high school. He's also taking a drama/film class in which students are writing a screenplay, acting, filming and editing a miniseries called "What's Happening at Woodchuck High?!"
Outside of Art Tech, Jacob is dual-enrolled at Clackamas Community College, working toward an associate's degree in digital communications.
"He has goals and a vision," says Anastasia Conlin, an English teacher at Art Tech. "He has brought me all kinds of independent writing projects to get my feedback. He's just a go-getter and is someone who is willing to put himself out there, get to know people, make those relationships and build those foundations for his future. That's just really fun and exciting to watch."
Jacob interned with Willamette Falls Media Group for two months in 2017 and learned more advanced camera and film techniques, and editing software.
"When I'm older I'm going to be a filmmaker," says Jacob, who plans to go to a four-year film school. "I've got a passion, and it fuels me every day to go for it. And I feed that passion with knowledge as much as I can."
Name: Jacob D. Thompson
School: Arts and Technology High School
Hometown: West Linn
Why he is amazing: Despite conflict outside of school, Jacob is a dedicated student, pursuing his interests at an advanced rate.