Alba-Golden film maker state semifinalist

Posted 3/28/24

“Stories are kept there…and they need to be told,” commented Alba-Golden High School filmmaker Hunter Whitecotton.

He was referring to the production of short films, …

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Alba-Golden film maker state semifinalist


“Stories are kept there…and they need to be told,” commented Alba-Golden High School filmmaker Hunter Whitecotton.

He was referring to the production of short films, specifically documentaries, produced under the auspices of the UIL film competition. 

The “there” Whitecotton described as the source of these stories is, simply, family. He explained that so many stories are retained within families and passed on over the generations, but are seldom shared beyond the family    that others may benefit.

According to Whitecotton this fact was a lesson learned for him when he first began making films and has become a source of great motivation since.  

Accurately telling those stories, and doing so in a manner which both grabs one’s attention and connects at an emotional level has become a notable skill of the Alba-Golden junior.

His documentary, ‘A Legacy of Wisdom’ which recounts the teaching and directing career of retired theater teacher Larry Wisdom, reached the state semifinal round this year. 

Whitecotton’s submission from last year, ‘Emmee II, the Courthouse Facility Dog,’ also had reached the state semifinals.

Clearly the young man is developing a knack for spinning a true tale with precision, efficiency and heart.  

The UIL film competition commenced in 2014, and Alba-Golden just completed its second year in the contest. There are four categories of film: narrative, documentary, traditional animation (created by hand) and digital animation (created by computer).

While students receive recommendations and advisement from their teachers, the films must be designed, recorded, edited and finished by the student with no direct outside assistance. In the documentary category, the film cannot exceed seven minutes.  

It is one thing to tell a story, and quite another thing to tell a story, comprehensively, in seven minutes.

“It made for a lot of really tough editing decisions,” Whitecotton noted. 

The filmmaker allowed those decisions to be guided by the reminder of his mother, and Alba-Golden theater arts teacher, Mandy Whitecotton.

“She just kept reminding me to ask myself ‘what is the message of the film?’ and to use that question to guide my editing decisions,” he recounted.  

Once complete, films are sent-in to the UIL in January. All judging, until the state finals, is done remotely.

The initial round of competition is adjudicated by a panel of three judges. Two of the three judges must give the submission a ‘thumbs-up’ in order for it to proceed to the second round. 

The second round mimics the same procedure, but the judges are required to rank the films. Those filmmakers who pass through the second round are then ranked in the state semifinals.

Statewide, only six filmmakers from each category go through to the finals.

Classifications 1A-3A compete in combined conferences, while 4A, 5A and 6A battle it out in class-specific competitive pools. 

Alba-Golden is not the only local school realizing success through the film program.

Lindale, most notably,  had six entries make the state finals this year. Last year, Lindale represented East Texas in the state finals along with Atlanta, Big Sandy, Grand Saline, Longview, Lufkin and Sulphur Springs.   

State finalist film submissions over the past ten years are available for viewing at Also contained on the site is a wealth of information regarding competitive rules and guidelines.

More information on Alba-Golden’s theater arts program is available on YouTube at the ‘Alba-Golden Red Curtain Company.’

It became clear in speaking with Whitecotton that producing a competitive seven-minute documentary literally requires managing every second of the production. Whitecotton’s ‘A Legacy of Wisdom’ – exactly seven minutes in duration – reflects this high degree of attention-to-detail. 

That comes with, at times, great effort.

Whitecotton explained, “You might work hours at one site just to get a one-minute shot.” The rules of documentary production which mandate using natural light and ambient noise also make shooting quite demanding. 

‘A Legacy of Wisdom’ begins with Nicole Nordeman’s lyrical song ‘Legacy’ and flows smoothly into the being of Larry Wisdom. Whitecotton’s opening scenes with Wisdom standing in a large empty auditorium excellently portray the thousands of young lives he has impacted through his 50 years of teaching theater.

Short bursts of discussion from an interview with Wisdom are interspersed with a handful of meaningful photographs of his career. At one point, his wife, Sue, joins the interview.

Wisdom’s message in his comments about his half-century in theater center on the maturation of his students.

Wisdom summarized his great reward as, “Having watched so many students grow into better human beings as a result of taking a class called Theater.” 

Mandy Whitecotton admitted to have benefited greatly from Wisdom’s instruction and example.

“What sets both he and Sue’s instruction above the rest is the amount of encouragement and positive feedback they provide to their students,” she said.  

When Hunter had the opportunity to share his final product with the teaching legend, Wisdom wept.

It was another learning point for the young filmmaker as he had his emotions touched by the sentiment. 

There were some scenes in the production which Whitecotton – due to time constraints – had to hesitantly cut. They included a discussion by Wisdom of how he and his friends would stage plays growing up in a very rural (at the time) Farmersville. A second scene involved a discussion of the passing of Wisdom’s father, and the impact of family on Wisdom’s decision to join Mineola schools. 

As Whitecotton considered his editing decisions, he expressed the power of family in one’s life.

Without a moment’s hesitation he named his mother, Mandy, as the primary influence in his life and mentioned his whole extended family. 

Whitecotton has his eye on a career in kinesiology having been strongly influenced by the professionalism of former Alba-Golden athletic trainer Morgan Brown. At the moment though, Whitecotton is busy with tennis and baseball and theater class – with yet another year of sports and theater ahead. 

And figuring prominently in that mix will be telling some more great stories of inspiration.