Macalester film contest has $5,000 top prize

By Tressa Versteeg

Aspiring student filmmakers will get a chance to showcase their talents and earn some money for making a film about the college. As part of the college’s ongoing fundraising efforts, the capital campaign will host a student video contest, and winners will receive $2,500 or $5,000 prizes.The capital campaign, formally known as Step Forward: The Campaign for Macalester, is sponsoring the competition. College representatives will show the winning video presentation to potential donors during a ten state tour in the fall, in hopes that the films will help demonstrate what the college is like and what students are capable of.

The idea for the contest emerged last summer through capital campaign research done by MCSG President Franz Meyer ’09 and Campaign Steering Committee Chair Jerry Crawford ’71 of fundraising methods at other schools. The majority of the planning for the contest began this semester. Crawford is personally supplying $10,000 for prize money.

“This campaign will ensure that Macalester continues to be defined by its academic excellence and unparalleled access for talented students from all backgrounds,” Crawford was quoted as saying in the Step Forward brochure.

“It’s not just about raising money, it’s about creating opportunities for Macalester students. and providing more of the resources so that students can do the things they want to do,” Meyer said. “We want the video to be a window into the Macalester experience. [something] that speaks about Macalester, hopefully in a positive way.”

According to Step Forward Events Coordinator Karlyn Wegmann, there has been a lot of negative feedback about the capital campaign because of “uniformed and na’ve” opinions. Wegmann said that misconceptions about the capital campaign and concerns over how the money it raises will be utilized have led to misunderstandings about the intent of the contest, noting that a student is not becoming a spokesperson for the campaign by making a film.

“It’s not a commercial for Macalester,” she said.

Thebe Street, a production company run by Beth Desnick ’82, is producing the official campaign video for the presentation. The point of the student contest is to show potential donors the quality of work Macalester students can produce, as well as many different perspectives about student life today, she said.

“My goal for the video contest is that Macalester students have fun with it. That they create videos that they enjoy, that the campus community enjoys and that Macalester alumni enjoy,” Meyer said. “I hope the folks who create a video are able to exemplify their Macalester experience.”

Tommy Bonner, Vice President for Advancement who has worked to make sure Crawford’s ideas “got off the ground,” hopes the films will “create interest and demonstrate that students care about the future direction of the college.”

Cora Polsgrove ’08 said that she is planning on entering a movie “that shows what’s unique about Macalester. I’ll probably pester my friends and acquaintances to reflect on their time at Macalester, and what they’ll take away from their experience here.”

Polsgrove said that if she were to win, the money would come in handy next year, whether she uses it to by a better video camera, travel or to make ends meet.

“I’m planning on being ultra poor next year, so [the money would] probably go to the ‘keep Cora from starving while she pursues a career as an impoverished documentary-maker’ fund,” she said.

According to Bonner winning videos will be shown online, at alumni gatherings and in the campaign presentation that will tour New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, Phoenix, Chicago, Washington D.C. and London next fall.

The college hopes the capital campaign will draw in $150 million dollars over the next few years. The money will go toward financial aid, faculty salaries, the new Fine Arts center, Institute for Global Citizenship and the Macalester Athletic Recreation Center.

Submissions need to be a maximum of five minutes and to interpret the campaign theme “Step Forward.” Kofi Annan ’61 inspired the title when he said, “We all have the power to make choices. We can choose to be silent and turn away. Or we can Step Forward and take action. Here at Macalester, you have chosen to make a difference,” as the Step Forward pamphlet cited.

A group of judges, composed of alumni in the media industry, as well as faculty members, will determine the prize-winning videos. This group includes President of Fenn Communications Group Peter Fenn ’70, TV and film director and this year’s commencement speaker Peter Berg ’84, “Denver Post” film critic Michael Booth ’86, freelance film producer Lynn Morgan ’68, HMCS professor Clay Steinman, Dean of Students Jim Hoppe, Meyer, Associate Director of Alumni Relations Stephen Sporer and Director of College Relations Doug Stone.

The grand prize winner will be awarded $5,000 and $2,500 will be awarded to the Most Creative Interpretation of Step Forward Theme and the Most Humorous film. A student can only win one category.

The deadline for entries is Sept. 15. They will be displayed at the campus-wide campaign launch Oct. 11.