Students film Macalester in $12,500 contest

By Peter Wright

September 15 marked the final official day, excluding a last-minute extension, for students to enter their videos in the Step Forward student video contest. Although the response wasn’t huge, several students and alumni still managed to tap their creative skills to depict the future of Macalester with moving images and sound.Nick Raleigh, the Web Editor for College Relations, said that eight videos were entered from current students, and two were entered from alumni. Raleigh has acted as the main contact for the filmmakers since Doug Stone resigned his position as Director of College Relations over the summer.

Raleigh said that overall he was pleased with the response. Since this was essentially a first for the college, he said that they were prepared for the response to be both smaller and larger than what came in.

“We got enough videos for our judges to have material to consider,” Raleigh said.

The contest is one part of Macalester’s ongoing Capital Campaign. The videos will premiere on Friday, October 10, as part of the Step Forward Celebration, the campaign’s official kick-off event in the Leonard Center. Raleigh said that the screenings will be public, allowing the movies to be seen by both Macalester students and visitors.

“It’s going to be really neat to have the creative work of students featured as part of that celebration,” Raleigh said.

In addition to screening all of the submitted films, the winners of the contest will be announced during the Friday ceremonies. The filmmaker(s) that produced the best overall video will receive $5,000. There are also $2,500 prizes for the most creative and most humorous videos, and another $2,500 for the best alumni video.

Except for the alumni award, which is being paid for by the capital campaign, all of the prizes are being funded by Jerry Crawford ’71. Associate Director of Alumni Relations Stephen Sporer, who is also one of the campus judges for the contest, said that the idea to add a student video element to the campaign was entirely Crawford’s.

“Jerry wanted to do this because this is a great way for students to get involved,” Sporer said.

Entrants were asked to make a short video about the college and how they see it advancing in the future, keeping with the theme of the Step Forward Campaign. Raleigh said that the entries so far have varied widely in technique, from short documentaries to satires.

“A lot of students put a lot of creativity into these productions,” Raleigh said.

Crawford, who is the chairman for the capital campaign, pitched the idea for the contest last year, and, after arranging the framework for the contest, Macalester began posting notices for students to enter it.

Martin Mudry ’09 was one of the students who responded to the early advertisements. Mudry, who has studied and made films before, said that it seemed natural for him to enter the school’s contest, adding that the prizes and the big name judges were an extra pull.

“If I’m already making videos and doing these kinds of things, I should do it,” Mudry said.

Mudry teamed-up with Ross Donihue ’11 and Taren Kingser ’11 to begin filming for their entry at the end of spring semester last year. While careful not to say too much about the film before it is viewed by the judges, Mudry did say that the time frame of the contest created an interesting situation when it came to filming.

He said that summer provided a good opportunity to take a break from the filming and reflect on how to present the film. With footage from the end of last semester mixed with older footage he had taken for other projects and scenes filmed in the final days before the deadline, he said that the long amount of time it covered made it even more interesting than another contest that may be contained within a few weeks.

The next step for Mudry’s video will be judging. The campaign has assembled two teams of judges, one of alumni involved in the film world, which includes Producer Peter Berg ’84 and Twin Cities film critic Colin Covert ’74, and another panel composed of faculty, staff and a student representative.

Raleigh said that the judges will be given a set of loose guidelines, but because so many have experience in the film world, much of the decision-making will be left to them alone. The judges will view and rank the films over the Internet at their leisure, but he said that some have expressed an interest in meeting with the other judges on campus when they view the films.

Sporer said that the judges, including himself, will be considering many different elements when deciding which movies to give awards, but he said that they will mainly be looking for a reflection of the school.

“The one consistent item I think every judge is looking for is: Does it represent Macalester,” Sporer said.

Raleigh said that he feels the contest has gone smoothly so far; however, there were a few issues that developed during the filming process. The first was simply motivating people to participate.

Mudry said that he thinks a lot of people were interested in the contest, but some may have decided not to enter because they didn’t feel like they had enough access to good equipment or they simply felt like they didn’t have enough spare time.

For those who did enter the contest, Raleigh said that he had heard some concern from entrants over a phrase in their contract that said the films would become property of Macalester. Mudry said that the phrase could seem intimidating to some, but he said that he has a hard time believing the college would be going after filmmakers who choose to share their videos without permission from the college.

“I guess the words on paper are scary,” Mudry said.

Raleigh echoed Mudry’s opinion. He said that the college included that primarily to allow the campaign more freedom in finding different ways to use the films.

The contest deadline was also extended by a few days after the initial deadline had passed because Raleigh said that some students were having technical difficulties.

“I’ve done video editing myself, and it’s not easy,” he said.

Mudry’s group, like many others who entered the contest, were editing until the very last minute. Raleigh said that on the day of the initial deadline, things were tense for a while because no one had entered any movies by the time he left the office, but all the entries had been turned-in by the next day.

Beyond the initial screenings for the campaign ceremonies, the college is exploring ways to use the videos in other forms of marketing. Specifically, Raleigh said, they could be used in a type of viral marketing campaign. He said that the short, less than five minutes, length of the videos makes them a good fit for Youtube.

Sporer said that the winning video will go on tour with fundraisers for the capital campaign. They will screen the video to audiences of alumni in major cities across the country in their effort to reach the campaign’s $150 million goal.

Sporer said that the videos have the potential to become one of the most important aspects of the campaign simply because they were made by students. He said that alumni will be impressed simply by the fact that students made the video, and they may view it as a student perspective of the college, an element that may be missing from the professional video, which will also premier at the Step Forward Celebration.

“Alums love nothing more than talking to the students,” Sporer said.

The winners are scheduled to be announced during the 8:00pm celebration for the Step Forward Campaign in the Leonard Center on Friday, October 10.