Hero Fund scholarships push student to follow filmmaking dream

Madeline Baker
Hero Fund scholarships recipient Madeline Baker graduated earlier this year. Her father, Carnegie Hero Kenyon D. Brindley died in 2003 after attempting to save a boy and his father from drowning.
Madeline Baker studied film at the University of Central Arkansas.

Madeline Baker, 23, graduated from the University of Central Arkansas film program in spring 2020.

Her interest in video production and editing piqued early in life.

“At 8 years old, I created short ‘movies’ with my friends and a small camcorder,” Baker said.

She went on to create a YouTube channel and posted videos on makeup, fashion, and cooking.

“Nowadays, when I post a video it’s usually about my faith, cooking, marriage, and travel,” Baker stated.

Prior to attending the University of Central Arkansas, Baker’s knowledge of video production and editing was self-taught through her own experimentation.

She knew “without a doubt” that she wanted to pursue the film program there.

The campus was near where Baker grew up in Conway, Arkansas, and she said she liked that she could live at home.

“I’m extremely close with my family — my mom is my best friend. So staying close to them was a top priority when choosing a school,” Baker noted.

Baker’s father, Kenyon D. Brindley, was posthumously awarded the Carnegie Medal in 2004, when Baker was 7. He died June 10, 2003, one day after attempting to save a boy and his father from drowning off the coast of Grayton Beach, Florida.

The 12-year-old boy and his boogie board were swept seaward by rough waters in the Gulf of Mexico. His father, 60, attempted to rescue him, but began having difficulty staying afloat in the water.

Brindley, 36, account executive, and others swam to the victims. The boy was placed back on his boogie board and kicked himself back to the beach. Several rescuers including Brindley attempted to remove the father from the water, but rough conditions thwarted their initial efforts. Soon Brindley, too, was overcome and had difficulty keeping his head above water.

Others recovered Brindley and the boy’s father from the surf, and Brindley was taken to the hospital, where he died one day later.

“The day after my dad passed away, my mom and I took a walk on the beach and a large shell washed up at my feet. It was the perfect size to fit my little hand into it, so for months afterward I slept with it wrapped in my hand. I still have that shell and cherish it — it’s one of those things I feel came from my dad,” Baker shared.

Baker said she also views the scholarship assistance she received from the Carnegie Hero Fund as a way her dad continues to support her.

“Schooling was hard. I took my time going through it, sometimes only taking a few classes per semester,” Baker explained. “I always knew in the back of my mind that I had this wonderful scholarship that, in a way, was from my dad, so that pushed me to keep going.”

This past spring, Baker was in the middle of her busiest semester when the Covid-19 pandemic forced in-person instruction at her university to cease.

Although some of her classes were held via video conference, Baker said her film classes were project-based.

“As long as we finished our projects we were not required to meet,” Baker said, but that, too, was bittersweet.

“It was definitely a little emotional not being able to meet with my film crew, as we had grown very close,” she said.

Although she describes herself as a homebody, Baker immersed herself in the film department during her time at Central Arkansas.

Her favorite class was a documentary course.

“I’ve always been more interested in ‘real life’ film versus fiction film with scripts,” Baker said.

The project for that class was personal — a documentary on her dad’s heroic act and her mom’s effort to continue his legacy through the Ken Brindley Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on water safety and drowning prevention.

During her senior year Baker was production designer for a short film and producer for another. Both films were featured in film festivals and won awards.

Since graduating, Baker started MadelineMade, a video production company. She produces wedding videos as well as highlight videos for fundraising events for local non-profit organizations. “I’m continuously learning with every wedding I do and hope to continue that,” she stated.

Baker’s other interests include cooking, reading, decorating, taking care of her many indoor plants, and traveling with her husband.

“We have a dream to take off and travel all of Europe,” Baker said.

—Abby Brady, operations and outreach assistant/archivist