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Southlake Style

Southlake Carroll Grad Wins $25,000 in Video-Editing Contest

Oct 03, 2017 07:58AM ● By Audrey Sellers

Henderson enjoyed a personal meet-and-greet with Ann Lewnes, Adobe Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

Former Dragon Adam Henderson has some serious editing chops. The 2004 Carroll grad won Adobe’s “Make the Cut” music-video editing contest and landed a cool $25,000 as the grand prize.

Adobe and Imagine Dragons teamed up for the competition in which contestants received outtakes and footage from the band’s “Believer” music video. The challenge? To create a completely unique version using Adobe software.

The competition drew thousands of videos from contestants around the world. Henderson, who graduated from the University of North Texas in 2008 with a degree in radio, television and film, defeated them all. Southlake Style caught up with Henderson to hear about the experience and how he plans to spend his winnings.

Southlake Style: You were a member of Carroll ISD’s TV Journalism program, KDGN. How did this program prepare you for success?

Adam Henderson: What initially drew me to KDGN was that it was a class Carroll offered that was solely centered on creativity and collaboration. There wasn’t any studying or tests or pop quizzes. It was a project-based class where you had to creatively work with your classmates every day, coming up with videos and stories in a journalistic fashion. It offered a way to escape from the stress of making good grades in a competitive school [district] like Southlake Carroll. I learned more about myself in two years of KDGN than I did in all four years of high school.

Finding out that I made it into KDGN my junior was amazing, but what I wasn’t prepared for was how quickly it would change my life. One of my first assignments was to film the first football game of the season (15 years ago this month!), and edit a short video with the players, cheerleaders and fans to music. After filming the game, I went back to school, opened Adobe Premiere, got a quick tutorial from one of my classmates, and started editing.

After that, I became obsessed. I couldn’t stop thinking about editing. I wanted to be cutting every hour of every day. Whether it was projects in KDGN, short films with friends, or even home movies, it consumed my life. From then on, I knew this was something I wanted to make a career out of, and am fortunate enough to meet amazing creative people over the years and had incredible opportunities. I’m now living in that fantasy. 

SS: How did you hear about Adobe’s “Make the Cut” competition?

Henderson: My coworker told me about the Imagine Dragons contest. I was hesitant at first, knowing this would take up all of my free time as I only had three weeks to complete an edit. After a few days, I decided to give it a try, knowing that in the end, I would have a piece I would be proud of and would have learned a lot and become a better editor in the process. It was a win-win scenario. 

SS: How many hours did you invest in the project? 

Henderson: I spent about 40-plus hours editing. This included editing into the early hours of the night, on a plane on my way to vacation, on vacation while my wife slept, and even during my lunch breaks at work.

When you’re are able to jump over that initial hurdle in any project—where you don’t know what the heck you’re doing, you think the edit might be bad, or just generally unsure whether your ideas will translate well or not, it becomes an obsession. I woke up in the middle of the night several times as an idea had popped in my head, and I had to open the project and keep working. This happened over and over until I submitted the video, four hours before it was due.

SS: Walk us through your editing process—what was your approach?

Henderson: The first thing I did was watch all of the footage. Every second of it. I would occasionally make selects if something stood out that I didn’t want to forget about, but at first, I wanted to see everything and write down some ideas. I then came up with a five-act structure and wrote them on paper. How was I going to edit it? I had no idea. I just knew that certain beats had to happen at certain times, and I organized the footage around that. From there, I just slowly started cutting footage together that I thought could work, tried my best to make certain point hit with the music, and just whittled it down from there. It took me just as long to make my initial rough cut (about 20 hours), as it did to shape it from there. Getting that initial rough cut out is the hardest part about any project, but once you get it there, it consumes you.

SS: Describe your emotions when you found out you won.

Henderson: I was completely overwhelmed when I found out I won the grand prize. I was somewhere in between a state of shock and utter happiness. Adobe told me they were flying me out to their headquarters to meet four of the other finalists, as I was in the top five. So I was expecting to hang out with them all day, have lunch with the CMO, discuss our edits, and then move on with our lives. What I wasn’t expecting to find out all of this was a farce and that they were only flying me out there to surprise me to reveal I was the grand prize winner.

Imagine Dragons even filmed a video telling me that my video was their favorite and I was indeed the winner. It didn’t really hit me until the CMO Ann Lewnes handed me the prize-winning check. The whole day was filled with interviews, meet-and-greets, people lining up to take photos with me, and conference calls with people around the country to discuss my edit. It was absolutely surreal. I won’t say it was the best day of my life, otherwise my wife might get mad at me, but it certainly is way up there.

SS: What will you do with your winnings?

Henderson: My wife and I just bought a house, so we’ll be putting some of that money into renovations. We also want to visit some cities around the United States we haven’t seen yet—Chicago, Seattle and Nashville to name a few.

SS: What’s next for you?

Henderson: I’ve met a lot of great people since the contest concluded, so I’m hoping to keep on collaborating with them with future projects.

Adam Henderson: "Make the Cut" winner