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Liv Buzzell’s Gap Year

Liv Buzzell playing at the Isacc Julian Legacy fundraiser. Photo by Aubrey Ann Parker.

Questions & Answers with community faces

As the nights get colder and the winds start to pick up, it’s a sure sign that summer is coming to a close and fall is on its way. Along with fall comes the back-to-school craze, with many newly graduated Benzie County teenagers getting ready for a big transition to universities and colleges, whether in nearby Traverse City, downstate, or on either end of the country.

Liv Buzzell is not your average teenage high school graduate, however. Having just finished this past spring at Frankfort-Elberta High School, Liv will soon be flying to the Netherlands for a gap year.

Becoming increasingly popular, a gap year—also called a “sabbatical year”—is when an individual chooses to “take a year off” before going to college after finishing high school. During this time, students may participate in advanced academic courses, learning a trade, language studies, art studies, volunteer work, travel, internships, sports, and more. Oftentimes, gap years are described as a way for students to become more independent and learn more about their interests before engaging in university life and picking a major and/or a profession.

Though Liv Buzzell’s life and family are firmly rooted in Frankfort and Benzie County—Liv’s grandparents, Jim and Luanne Buzzell, first moved to Frankfort in 1960 after visiting and falling in love with this place four years earlier on their honeymoon; they both went on to teach and he coached the 1965 undefeated football team at Frankfort-Elberta Area Schools—Liv is ready to explore the other side of the world.

Continuing with our interview series on impactful Benzie County characters, The Betsie Current caught up with 18-year-old Liv Buzzell, who owns and runs OB and Co. Productions, a video production company that has a great following on YouTube.

The Betsie Current:

You shoot, edit, direct, and sometimes star in online videos. You can sing, you can play musical instruments, you go off on explorations in your Adventure Log Series, and you volunteer for various productions and organizations. Where do you find all the time, and what inspires you to be so creative and helpful?

Liv Buzzell:

I run on 25-hour days, and I’m probably a secret time traveler. Also, I could use more sleep than I tend to get. I’m happiest when I’m creating, performing, and spending time with the people I do these things with. Being happy is a pretty cool thing, so that’s helpful motivation.

Current:

Many of your videos include very interesting song choices. Would you like to recommend a song for our readers while they read this interview?

Buzzell:

“You’re Still A Mystery,” by Bleachers.

Current:

Tell us about your role in and the challenges of shooting the short film SHE, which has garnered more than 365,000 views and 9,600 likes on YouTube since its release in December, 2014.

Buzzell:

I was the director of photography and editor of SHE, which is a fancy way of saying that I shoved the camera in people’s faces and then made the footage look pretty. I co-created SHE with my best friend and favorite collaborator, Charlotte Gruman. The short was shot in less than two hours, was completely improvised, and began as us getting test shots for another project. That in mind, the reception has completely blown us away, and we’re incredibly grateful for the opportunity to tell the story to such a large and well-receiving audience.

Current:

Other than SHE, what is your favorite video that you have worked on so far? And why is it your favorite?

Buzzell:

I have had the honor of collaborating with singer-songwriter Madison Douglas a few times this past year, and recently Charlotte and I recorded a live acoustic session for [Douglas’s] song “Unrequited Love.” We grabbed some early morning shots on the foggy Frankfort pier and recorded the music in the basement of my barn. She is one of my favorite musicians, and it’s always a pleasure to work with her. Fun fact—this video isn’t out yet but will be released soon on my YouTube channel as a part of the musical component of Georgia, my latest short film in collaboration with Charlotte Gruman.

Current:

Are you able to make any money from your YouTube videos?

Buzzell:

YouTube pays less than $1 for every 1,000 views on a video that are preceded by advertisements, so the money I’ve made from YouTube is minimal.

Current:

You graduated this spring from high school—what’s next for you? And what’s next for your production company?

Buzzell:

I am traveling to the Netherlands for a gap year before I attend college. I have family in the city of Utrecht, so I’ll be living with my Oma [grandma] and learning the language. OB and Co. Productions will be following me overseas, but my brother, Sam, will be taking over the “Frankfort branch,” and together we’ll keep shooting and editing videos for commercial and non-profit groups in this area—so stay in touch!

Current:

Who are some of the groups in Benzie County that you have done video work for in the past?

Buzzell:

The Oliver Art Center, Grow Benzie, The May Farm, and some wedding videography.

Current:

What’s the hardest part about being young in Benzie County?

Buzzell:

I think that finding access to creative outlets that interest me was hard at times. But if you yourself are young and in Benzie County, know that creating your own fun and creative things is fine—and that there are people with similar interests, even if you have to look a little harder to find them!

Current:

You have volunteered with the Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre for three years now, helping behind the scenes and playing music. What do you find appealing about Shakespeare, and what do you find appealing about the Lakeside Shakespeare company?

Buzzell:

I grew up on Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre summers, and for the past three years, they’ve welcomed me as one of their own. I think my draw to Shakespeare’s work stems from this theatre company’s ability to connect with me as a child and again as a slightly older child. I absolutely adore the people involved in these productions, and they’ve helped me fall in love with theatre and interpreting Shakespeare’s stories.

Current:

Your mother, Saskia van Wolferen, is an IT Project Manager, and your father, Joel Buzzell, recently retired from work as a director of Corporate Development and Operations to work as president of the Crystal Lake Watershed Association and taking over your grandpa’s Assembly Inspection Service. How does having such hard-working parents inform your work ethic and your vision of the world?

Buzzell:

Watching my parents do what they love and—as a result—working hard on their projects has definitely shaped how I work. Seeing them succeed with things they love is massively influential.

Current:

Since you are leaving for a year, is there anything you’d like to say to your sibling that will go into print for all eternity? (Or at least until someone needs to light their charcoal grill.)

Buzzell:

Hey kid. Look! I’m in The Betsie Current! (Like, literally, I’m stuck, can you get me out of here? Thanks, it means a lot.)

Current:

Finally, what is your proudest moment?

Buzzell:

I collaborated with one of my all-time favorite YouTube creators early this year on her series ABC’s of LGBT. I got to talk about the beautiful spectrum that is gender, and how I fit on it. It was a wonderful experience and I loved the opportunity to talk about something so important to me.

Current:

What are your personal pronouns?

Buzzell:

I use “they/them” pronouns and identify as nonbinary.


Liv’s Project, A few Samples

Find Liv at 3:30 of the “ABC’s of LGBT” to learn more about nonbianary and other gender identities.

Adventure Log 26 // #livthegap

Adventure Log 15 // Confetti

SHE

A Doorstep Monologue

Her Love

Feature photo: Liv Buzzell playing at the Isacc Julian Legacy fundraiser. Photo by Aubrey Ann Parker.

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