Next stop: Fellowship in Nicaragua
Eli LaBan found his passion in video storytelling when he came to Temple. Now, the Emmy-winning videographer is headed to Nicaragua to finish a project he started to preserve endangered languages there.
In 2013, Eli LaBan stepped onto Temple’s campus as a freshman psychology major unsure of the direction he wanted to go. In May, he’ll leave as an Emmy Award-winning videographer who has traveled the world, telling people’s stories through his lens.
LaBan’s next stop? A fellowship in Nicaragua, where he’ll travel to the country’s Caribbean Coast late this summer to continue work on a project he started in the Fall 2016 preserving endangered languages spoken there on video.
LaBan’s journey through college has been anything but typical. An artist at heart, he decided to change majors from psychology to media studies and production early in his career at Temple, finding his passion in video storytelling. He chased that passion first to South Africa, and then to Nicaragua, where he produced culture-focused videos.
The Temple senior and Honors Program graduate, who grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Wyncote, said he never imagined the opportunities he’d have as an undergraduate.
“It’s pretty hard for me to believe that I managed to do this before graduation. I chose my major to do stuff like this,” LaBan, 22, said. “It’s kind of a fantasy that I’ve already been able to do major projects in two countries.”
For the endangered language videos he produced during his earlier trip to Nicaragua, LaBan was nominated for a national College Emmy Award. He’ll travel to Los Angeles in late May to find out if he’s a winner. The same videos won him the fellowship from the School for International Training.
“It’s validation,” LaBan said of the nomination and fellowship. “I’m taking an area and kind of a nuanced situation that nobody knows about and using a nontraditional media form. It’s really cool to see organizations like the Television Academy taking notice—it gives tangible evidence of how far-reaching it can be.”
When LaBan first went to Nicaragua, he knew he wanted to do a video project in the country, but he had no idea what his subject would be. He says he was drawn to the Central American country’s eastern coast by its unique culture.
“I loved it because it was different from the rest of the country. I knew I wanted to be there,” he recalled. “All of the stuff that struck me, I learned that stuff was disappearing. It seemed like a good opportunity to use my media production skills for good.”
He produced several videos highlighting Nicaraguan culture, most of which are focused on the country’s endangered languages: Miskito, Rama and Garifuna.
If LaBan wins the national award, he’ll add it to a professional Mid-Atlantic Emmy he won in 2016 for videos he edited as an intern at NBC10 for Generation Addicted, a special report on the opioid epidemic. The same year, he was also nominated for a Mid-Atlantic College Emmy for a short documentary he produced in 2015 about the post-Apartheid music scene in South Africa during a Klein College of Media and Communication-sponsored summer program there.
LaBan deflects praise for his achievements, crediting the resources and opportunities afforded to him at Temple with much of his success. He says receiving a Lew Klein Scholarship in 2016 and a Harry A. Lieberman Scholarship in 2015 made it possible for him to travel abroad to pursue his dreams.
“Temple has been amazing,” LaBan said. “I don’t think I would have been able to do better anywhere else.”