On stage

Blake Riggs stands at the podium ready to record an honor graduate address.

For behind-the-scenes commencement commentary, the Milton Courier turned to Red Hawk Media advisor Tim Hall and yearbook advisor Sarah Brechtl.

On Thursday, Hall was on the auditorium stage filming the speeches. Michael Dorn was helping with sound and lights.

When the virtual ceremony is shared online at 2 p.m. Sunday, each of the 260 graduates will be recognized with a photo taken after they received their diploma at school or on their front lawn, or with a submitted photo.

Hall, MHS building secretary Joanne Jenner and Associate Principal Tara Huber have been working to collect a diploma photo from each senior who did not come to school for a photo.

“We’re hoping to have them all,” Brechtl said, “but if we don’t we’ll just use their senior portrait.”

As “the yearbook lady,” Brechtl has been creating senior collages for the video. Once she’s done, Hall will bring the pieces together. “It’s combining a lot of different media together,” he said. “It’s like when we put our homecoming video together. It’s definitely a big collaborative effort of collecting all those different media together.”

He uses a video editing program, a special effects program, PhotoShop and Final Cut Pro.

“Tim Hall is definitely the wizard behind the curtain,” Brechtl said. “He is the storyboard planner and producer, and he is responsible for publishing the videos online, making sure materials/music aren’t copyrighted.”

From Brechtl’s perspective, she said, “The biggest challenge is just the need and desire to get it as perfect as we possibly can. Under normal circumstances, graduation is a big deal, but this year I think we all feel a little added pressure and responsibility to get it right because these are unprecedented times.”

Hall, however, on Thursday, didn’t seem worried. He created the honors night and scholarship night videos and helped with the message to seniors and said he’s enjoyed putting together these celebrations. (All can be viewed on the Red Hawk Media YouTube channel.)

A multi-media instructor at MHS, Hall also does videography and said weddings can be more stressful than putting together the graduation ceremony.

Brechtl said she’s enjoyed being part of a team effort.

In past years, she said “I’ve had a cursory view of the graduation preparation, but this year I got a front-row seat to really see all the work that goes into it. I am incredibly proud of our administrative team and their staff. These people are putting in so much time and energy trying to think of every detail and consider every student and family, all while graciously accepting opinions and criticism, and most of all, working within constantly changing parameters set by state law, insurance/legal counsel, and the health department. The man-hours on this one are unbelievable..”

How long the video will be Hall wasn’t sure. The past six graduations have been an hour and 20 minutes.

Brechtl said she will miss the communal feeling of an in-person ceremony.

“It’s no different than a sporting event, a concert, or the last day of school,” she said. “Big moments are better shared — I think the pandemic has reminded us all of that. At some point I’m sure families and graduates will be able to get together and celebrate, but for now, we’ve just got to know that we’re all there in spirit.”

High school and district administrators included on the commencement program include Superintendent Rich Dahman, Principal Jeremy Bilhorn, associate principals Tara Huber and Mathew Kleinschmidt, and Activities Director Brian Hammil.

In addition to Hall and Brechtl, the commencement program acknowledges senior class advisor Jeanne Hergert, MHS building secretary Joanne Jenner, stage decorator Jennifer Williams, and photographer Mike Gouvion.

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