Montpelier Summer 1999
They started arriving on campus around 3 a.m. They talked to maintenance and night crews. They staked out the bus stops and parking lots. By dawn they were all over the place. Video cameras and lights in hand, they fanned out over campus with one objective -- to capture a typical day at JMU.
Nearly 100 students, alumni and professional friends stormed campus on April 6 to create One Day, One University, a video chronicle of JMU, sponsored by the School of Media Arts and Design (SMAD).
In the first project of its kind, students in Advanced Digital Production in Video and Advanced Digital Production in Sound planned all semester to apply their skills in videography, sound, producing, directing, editing, equipment, logistics, supply, support, communication and crisis management for one massive display of professional event production.
With guidance from professors John Woody and John Fishell and 11 alumni who are professional directors, editors and videographers, 15 video crews mirror the hectic pace of video production and have "One Day" to capture all the campus sights, sounds and action. Then they have only 24 hours afterwards to perform all the editing. On April 8, the 30-minute documentary premieres at Grafton-Stovall Theatre, attracting a crowd so large that it has to be shown twice to accommodate everyone.
President Linwood H. Rose attended the premiere, announcing that the school will buy $5,000 worth of the final videotapes. All proceeds from the sales of the videos, available at the JMU Bookstore, will benefit a new SMAD scholarship fund.
"This project provided students a means by which they could plan ahead for a massive event to take place over 72 hours," Woody says. The goal was for students to realize the importance -- and the reality -- of production management. "One Day proved great things are possible," Woody says, looking back over the event. "It was one of the most inspirational times ever."
As One Day activities begin on April 6, one of 15 video crews devotes itself to capturing President Rose during his daily routine. First stop, Oakview, where the crew finds the president and First Lady Judith Rose eating breakfast. For the rest of the morning the crew silently creeps in on his meetings. Later in the day, the crew catches the Roses at the baseball game where the Dukes defeat Radford University 10-7, and still later shoots the president guest-lecturing in a health sciences class.
"Shooting is my first love in video," says WVPT Television production manager John Hodges ('78), fiddling with the huge camera while the crew patiently waits for Rose to appear. "It's nice to be able to do something different.
"This is history in the making," he quips, as junior Dylan Boucherle tells him the next plan is to capture Rose walking with his assistant, Geoff Polglase ('85), to lunch at Gibbons Hall.
"Let's go," Boucherle declares, clipboard in hand.
"My alma mater," Hodges says quietly and moves out with a smile, "faithful and true."
On the other side of campus, another crew is busy with business. With wires draped across the floor in the halls of Zane Showker Hall, senior Eric Laursen busily organizes his film bag.
"Fresh batteries on this side of the bag," he says pointing to Jorin Hood ('89), who's manning the camera. Hood is a free-lance video and film producer from Gloucester.
"What are we trying to catch here?" Hood asks, as they stand in the loft looking down upon the foyer, where students are beginning to congregate.
Laursen pauses a moment, then answers, "Really we are just trying to capture the community. We are connecting the campus together... east and west."
Senior Casey Houtz, an audio producer for the project, says this is really the first time that the video and sound classes have been able to work together on an original project.
Four crews spend their time capturing the daily lives of four students, selected earlier in the semester for their varied and interesting routines.
Senior Michelle Ferrara is one of those students. Richmond's WWBT 12 commercial director Joel Traylor ('92) and crew spend the morning filming her getting ready for class, following her to costume class and then to ballet. In late afternoon, Christopher Hulick ('91) of Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) in Los Angeles, takes Traylor's place, following Michelle to tap class and to the play rehearsal for Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, which she is choreographing.
Ferrara says she couldn't believe the amount of work that went into the project. "I was happy to participate, especially because of the scholarship," she adds.
At half past noon, all the crews meet on the steps of Wilson Hall for lunch. It is a sea of black One Day, One University t-shirts.
Putting down the camera she borrowed from work, Beth Bradford ('91) grabs a sandwich with crew members Missy Stecher and Amanda Lewis, both seniors. Bradford shares stories of her own JMU experience and her life as a TV news photographer for WJZ-TV 13 of Baltimore.
Stecher says she really enjoyed working with Bradford because she knows what a good shot entails. "She knew little techniques," Stecher says, "like filming through the crack of a door."
Karl Whichard ('92), a video editor for Henninger in Washington, D.C., says, "It was fun to be back on campus doing something productive." Whichard says he fell in love with editing after taking Woody's classes. To take tons of footage and tie it all together is so amazing he says. Jin Ribble ('98), also of Henninger in D.C., came back as well to help.
Soon lunch ends and the crews are shooting again. Near Carrier Library senior Kevin Alvey runs after a JMU truck and climbs on top with his camera. "This is great," he yells to his crew. Once back on earth, he gasps, "I got some great zooms up there."
"It's all about inspiration," confirms Gary Coulbourne, who came from Pennsylvania to meet friend Phil Pollard ('97) for the project. Pollard works in production with SAIC in Chantilly.
Alvey and crew continue to Miller Hall to shoot students in a chemistry lab. But first, they need a new microphone. "Call into home base," Alvey says to Coulbourn.
"This is Delta Team into One Day," Coulbourn squawks into the radio, hoping to raise someone back in Anthony-Seeger Hall headquarters.
As the crews finish their work, they trudge back to Seeger to log in their day's work and begin to make sense of it all.
Brian Edwards ('95) and Henry Holdren ('78), who work together at Interface Video Systems in Washington, D.C., also came back to campus to help with the project. Red-faced with windburn, they sit outside the editing room for a minute's rest before Holdren heads off with a crew to capture the day's sunset.
But while the day draws to a close, the project's real work begins. Students, alumni and other volunteers work in rotating shifts throughout the night and next day, logging in their video and deciding what to use.
Jeff Butler ('91), a JMU Center for Instructional Technology media specialist serves as chief editor. He admits working to the last possible minute, delivering the final tape just eight minutes before the premiere.
"The biggest challenge was media management," Butler says. As Woody explains at the premiere, with around 15,000 shots collected during taping, not all of them have made the cut for the 30-minute documentary. Still, Butler credits the students and alumni for producing great shots, which made editing a pleasure.
As the show ends, participants clad in their One Day, One University t-shirts climb on stage to thank the audience of students and professors who came to see the final product. Woody thanks Interface Video Systems for donating the first 1,000 copies of the finished product.
"This was an intense project," Hulick says. "It's amazing," he adds as he leans against the stage and looks out over hundreds of faces in the auditorium.
Ferrara says it was fun to see herself on screen at the premiere, but then admits, "I was suddenly very glad that the shot of me brushing my teeth didn't get in."
The premiere edition of One Day, One University, which opens with music from the JMU Wind Symphony Orchestra, is a "diamond in the rough," according to senior Linee' Oxley. The project team headed back to the editing room for some final touches before it was ready for sale at the JMU bookstore.
While One Day, One University started out as a class project for students to gain an inside-view of the hectic, professional world of videography, it gave so much more. It pulled together students, faculty and alumni, who traveled long distances to return to campus to share their expertise, help manage a massive production and mentor students in a real-life, professional situation. Emotions and motivations ran deep, which, in the end, make the video so much more than a simple documentary.
"This was like doing the Grammy's," Woody says. The project enabled students "to take everything they have learned and experience what it's like to merge the ideas together."