ELIDA — For graduates of the 2019 class at Elida High School, commencement marks the end of their high school career and the beginning of the rest of their lives.
John Ondo from the class of 1985, an award-winning documentary filmmaker based in Columbus, was the keynote speaker at this year’s commencement held in the Elida Fieldhouse and compared making a movie to graduating.
“We have these high spots. We have these low spots and if you want to have a great movie with a blockbuster ending you just got to persevere — and then when you’re done with the graduation, you get to do it all over again,” said Ondo.
Prior to the commencement, he was nervously anticipating his message to the students.
“This is one of the most nerve-wracking honors I’ve ever had because coming back to your home school and giving a speech and speech was one of the subjects I took in school. Everyone at home knows who you are so it’s a great honor to do this and I hope I can inspire the kids,” he said.
Ondo’s career began at WTLW while he was a freshman at Elida High School and continued for 18 years.
Ondo launched his own production company in 2009 and produced three documentaries for Elida schools — “Reflections of Elida,” “Echoes of Gomer School” and “The Story of Elida’s Kraft Memorial Stadium.” He won regional Emmys for the stories of the Gomer School and Kraft Stadium.
His advice for someone wanting to get into movie-making: “The first thing I always say is you’ve got to be a master of communications first. Don’t worry about the technology, but you really need to understand writing. You need to understand what to cut out more than you need to put in but the basic thing I say about filmmaking is content is king. You’ve got to have great content. The special effects and good actors don’t mean anything. If the writing’s not great, it’s going to be junk,” he said.
Ondo continues to work on faith-based projects and has produced training videos for Ohio Labor Union. He’s hoping to do another documentary, this time on Elida Elementary School, which will be torn down soon.
“Elementary (school) is really where you learn to learn and I’m thinking about doing a pretty massive documentary on that actually to explore that,” Ondo added.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.