Perhaps in a few years Cache Valley will have a budding new filmmaker.
That’s the plan, but it will obviously take some work. Fredrick Ball is aware of that and excited for the future, and also realizes his dream will most likely take him from the valley that he grew up in.
First, Ball is preparing for the final days as a senior at Fast Forward Charter School. The 18-year-old son of Jessica Powell and Jay Ball will be among the 96 “Fast Forwardians” that will graduate at 2 p.m. May 27.
“It’s been a wonderful school,” Ball said. “Now that I’m graduating, my time as a Fast Forwardian is over, but I kind of don’t feel like that is true because I’m going to live the rest of my life as a Fast Forwardian.”
The graduation at Fast Forward will be a drive-through ceremony in the circular drive in front of the school on 1400 North. It will also be broadcast live on Facebook and be available on YouTube. Principal Jill Lowe will be involved in awarding diplomas.
Ball grew up in Smithfield and was home-schooled until high school. When he was 14, he started attending Fast Forward as a freshman. An older sister was going there and really liked the school. Most of his siblings — he has five sisters and a brother and is the second youngest — have gone to Fast Forward.
“Fast Forward’s mission is to help students who are struggling,” Ball said. “We have a really good curriculum. … There is no homework and a lot more student time with the teacher because there is a smaller student body. We have a better learning experience there.”
It’s almost like he is a spokesman for the school. And he was just getting started.
“We have a great art program that we focus on a lot,” Ball said.
“We have video, art and music that is taught by teachers who all have master’s degrees and do it for a living, which is really cool. People forget to talk about the core education classes, which is the whole purpose of the school. All the teachers there are great people and do great things for the students that go there.”
Karen Christiansen, a counselor at Fast Forward, praised Ball. She said he has been a good student that others can look up to.
“Fredrick has a very special place in my heart,” Christiansen said. “I cannot say enough good about this young man. He is the most kind, giving person. He always is looking out for the other person, or the person that may be left out, or sitting alone. He will go over and make sure that they are included, and before you know it they are surrounded with a flock of friends. Fredrick is the face of resilience. He has overcome huge obstacles in his life, yet here he stands at the top of his graduating class.”
Ball is the class salutatorian and was on the honor roll all four years with straight A’s. He was also the video ambassador at the school and will get a $1,000 scholarship for that. He also received a UTECH scholarship in the amount of $3,120.
“Fredrick Ball has been the heart and soul of our school,” Lowe said. “He very much embodies everything we as a school stand for. He is kind, friendly to everyone he met, outgoing and always willing to help. He paid it forward with every person he met. Fredrick is a student who will always be remembered amongst faculty and students alike as someone who put the others first and no one was a stranger to him. From the first day of school with us, he just loves everyone.”
Students at Fast Forward take three two-hour classes each term. There are six terms in a year. Math is his favorite subject, and he said it comes easy to him.
“Once I can understand the concept, I can rip through whatever assignments you give me,” Ball said. “Besides core subjects, we have the video program at school that I’m a part of. That’s what I want to do with my life. I want to be a film director. That’s what I enjoy doing.”
So obviously his favorite class was video, which was taught by Andy Lorimer.
“I took a lot of them (video classes) my freshman year and I remember the fifth term taking a class from Andy on special effects,” Ball said. “I’ve taken it three times now and it has been different every single time. It’s really cool to take the same class and get something new out of it. You learn the same basic concepts, but students come forward with different ideas. We write scripts and go and produce these scripts and there is always something new and challenging about it. How are we going to solve this problem. That’s what filmmaking is a lot of the time, problem solving.”
What kind of films does he like to make?
“I like making documentaries, I make comedy shorts,” Ball said. “The one I’m working on now is very dramatic. It’s supposed to be inspiring, it’s a message. I like to work on all kinds of things. Anything goes. It’s all fun. I do have a particular interest in special effects films, where you get to make people fly and things like that. It’s also nice to have something small that is not heavy on effects.”
His first interest in film came from his father, who was a design drafter. On the side, his dad builds websites, does commercial work and produces video ads. Three camcorders were available for use.
“My two sisters made a short movie and had me be in it and it got me really interested in the camera,” Ball said. “I had a good time playing around with it and the software to make movies. I wanted to be a YouTuber for a long time, which I’ve moved past now. It’s a good place to post my content, but in the long run I would like to be a Hollywood producer.”
Ball plans to “get through this chaotic time” then go to Bridgerland Technical College and take some classes to learn information technology and work with computers. After Bridgerland, then he wants to go to Salt Lake Community College because of the video program there. Eventually, he plans on moving to California and trying to get on sets in Hollywood.
Learning to work and go to school has been a balancing act for Ball. He worked at Wendy’s for four months and had to quit because his schoolwork was suffering. Last year he returned to Wendy’s and has been there since.
“I’ve gotten better at balancing work and school because I’ve gotten better at the job,” Ball said. “I go in, do the work, go home and sleep and then I go to school. It’s been a lot different since quarantine. I do my schoolwork when I have free time and work when it is work time.”
Dealing with COVID-19 has not been easy, especially not being able to go to school.
“I was mad about it for a while because Fast Forward is such a special place and a home to me, and it has been for a long time,” Ball said. “I don’t want to leave after graduation, so being forced to leave before graduation was very upsetting. I don’t get to learn at the school anymore, have to learn at home. But I’ve come to terms with it.”
It was hard for Ball to single out a favorite teacher at Fast Forward.
“I really enjoy everyone, every class that I’ve taken,” Ball said. “There are a lot of good teachers and it would be hard to pick my favorite.”
However, with a little prodding, Lorimer gets the nod, as Ball called him a mentor. English teacher Jordan Browning and math teacher Erinn Harris also drew praise.
Ball earned the Phoenix award as the spotlight student at Fast Forward. The Phoenix is the school mascot, which goes along with the school motto of Rise Above the Ashes.
“It’s what the Phoenix symbolizes,” Ball said. “You die in the fire and then you rise from those ashes like a Phoenix, better than you were before. I went there as a freshman — a small person — and was able to learn and build on all the knowledge I gained there and rise above as a Phoenix.”
“The Phoenix Award goes to someone who has given back to the school in a big way as far as representing what we stand for,” Christiansen said. “Someone who gives and shows respect in all ways to self, school and others. Fredrick served on every committee that he was asked to help with. He was the voice of our daily announcements and would finish off by saying, ‘Have an interstellar day.’ I will miss hearing those words. Fredrick will be missed terribly at this school. He is the Phoenix, he has risen above the ashes. My words to Fredrick: ‘As you head off into the world, never stop caring for those around you and have an interstellar life.’”