Isaiah Bischoff is a freshman at South High who, at 12 years old, began documenting his summer camp.
All in the Circle is an annual two-week retreat that teaches kids to love nature and be kind to each other while learning the science behind climate change. It's put on by Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, a spiritual, nondenominational environmental nonprofit.
At the time Bischoff joined the camp, his film portfolio consisted of some family videos and a report on a local soup kitchen, Soup for You. Neverthless, when camp leadership decided that a documentary was just the thing to help fundraising efforts, they hired Bischoff to direct.
Over two years, Bischoff captured hundreds of hours of footage depicting the camp's African drum circles, storytelling by Dakota elder Bob Klanderud, farm animals, and extravagant plays using giant paper mache puppets, which the campers made under the tutelage of professional artists with In the Heart of the Beast Theatre. With the help of video producer David Howell, the 14-year-old now has a full-length film that will premiere May 18 at Riverview Theatre.
"Now that we've been editing the film, we've been able to really let moments that he's captured play out," Howells says. "I'm just really struck by the footage he got versus I was in a similar class and I would get completely different footage because the kids would look at me like I was just some old guy with a camera. But the footage that he's got, he's right in there. You don't even notice the camera. They're goofing off to the camera."
All in the Circle camp changes locations frequently, depending on which churches host it for the summer. One year it was in Minnetonka, the next in Powerhorn Park.
The proceeds of the film are all bound for Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, which aims to create scholarships for children of all backgrounds. Tuition for the two-week camp is $500 per child.
"There's a whole philosophy for the camp," Bischoff says. "It's not like other camps. And the whole thing is, at the end there's a performance to show the parents. You're kind of leading up to that, but also just having fun."
Since shooting "All in the Circle," Bischoff has founded his own video freelance business. His services include creating home videos, documenting quincineras, and commercials for local businesses.