Windermere High junior Sage Croft’s passion for film and storytelling started off in an unlikely setting: a fighting workshop.
“I was at a workshop at an MMA convention, and it was a … fight-choreography workshop,” he said. “The director who was running it pulled me aside afterward and said … ‘You really have some skills. I’m actually shooting a movie, and I have an audition next week. How would you like to come out and try it?’ I was like, ‘That would be amazing.’ So I came in, I auditioned, I got the part and … I fell in love with that. I was like, ‘Wow, film is really for me.’”
Croft, 17, is a theater enthusiast, mixed-martial artist, aspiring filmmaker and a broadcast journalist who does the daily news report at Windermere High. He is also one of the top 10 finalists to be selected as a student reporter for The Jimmy Awards.
“I’ve been involved with theater and film the last few years,” Croft said. “I’m actually a director myself, and as I’ve been exploring more media in the industry, I’ve become a broadcast journalist.”
The Jimmy Awards, also known as the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, is an annual awards ceremony dedicated to excellence in musical theater at the high-school level. The program impacts more than 100,000 students from schools throughout the country. Two awards are given every year: an award for best performance by an actor and an award for best performance by an actress. Each year, more than 40 theater programs across the country send two students — a best actor and a best actress — to the awards ceremony in New York City.
“The Jimmy Awards is the culmination of all high-school theater,” Croft said. “It’s where all the most talented youths gather in one spot and get to meet, work with and interact with some of the highest-level people on Broadway. They’re working with industry professionals, they’re taking workshops (and) they’re meeting some of their fellow artists from around the country.”
Additionally, theaters involved with The Jimmy Awards each select a student to compete to be a student reporter for the awards ceremony. After being selected as a student reporter for the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts’ Applause Awards — a local ceremony that celebrates Central Florida high school thespians — he was submitted as a reporter for The Jimmy Awards.
“Each theater sends on a reporter to The Jimmy Awards to compete to become a student reporter for that,” Croft said. “I was selected as a student reporter for the Applause Awards and (was) submitted (as a student reporter) for The Jimmy Awards.”
Student reporters for The Jimmy Awards get a real-world experience of working in the journalism industry. They conduct Red Carpet interviews, create promotional videos and run social media, Croft said.
“It’s absolutely an incredible opportunity,” Croft said. “I’m very, very excited about it. The Jimmy Awards has always been something I’ve dreamed about.”
As part of the student-reporter competition, each finalist had to create a video where they talk about themselves and why they should be selected to report on The Jimmy Awards. Those videos are posted on The Jimmy Awards website, and the finalists have to get others to view, like and share their video on Facebook, Croft said.
“Currently, they have each finalist’s (video) on Facebook,” he said. “So people need to go on their Facebook and … go to my video. You can view it, like it, comment, share it — anything you can do to get more interactions with it. They base a lot of the selection on Facebook metrics, to a degree.”
Croft’s work as a director already has earned him recognition at the national level. Last year, he co-directed a video with his girlfriend, Molly Smith, who attends Monteverde Academy, called “Dear America.” The video is about recent tragedies involving gun violence across the country, and it won the award for Best Live-Action Film at the Student Television Network’s 2018-19 Film Excellence awards.
“I love being an actor, I love directing, and I’ve been exploring broadcast journalism now just to explore every part of media I possibly can,” he said. “I love telling stories, and I think it’s important for everyone (to tell their story) because I think everyone has their own story to tell. … I think it’s important to tell the stories that people need to hear.”