KENNEWICK — With adulthood careening closer, Phil Snyder decided he wanted to live through the lens of his Canon EOS Rebel T2i for a little while longer.
The Kamiakin High School senior knows that when he graduates high school next month and goes college, he will have to worry about jobs, studying and plenty of other grownup problems.
And he wouldn’t have as much time to pursue his newfound love of making documentaries.
So rather than compete in track and field for the Braves like he has the past three seasons, he decided to follow runner Anthony Armstrong’s senior season.
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“I wanted to make this big film thing when I don’t have to stress about finances,” he said. “This is my last chance to go out without having to support myself financially. I’m under my parents’ roof, and I have all the time in the world.”
Armstrong is the defending Class 3A state champion in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters and has been nationally ranked throughout his high school career. He won the 3,200 meters regional title Friday and will compete in the 1,600 meter run today. And that’s the main reason Snyder chose Armstrong, because the documentary could potentially reach a larger audience on the legs of a semi-famous athlete.
Armstrong is well-known in running circles in the Northwest and even nationally. He has been offered a full-ride scholarship to attend Oklahoma State University in the fall, and because of his easygoing nature, it has been a smooth process so far.
“It’s been an exciting thing,” said Matt Rexus, Kamiakin boys cross country coach. “He’s really developed his photography skills.”
Snyder, who plans on attending the University of Washington next year to study computer science or informatics, bought a flip cam with the help of his parents, Ron and Sandy Snyder, and began filming at the beginning of his junior year.
He has since made a few short films about the Kennewick-Kamiakin homecoming football game, Armstrong’s trip to state last season and the 2010 Kamiakin cross country team, which is what he did his senior project on.With the purchase of the Canon, though, Snyder’s skills have improved dramatically. So much so, that he has even taken senior pictures for some of his classmates.
Filming Armstrong seemed like a natural fit, as the pair have competed together in cross country and track throughout high school and are close friends.
“It is different when you are at a meet and there is a camera following you everywhere you go,” Armstrong said. “You get used to it. It is really nice of him to do it.”
After getting Armstrong to agree to the film, Snyder approached boys track and field coach Keith Duncan to get approval to travel with the team.
Though it was the first time in 22 years of coaching that Duncan had been met with such a proposal, he readily agreed.
“We are all excited to see it,” Duncan said. “He is a pretty talented kid. We are interested and excited to see what he comes up with.”
Traveling with the team knocked out nearly all of Snyder’s problems, except one.
Armstrong went to the elite Arcadia Invitational in Arcadia, Calif., near Los Angeles, earlier this year and Snyder wanted to go.
So he did, at his own expense.
“He wound up wiping out his savings on that one,” said his mother. “And he was OK with that.”
Snyder is a self-taught filmmaker, reading a book about how to make documentaries and watching a lot of videos on YouTube and Vimeo and online amateur video websites, which he said gave him inspiration.
“I just pick up tons of tidbits from all over the web,” he said, “and they form this conglomerate of knowledge about filming. I’ve also used a lot of trial and error.”
For example, Snyder had a vision of filming Armstrong during practice in different spots around Kennewick, keeping the runner in the middle of the screen so he could piece together a shot of him running with different backgrounds.
With Snyder’s solo, low-budget style, though, this proved too difficult — especially when shooting from his bike or out the window of a car.
He also lost the wind screen for his camera at a meet this season and his tripod broke recently.
All of which is culminating in a documentary that has gone completely off script.
Armstrong’s senior season has been filled with sickness and struggling to finish races, but he appears to be nearing top form and should have a chance to defend both titles.
“Right now, it’s like a Hollywood script if he can finish on a high note,” Snyder said. “I’m feeling pretty good about his training for the regional and state meets.”