I started a film festival in my hometown of Sioux City, Iowa while I was a grad film student at Columbia’s School of the Arts. Before the first event ten years ago, I was interviewed for an article in the local paper. This is what I told the Sioux City Journal about my motivations:
“The point is to inspire filmmakers to continue their work and encourage them to keep making movies.”
There’s truth in what I said back in 2006, but I omitted something important. Yes, hundreds of local and graduate shorts have screened to large audiences that rarely get to see what’s happening outside the mainstream. But here’s the more honest reason that I’m embarrassed to be revealing for the first time. The Siouxland Film Festival was mostly about me.
I had just spent the summer producing a short film I wrote during my first year of grad school. “Ornaments” was set in my hometown and I was able to convince the director and a small crew of friends to travel from New York to Western Iowa for the 4-day shoot. Despite the 20-hour drive and minor obstacles that came along with filming in a small, Midwestern city, we had fun making something that I was proud and eager to share.
After the production wrapped, the crew visited a Sioux City landmark — the Orpheum, a meticulously restored vaudeville theater that had maintained its opulence from the era of its original construction — the Roaring Twenties. Here’s a paraphrased excerpt from the Orpheum’s website:
African mahogany doors at the entrance, crystal chandeliers and ornate terracotta drinking fountains decorate the grand lobby. The auditorium features terrazzo baseboards, mahogany handrails, drapes and fabric wall coverings, a balcony and opera house style side boxes.
I wanted to watch my name in the credits from above a crowded auditorium of fellow Midwesterners, in a theater with a crystal chandeliered grand lobby and terrazzo baseboards. I asked my former English teacher, who still sits on the Orpheum board, to pitch my idea at the next meeting. Like everyone else in Sioux City, she was eager to help.
If only I had been immediately honest about my intentions, I might not feel conflicted about being involved today. So I keep my distance. This should be a proud accomplishment. Instead, whenever my parents tell me how the program still mentions my name, my conscience takes a hit. I should have extended my answer when asked why I wanted to help give Sioux City the Sundance treatment. Well here’s the director’s cut:
“The point is to inspire filmmakers to continue their work and encourage them to keep making movies … AND shamelessly promote myself and my work.”
There. It feels good to get that off my chest. Finally. Now I can start the Video for Colleges blog with a clear conscience.
But before I do, I’m going to be upfront with you, my fellow university video producers. My intentions with this blog aren’t completely selfless either. This is partly an opportunity to lead the discussion on what works in higher ed video, or, if you’re more accustomed to the jargon of our marketing colleagues, to position myself as an industry thought leader. But unlike the Siouxland Film Festival, this will not be a vehicle for showing off work from my portfolio. Though I’m proud of most of my Northeastern joints, this blog has been created to show off and discuss your joints.
I’ve been watching with admiration (and envy) what you’ve been creating for your colleges since I started as Northeastern’s first in-house video producer over 6 years ago. I’ve screened your work in staff meetings, listed links in the “reference video” section of my project outlines, applied techniques from your repertoires, and took inspiration from your ideas.
The time has come to build a more connected creative community by showcasing our work and philosophies so that we can start learning more directly from one another. There are enough of us out there making really good movies for university communications divisions, alumni relations offices, admissions and athletic departments, etc. I believe all our work could benefit from having this forum. So let’s talk about your creative processes, gear preferences, passions, goals, and frustrations. Share your higher ed video observations, predictions, recommendations, rants, or stories from the trenches. Reach out when you have a video to share or you want to author a guest post.
Finally, I’m sure I’ll be tempted to make an exception and post a link from my YouTube playlist. That’s why my colleague Frank Hegyi has final cut on the Video For Colleges blog. He’s promised not to let me break my one rule – I can’t screen my own stuff.
And now, without further ado, what you’ve all been waiting for: my student film, Ornaments.
Good catch, Frank.