March 27th, 2014
A few weeks ago, my mind wandered as I was sitting in church. It does that sometimes. I went to Genesis and started reading the fascinating story of Noah and the flood. Even though I’ve read or heard the story a gazillion times in my half century of life, I realized something for the first time during that reading: That Noah’s grandpa, Methusalah, was 369 years old when Noah was born, and Noah was 600 years old when Grandpa Methusaleh died. Noah knew his grandpa for six centuries!
It’s not earth-shattering stuff, but it was something I had never thought of before.
Fast-forward a few weeks. I’m reading an article in a journal I subscribe to called “American Cinematographer.” The cover story is about the Noah movie with Russel Crowe and it was written by Iain Stasukevich. Iain interviews the main cinematographer about his techniques and lighting style and in the process of the interview, an interesting plot twist is revealed: “Noah plants a seed from Eden that was given to him by Methuselah, and the very next morning, water starts gushing out of the ground in front of Methuselah’s mountain, and trees start popping up.”
That’s it. The article goes back to lighting techniques, which I won’t bore you with. I reread that line a few times, then read it out loud to my wife. She was getting Sunday lunch ready so she gave a polite “uh-huh” and kept working, but I ran to get my Bible and found myself right back in Genesis 6. Of course, Scripture says nothing about magic seeds and trees popping up so I could only surmise that Darren Aronofsky, the director of the film, took a few liberties like this to make the film interesting and watchable.
And that’s the point. Film, as a medium of communication, is intensely visual. If the visuals aren’t interesting, no one watches it. Interesting visuals come from interesting story lines. The two must go together because without the interesting story line, there’s no story which means there’s no need for visuals. The Biblical account of Noah is a fabulous story and reveals to us what God wants to reveal to us as part of His holy word. But for a film, there’s not enough detail. To make a film, some creative license will have to be employed to stand up to the standards of film as a medium, verses words on the printed page. Film is not print and print is not film. Marshall McLuhan is famous for saying it: “The medium is the message.” The medium we choose to use for communication will have a lot to do with the way the message is constructed. To make a Noah film based exclusively on the words found in Scripture will ensure a film with large gaps in the story and in the character development because the medium used—film—will not support the story as expressed in the medium of printed words.
Which gets us to the main point: Should we go see “Noah”?
I haven’t seen the film yet so I can’t give a thumb’s up or not (it’s not out yet as I’m writing this.) But assuming that the film is well made and not full of heresy and gratuitous sex and foul language, then yes, I think we should support the film and enjoy the story. Why? Because for the last many decades, Christians have been brumming about how “they” never make “our” movies. But when “they” actually do try to make “our” movies, we complain and whine about how they missed the mark and didn’t get it exactly right according to scripture and took too many liberties, too much creative license.
When I was a kid, I read “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” multiple times. I also read “Guide to Middle Earth” and other behind-the-scenes kind of books. I was a Middle Earth nerd. Before the three “Rings” movies came out, I read each novel to my kids and did all the voices. We timed it so the end of our reading came the same week as the opening of the film. We were in the theatre on opening night. We didn’t wear costumes because we’re not quite that nerdy but it’s close. I absolutely loved the movies because for all those years, the images in my mind of Frodo, Gandalf, Legolas et al were completely in my mind. For two glorious hours, I saw Peter Jackson’s vision of what Gandalf looked like and sounded like, what Middle Earth might have looked like. His Orcs are far grosser than my Orcs and frankly, his are better. But to make the story work in a different medium, Jackson had to take some artistic license and deviate from J.R. Tolkien’s carefully constructed story. Some things were left out completely. I was annoyed with that, but I was also thrilled with how the stories came to life in ways I never thought of. It was a beautiful experience for a Middle Earth nerd.
I also love Jesus. I love His holy word. I read it, study it, meditate on it. I see the stories in my mind. And I can’t wait to see what a gifted director does with a story I know and love. His vision of Noah will be different than mine. Parts of it may be much better than mine. The movie’s not even out yet, and I’ve already gone back to Scripture to see if indeed it is plausible that Methuselah could have handed some seeds down to Noah that came from a not-so-distant ancestor named Adam. Scripture says absolutely nothing about this but it’s a fun thing to think about and it made me ponder anew many things about this story. The director of Noah will probably get a bunch of things wrong as he moves a story from one medium to another, but the reality is that we complain so often that “they” aren’t telling “our” stories, so when “they” actually do go and spend tens of millions of dollars to do so, let’s not be the first ones to start complaining that “they” told “our” story and how dare they do that!
Let’s watch the film and judge it on its artistic qualities (film is an art form!); the quality of the story and the integrity with which it is told. Like “The Lord of the Rings,” it will not be perfect. But it will play in theatres around the world and it’s a Bible-based movie—exactly what we’ve been clamoring for for decades.
In the months to come, we’re going to see quite a few Biblical movies. Let’s be honest about something: The Hollywood machine isn’t making these because they’ve had a change of heart and want to see America get close to God. They want to make money and they realize this is a good way to do it. But is that so wrong? Personally, I’m really tired of zombies and vampires. That trend—thank goodness—seems to have reached its peak and is slowly declining. Right now, the trend is Biblical stories. Hallelujah! I’ll take Biblical epics over more zombie movies any day, even if they do take some creative license to help move the story to a different medium. Will these movies convert masses of people? I highly doubt it. But like me, it will expose people to stories they thought they knew and for many others, it might be the first time they actually want to open a Bible and see what it’s all about. Will it shift the conversation in the office and at the work site? I suspect it will … for a time. Then a new trend will surface and Hollywood will surf that wave til the money runs out.
So rather than complain that “they” don’t make “our” movies, and then complain when “they” do make “our” movies, let’s enjoy the good and reject the bad. As my friend says, “eat the fish … and spit out the bones.” Who knows, if these Biblical films make money, we may see a lot more of them in the days to come.
I’ll take Bible movies over Zombie movies any day.
November 28th, 2011
One thing we figured out rather quickly here in the Digital Media dept at Dordt College, is that location means less and less with each passing year. With access to high-speed internet, and access to good airports, we can compete with pretty much anyone! Many other production houses are discovering the same thing. One of them is VVI, Vision Video Interactive, based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, just an hour from Dordt College.
VVI does everything from local car ads to national political spots and Monday Night Football spots. They have a team of very creative individuals who work together in a fun, creative space. For the last few years, VVI has carved time out of their schedule to let our students in to see what they are working on, to ask them questions, to give advice on the job hunt and to be a sounding board for pretty much whatever the students want to ask them. It’s a valuable time and a fun afternoon in Sioux Falls.
In the Spring Semester, our Communications Club–both Comm majors and DM majors–will once again head to Minneapolis/St.Paul for an overnight trip to visit public relations firms and production companies to see what’s happening there. And believe me, there’s a lot happening.
In today’s world of media production, location is less important than ever. It used to be that production companies pretty much had to be on one of the coasts. Today, the heartland is a major player!
August 11th, 2011
The great thing about working in media is the opportunity to travel, meet people … and run into people in the most unlikely of places. Like the time I was filming in a rainforest in British Columbia. I crossed a small, swinging bridge in the forest and set up my gear for a shot back across that bridge. As I’m looking through the viewfinder, a face looms into view that looks like my good friend, Quentin. By the time I looked up from the camera, there was Quentin asking, “What are you doing here?”
Perhaps even more surreal was my meeting with friend and former student, Pete Hessels, last week. I dropped my son off in the middle of a huge forest in Northern Michigan for an 8-day cadet camporee. We really are talking the middle of the nowhere. My son forgot a bag he needed so the next morning, we drove into the forest to drop it off. I got out of the car and hiked through the forest, looking for another human. In the distance I could hear a small generator. I moved toward it and came upon a large mobile-home type of thing that the cadet leaders had hauled into the forest for some reason. There were lights on inside and I saw motion. I stood near a window and inside I saw a young man and thought he looked a lot like Pete Hessels, but it couldn’t be because Pete lives near Toronto and was busy working.
When he looked up and saw me, it was instant recognition on both our parts. He from Toronto, me from N’W Iowa, meeting up in the forests of Northern Michigan. Pete was there as part of the production crew, producing 6 webisodes per day and uploading them via satellite uplink from that trailer.
As improbable as it sounds, I find this type of thing happens a lot in the media world. Because of the travel involved, and because of the very close relationships we build at Dordt College, it’s going to happen even more as ever more students graduate from the Digital Media Production major and start making their way in the world. In a few months, several of us will be shooting in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. I happen to know that one of our Digital Media graduates is there and we’ll have a great reunion in Merida.
Meeting friends in the most unusual of places is such a treat. Maybe you’ll be part of the reunion after you launch your media career.
September 13th, 2010
Dordt College is in the heart of Sioux County, in the Northwest corner of Iowa, not far from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
As you may have heard, agriculture is big business here. Don’t be fooled. The gentle, rolling hills of corn and beans and the picturesque valleys full of cows by streams speak of a pastoral place where time might move more slowly than in New York City, but looks can be deceiving.
Sioux County is off the charts in what’s it doing with innovate agriculture. In fact, tourists come here from Ireland, Germany and other places to see what’s going on here. They hear about the 2 billion dollars generated in this county alone through agriculture. They hear about record beef, pork, and poultry production, cutting-edge genetic engineering and a high percentage of area farmers with bachelor’s degrees and more.
That’s why the Sioux County Chamber of Commerce approached us here at Prairie Grass Productions (Dordt College’s film/video production company) to help them produce a promotional piece highlighting some of the amazing things going on here in Sioux County.
Three Digital Media seniors—Aaron, Brett and Gary—are busy right now shooting Hi-Def footage to help the county tell that story.
Aaron, of Ohio, is acting as producer on this project. As producer, he’s responsible for the budget (yes, students often get paid for their work here), all the scheduling for all the shoots, being a liaison between the production crew (Brett and Gary/California and British Columbia) and the client (Sioux County Chamber) and keeping track of a million little details.
Gary and Brett are in charge of getting all that precious footage, coming up with some of the creative ideas that will make this product useful, and the post-production.
All three of these guys are doing this project for class credit. We call that an “Independent Study” and while right now it’s strongly encouraged that each Digital Media student do an independent study as part of their digital media major, it will be a requirement starting Fall 2011.
These three guys are busy travelling across this great county, getting interviews with high-tech farmers, shooting sheep shearing, ginormous dairy operations, genetic engineers and so forth. The end product will be shown to those tourists I mentioned, as well as get shown to Jr. high and high school kids growing up in this county who don’t have a clue about the amazing things going on right in their own backyard.
It’s just another way that Dordt’s Digital Media major stands out from the pack. We put our students to work on real-world projects with real-world clients so that at graduation, our grads go into the world with theory, head-knowledge, class-room experience in making films, AND a résumé that includes work they can be proud of.
We have other independent studies going on right now, but more on those later.
In case you’re interested, here are some stats on Sioux County:
-In 2009 there were over 1600 farms in Sioux County, over 28% of county’s 24,761 jobs.
-In 2009 the Av-market value of farm, buildings, and machinery was nearly 1.5 million – average sales = $673,764
-In 2007, the average age of a farmer was 51.4 years old
-In 2009, meat processing plants in Iowa produced nearly 3.5 million tons of red meat (beef, veal, pork and mutton)
-In 2009, total Ag receipts for Sioux County were over $2.1 billion (2,135,800,000) – 49.2% of all economic activity in the county for the year
-Sioux County farms cover over 478,000 acres – that’s 97% of the surface of Sioux County
Swine Information (farrowing, nursery, finishing, packing plant)
-In 2007, there were 486 pig farms
-In 2009, there were 1,094,268 hogs or pigs in Sioux County
- In 2009, almost 3 million hogs and pigs were sold
-In 2007, Sioux County is #1 state in pigs marketed
-In 2009, Iowa continued to rank #1 in hog inventory in the United States
-In 2009, Iowa made up 29% of the nations hogs. Iowa has 19.2 million head
Beef Information (cow/calf and feedlot)
-In 2007, there were 725 farms that had cow/calf inventory which totaled almost 330,000 cows
-In 2007, Sioux County had 220 beef farms which combined had almost 15,000 cows
-440,000 cows were sold in Sioux County in 2007
-Iowa had 3.85 million head of cattle/calves in January 2010 (just under 4 million)
-In 2007, Sioux County is #1 in Cattle on Feed
In 2007, almost 440,000 head of cattle were sold
Dairy Information (facilities, calf raising, heifer growing)
-In 2007, there were 70 dairy farms in Sioux County
-In 2007, approximately 22,000 head of dairy cows were in Sioux County (#1 in state)
-Iowa dairy farmers produced $4.38 billion pounds of milk during 2009 (change to gallons)
-In 2009, the average dairy cow in Iowa produced 20,367 pounds of milk a year (gallons)
-In 2007, Sioux County had 166 horse farms. All together, they had almost 900 horses
Poultry (laying house, processing, pullet growing houses)
-In 2007, Sioux County had 58 laying hen farms. They totalled 4,490,702 hens.
-In 2007, Sioux County was #4 in laying hens
-In 2007, Sioux County had 45 goat farms with a total of over 2,000 goats
-Of those goats, 150 were milk goats and the other 1,850 were meat and other goats
-In 2007, Sioux County had 96 sheep farms totalling 25,565 sheep
-In 2007, Sioux County was #1 in Iowa in sheep
-In 2009, sheep and lambs totalled 210,000 head in Iowa at the beginning of 210
-An estimated 170,000 lambs were born during 2009 in Iowa
-In 2007, 155,000 lbs of wool was produced in Sioux County – show a pile of wool/graphic
Crops (land operations, equipment, GPS used, manure applications)
-In 2009, Sioux County had 479,000 acres of farm land which is also 2% of state number – compare to a football or Wal-Mart, make accessible, 97% – from ISU sheet
-2009, the average farm in Sioux County was made up of 289 acres
-In 2009, the value of acre of land in Sioux County was $6,028. This is almost 1/3 higher than the state average value per acre of $4,371.
-In 2007, total crop receipts were $6 billion for Iowa
-In 2009, Sioux County was 4th in Iowa for corn production. Sioux, Plymouth, Woodbury and Crawford were four among the top 6 in Iowa – total number of counties (99)
-In 2009, Sioux County produced between 38 million and 61 million bushels of corn
-In 2009, Sioux County was once again 4th in Iowa for Soybean production. Once again Northwest Iowa had six of the top nine counties
-In 2009, Sioux County produced between 7.5 million and 12 million bushels of beans
-In 2009, Sioux County produced 84,500 bushels of oats and is ranked #11th in the state
-In 2009, Sioux County produced approximately 39,000 bushels of Alfalfa Hay and is ranked 30th in the state (top 3rd)
-Sioux County harvested 395,000 acres of corn for grain, soybeans, oats, and hay
August 24th, 2010
We have our very own production company here at Dordt College: Prairie Grass Productions (PGP for short).
Sometime last winter, an organization in Grand Rapids, Michigan called “Mission India” contacted us here with an interesting proposition.
“We would like to hire Prairie Grass Productions to help us film 10 episodes across India, post them on a custom-built website and help us raise a quarter of a million dollars in the process.”
How could we say “no”?
In June, Dale Vande Griend, a digital media student here at Dordt College, and I went to India with Josh of Mission India, and Chris, our on-camera host out of Maryland. Once in Bombay (now known as Mumbai) we linked up with Jeremy, an Indian cameraman, Justin, our Indian on-camera host, and John, the guy who worked out all the logistics in India and kept things moving.
The next 12 days was a whirlwind of activity as we filmed in a couple slums in Bombay, then flew across India to Madras (now known as Chennai), drove south to Madurai, then up to Velore, back to Chennai, back to Bombay, and home.
What an adventure. Josh, our producer, scripted out 10 episodes in which Chris explored India, and explored what God is doing in India through Mission India. What we learned is that many are coming to Christ through this fantastic organization, and that there’s still about a billion or so Indians who need to hear this incredible news.
And that’s where we come in. That’s the power of media, isn’t it? To tell compelling stories, to engage interest, to help people explore things they might not otherwise explore, to create awareness, to generate a desire to pray; in short, to harness the incredible power of media for more than entertainment only.
Let me climb down off my soapbox and keep telling this story.
After a superb trip through India, it was back to Dordt’s world-class post-production facilities to start bringing this story together.
Post-production (the editing and putting together) is where the magic really happens. Three of Dordt’s digital media majors helped as assistant editors for several days by combing through all the footage, labeling it, organizing it, putting it into the proper bins in Avid, organizing our photos, helping us find sound effects, music, appropriate fonts and more.
Dale Vande Griend, Dan Kauten (both DM majors at Dordt) and I took on the job of lead editors and for the last six weeks—working 50-70 hours a week—marshaled all that footage into 10 sweet episodes and one killer teaser. And we got it done before deadline!
The amazing facilities at our disposal at Dordt College are what made all this possible. Our 20 Avids (Avid is the world’s leading film-editing software. “Avatar,” and almost every other film you’ve seen were cut on Avids) and our 16 terabytes (yes, you read that right … 16 terabytes) of media server made organization and collaboration a breeze.
We also spent a lot of time in After Effects creating animations and transitions that would NOT have been possible a few short years ago unless you had access to some very very pricey Hollywood style studios.
In short, Prairie Grass Productions—located in the heart of N’W Iowa—is in direct competition with the big boys on the coasts.
And here’s what’s so remarkable about this story.
Remember Josh, our producer out of Grand Rapids? He’s a Dordt Grad.
Clickrain, the company based in Sioux Falls, SD that made the slick and polished website to host all these videos, is run by Paul Ten Haken. He’s a Dordt Grad.
Prairie Grass Productions with me, the lead editors and the assistant editors: It’s 100% Dordt College.
This global venture of telling stories on the other side of the world has Dordt College stamped all over it.
I think that’s pretty amazing. So is the fact that just before going to India, Prairie Grass Productions (which means Dordt Students) shot among the Navajo in New Mexico … and among some poor communities in the Mississippi Delta … and in the slums in Kenya … and is in production right now helping the Sioux County Chamber of Commerce market itself to outsiders.
If you’re looking for a film/video production program to launch your career, you have choices. But frankly, I don’t know of any other program that gives you options like these.
These kinds of experiences are résumé builders like you can’t believe.
Working on these kinds of projects for real-world clients hones your skills, increases your marketability and boosts your confidence.
And we do it all from a Christian perspective.
Personally, I think we have the best program out there. Check around, then check out the Digital Media Production major at Dordt College. Who knows? You might be on the crew of the next big project.
Check out the trailer here www.mypassporttoindia.org and be sure to sign up so you can see each episode as it’s released.
July 3rd, 2010
Aaron Huisman, a Dordt grad now working in post-production in Los Angeles, just cut together this music video for The Ready Set. Great work Aaron!
June 15th, 2010
Thirteen of us had the priviledge of filming in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, over the Christmas break. Twelve students and I did the third leg of our three-continent tour to produce this truly global look the one billion of us who live in slums.
While we were in Nairobi, we took a few hours out of our day to meet with Andy Brown of OFM—On-Field Media.
OFM is ministry of Africa Inland Mission, an organization with hundreds of missionaries scattered across Africa, doing evangelism, leadership training, Muslim outreach and so much more.
OFM exists to help tell stories of what God is doing through AIM missionaries across Africa. A lot of missionaries—gifted as they are—struggle when it comes time to go home and raise support, to tell their stories, to generate interest, prayers and giving. OFM does a superb job of helping them make professional videos, print pieces, webisodes and more. Our team spent a few hours with Andy, learning the history of OFM (it’s not a very long history), learning what they do and how they do it, and what the opportunities are (there’s a lot of opportunities!).
One of the exciting ideas that came out of our time together is a way to be mutually beneficial to eachother. OFM needs interns. Dordt’s Digital Media major needs great places to send interns. The more we talked, the more excited we all got about summer interns from Dordt living and working in Nairobi, and even pursuing a semester abroad—working with OFM.
We’ll see where it all goes, but in the meantime, the thirteen of us had our horizons expanded and students have yet another career option to consider.
June 15th, 2010
- Map of India
After 10 years of trying to get to India, it’s finally happening. Mission India, a group doing amazing things across India, has hired Prairie Grass Productions–Dordt’s video production company–to produce a series of 12 webisodes to help them reach out to a current support base, and bring in a new target base.
Dale, a senior Digital Media student here at Dordt, and I will pick up our on-camera host en-route to Mumbai (Bombay). That’s where the action begins.
Chris, our on-camera personality, will essentially explore Southern India to see what God is doing there. We’ll film in slums, cities, towns and remote villages. We’ll start in Mumbai and end in Madurai, way down south. It should be a fascinating exploration.
When we return, Dale and I will be joined by Dan, Vero and Cady–a team of five–to edit, edit, edit to meet deadline.
We’re delighted that this organization singled out Dordt’s digital media production company. It shows we’re doing quality work and that budgets and expectations can be trusted with us. And since a huge part of the manpower for Prairie Grass Productions is made up of Digital Media majors here at Dordt, it gives our students unparalleled experience and resume-building material for those post-Dordt days which come faster than you can believe.
When our post-production work is done and the webisodes are posted, I’ll post a link here so you can check out our Adventures in India.
December 6th, 2009
Our growing group of graduates from Dordt’s Digital Media major are making their mark in many areas. Some of our students want to head out to the developing world to use their gifts in media there. Others want to get into documentary work, corporate work, advertising and so forth. A number of our grads are making their mark in the Los Angeles area.
One of them, Aaron Huisman, has been working with some big-name bands for the last few years as he cuts music videos and trailers for the Warner Music label. Aaron recently started his own company and is open for business. Check out his reel here.
Each year, Dordt College’s Student Services department does a really stellar job of working closely with all incoming international students to help them acclimate to a new culture, new climate, new system of academics and new expectations.
As part of that process, they show a few videos that were produced somewhere, by someone (I’m not sure who) which attempt to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.
Trouble is, these videos are not of the best quality and don’t address some issues that need addressing.
And, because there’s nothing else out there (at least that we know of), many other colleges/universities use the same videos, despite their lack of, um, appeal.
Enter Dale and Dan.
Student Services asked two Digital Media students if they could do a better job of it, so of course, Dale and Dan said “yes.”
These guys are doing an independent study all semester (it’s basically a class, worth 3 credits, but done under the professor’s supervision, completely outside of the traditional classroom structure). Their goal is produce a brand new video not only for Dordt’s use, but to market to other colleges as well.
Saturday was the big shoot.
Eight international students sat around a table and ate, laughed, and talked about what it’s like to come to school in America.
“When an American student says, ‘How are you?’ but then keeps right on walking without waiting for a response … what am I supposed to do with that?”
“I’ve learned that time in the US is much more structured than in my home country. So while I may be tempted to want to talk for a long time with people, I’ve learned that my new American friends are busier and might not want to talk as long.”
These topics and dozens more were addressed and meaningful dialogue took place regarding what the international students can do to make their transition a good one; what North American students can do to help the internationals, and what professors and campus staff can do. It was excellent discussion, and it was all caught by students running cameras, lights, mics and mixers.
Four HD cams and two SD cams rolled—one on a dolly, two handheld, the rest stationary. Two pressure mics on the table and three shotgun mics fed into a Digi002 board and fed a laptop based Protools system for pristine audio. Softboxes hung from the ceiling and Lowenpro lights on stands made the whole thing look good.
And despite a room bristling with gear, the students around the table were pretty much able to forget it all and enjoy their meal and conversation.
Dale and Dan will shoot more, but this conversation will be the heart of the piece. They will put all this footage into Avid Media Composer and using MultiCam editing, cut these six streams of video and audio together into one seamless conversation. The final product should be a useful tool for future incoming classes of international students.
And for Dale and Dan? It’s a robust assignment that’s forcing them to put all they’ve learned in class into a real-world project of great value.
September 9th, 2009
After some years of searching and stumbling, Nate has found his stride.
It’s a long story and I won’t tell it all here, but you can find out more at Nate Woudstra’s Facebook page. Let’s just say that over the summer, God worked in Nate’s life and now all the different strands are coming together for God’s glory.
The strands include Nate’s musical abilities, the many things he’s been learning as a Digital Media major at Dordt College, the death of his father, some struggles along the way and a powerful encounter with God. Now Nate is doing an independent study as he weaves all of these together.
Speaking in schools and churches, singing, and filming the whole thing will allow Nate to get his message out to even more of those who need to hear it.
The power of media, the flexibility of the Digital Media program at Dordt, and the ability to craft an independent study based on one’s interests and calling all make for a great opportunity for Nate. And for you. Consider what you could do as a Digital Media major at Dordt College. Consider your ministry through media.
September 2nd, 2009
By the time Piper Kroeze, a senior Digital Media major at Dordt College, heard about it, she had just a few days to script, produce and submit a video showing why she would be perfect for the intern job for the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Show. She went for it and her video was accepted. Watch it here. ”The competition is tough,” Piper told me. “Of all those submitting a video, only a small percentage will actually get placed on the Jimmy Fallon website, and of those, only one person will be chosen for the internship.”
Getting her video on the site was the first priority, now time will tell if Piper gets the position. If she does, she will win camera gear, a trip for two to New York and an appearance on the Late Night With Jimmy Fallon show, and the opportunity to produce videos about college life for the upcoming semester; videos that will air on the show or on the Fallon website.
Digital Media students at Dordt are offered a variety of internship possiblities with a wide variety of clients that include Christian organizations, industries, non-profits, for-profits … and now Late Night Television!
August 24th, 2009
The dust of one-year’s worth of construction is over, the construction crew is gone (mostly) and a few final touches are being put in place on a massive, impressive, fantastic building program here at Dordt College.
Everyone at Dordt comes out a winner with this new complex, and the Digital Media Production major is no exception. I think it’s fair to say that Dordt College now has one of the best–if not THE best–film and video production facilities in the State of Iowa. I’d dare say in a multi-state region. This includes 1600 square feet of post-production space which houses brand new HP workstation computers running the latest version of Avid Media Composer, the entire Adobe Master Suite (which includes everything from Photshop to Encore and everything in between), a bunch of gorgeous Macintosh computers, surround-sound plus a 200-watt woofer, completely dimmable lighing for screenings, a separate section of the lab for discussions, fob access so only those students who can truly use the power of this lab can access it (a fob is an electronic key and only certain students will have access to this new lab, thus ensuring that this state-of-the-art facility is being used by those who need it, rather than a lot of people tying up these specialized computers to write their papers on).
In short, you need to see this place to believe it. Incoming freshmen this year in Graphic Design and Digital Media will have full, 24/6 access to this place, plus of course, our sophisticated cameras, tripods, lights, dollies and more.
There really is no better time to be a Digital Media major at Dordt College than right now. It just doesn’t get any better than this!
July 2nd, 2009
After a semester in Advanced Editing, all the students plus Professor Volkers took a test provided by Avid, the makers of the film/video editing platform we use here at Dordt. The test allows users to show their proficiency with the Avid platform. If a user passes the test (not everyone does) the person’s name enters an international database and the person is recognized as an ACU–Avid Certified User.
100% of the class passed! I’m quite certain this group adds some of the youngest users to the international database.
Being an ACU means increased confidence in one’s own abilities, and it looks great on a resume. Certification in this business is important!
Congratulations Advanded Editing students in the Digital Media Major at Dordt College. You’re ACU’S!
May 5th, 2009
One of the great things about the Digital Media program here at Dordt College is that, unlike so many programs around the country, our students do real work for real clients.
I can’t emphasize enough how important this is as preparation for your career once you get out of college. Employers will look at your transcript, yes, they might be impressed if you went to a “big” name school and so on, but what they’re going to be really interested in is, “What can you do?”
They will want to see your reel. A reel is a DVD or an online site that displays, in about one minute or so, your best work. A potential employer will take your resumé and that will be important, but what they’re really going to focus on is, “can this person do the work that needs to be done.” If your reel impresses them, you’ll receive a call for further conversation. If your reel is lacking, it goes into the garbage and the company goes on to the next reel.
That’s why Dordt is so far ahead of the other schools. We get our students working on real projects and those real projects look mighty fine on a reel, and a reel is your ticket to working in the real world post-Dordt.
Luke is a great example of a student working in the industry right now. Just wrapping up his Jr. year here as a Digital Media major, Luke is doing a .30 second ad for TV to promote the Rise Fest 2009 Christian music concert, as well as all the material that will play on the Jumbotron throughout the day at the June 20 event. Imagine that, a college Jr. creating original animations and videos not only for TV, but for thousands of people to watch on a massive Jumbotron for over 10 hours, between each band. Using Avid, After Effects, Photoshop and a lot of audio, Luke is creating original work that will make his reel sizzle.
And this is not out of the ordinary. We have students doing projects for clients in the Philippines, for Christian ministries across the US, for local industries, even for USAID. And of course, students are helping with the slum documentary film project.
When you’re considering which school to attend for filmmaking, communication and digital media, make sure you factor in the day AFTER you graduate. That’s the day you go out to find work. Your experience at Dordt College will have you ready for the REAL world.
April 28th, 2009
I’m at a “Going Global” two-day workshop in Santa Monica. The reason I’m here is because I’ve discovered something all independent filmmakers discover at some point in the production schedule: The marketing and distribution of a film is one of the most difficult aspects of the entire production.
Filmmakers get pretty excited about their films. That’s good because it takes a lot of passion and energy to make one! They do the preproduction, they do the shooting, they do the postproduction, and then … then they start asking questions like, “Who’s going to buy this thing?” “How will I get this out to my audience?”
I was very fortunate to come across Stacey Parks and her company, Film Specific. Stacey has a long history of working with independent filmmakers and getting sales and distribution deals put together for them.
Stacey had a nine-week, weekly conference call that about 50 of us from around the US and Canada were part of and the topic was, “Distribution in Reverse.” The premise being; whatever stage of production you’re in right now, you need to be thinking clearly about the the final stage, which is, marketing and distribution.
To that end, our conference calls were useful in getting us to think about questions like international financing deals, global distribution, the film festival circuit, and the mother of all deal breakers: deliverables.
Deliverables are the myriad nit-picky little things that any TV distribution deal worth its salt, or any deal for that matter, will lay out in the fine print. The list of deliverables can stretch to nine pages long and will include things like:
E&O Insurance: Errors and Omissions Insurance. After I’ve proved that I did everything possible to mitigate possible lawsuits by having all those who appear in the documentary sign releases, making sure my music is legal, having no intentional slander and so forth, I still have to purchase an E&O policy in case something should arise down the road that could get me or the production company into legal hot water.
Music and FX. For global distribution, there may have to be some recutting, say, in Japan, to make the movie more palatable for a Japanese audience. Music, dialogue, sound FX: all these need to be delivered in a specific format so the editors over there can move things around, make changes, etc., to fit their audience.
Title Tracks. If the Slum Documentary gets shown in, say, Germany, all the subtitles, credits, even the Title, will have to be changed into the German language. There’s a very specific way that all these titles have to be delivered to a third-party vendor to expedite that process.
There are a LOT more deliverables, but I’ll just copy and paste a few from our notes so you get an idea of what goes on behind the scenes of every movie that actually makes it onto TV or the bigscreen or to your Netflix account:
(a) Original Picture Negative: The original first-class completely edited color 35 mm Film Stock Picture negative, fully timed and color corrected.
(b) Original Optical Soundtrack Negative: A first-class completely edited 35 MM Film Stock optical sound-track negative (including combined dialogue, sound effects and music made from the original magnetic print master described in Paragraph 5 below conforming to the original negative and answer print. The Sound track is to be in Stereo.
(c) 35mm Low Contrast Print: One (1) first class 35mm composite low contrast print fully timed and color corrected, manufactured from the original action negative and final sound track, fully titled, conformed and synchronized to the final edited version of the Picture(if available).
(d) Color Interpositive Protection Master: One (1) color corrected and complete interpositive Master of the Picture, conformed in all respects to the Answer Print for protection purposes without scratches or defects (if available).
(e) Color Internegative/Dupe Negative: One(1) 35 Internegative manufactured from the color interpositive protection Master conformed in all respects to the delivered and accepted Answer Print without scratches or defects (if available).
Get the idea? I’m becoming more and more convinced that trudging through the slums of the world is the easy part. The marketing and distribution is where it gets tough.
So that brings me back to Santa Monica. Our nine-week call sessions are ending with all of us here together at the Viceroy Hotel on the beach, discussing these issues, listening to experts in a variety of fields, and learning a lot. None of us want to join ranks with the countless filmmakers out there who have made a good movie, but then get hung up in this final stage of things.
Will this delay the release? Hopefully not … but better late than never.
April 23rd, 2009
It’s not every day that college kids get their ads aired on MTV, NBC, ESPN, The Food Network, VH1 and more, but that’s exactly what happened to the students in the Advanced Film and Video production class (Comm 320).
Here’s how it happened.
In this one-semester class, students, working in teams, have to complete four projects. The final project is a 30-second ad for the Prairie Grass Film Challenge.
Students got to work on this project with about 2 weeks left before deadline. While they worked on their ads, I got on the phone and got in touch with some really wonderful people from Premiere Communications, Spencer Municipal Utilities and Cable One. These companies agreed to run our ads as PSAs (Public Service Announcements) at no cost to us or our students and presto! Four ads, created by Dordt students, were airing in a regular rotation for about four weeks, in a variety of time slots on a variety of channels, all promoting the Prairie Grass Film Challenge.
It was a lot of fun to hear comments from people saying they saw our ads promoting the Film Challenge from Onawa to Sioux Falls.
This might be a good time to let you in on a little secret: If you were to go to one of the ‘big’ film schools on one of the coasts, chances are you wouldn’t get near a camera til—at the earliest—your senior year of college. Most of your actual camera work would take place in grad school. Here at Dordt’s Digital Media Production major, you get started your freshman year. And it doesn’t stop til you’re a senior and you have your reel put together, ready to present to future employers.
April 19th, 2009
I’m moving offices. First downstairs for the summer, then back up before classes begin in the Fall. But no complaints because it’s all for a fantastic cause. Construction is going full blast all over the Classroom building. Soon, the studio I’ve called ‘home’ for four years will be demolished. Walls will come down, new a/c and heating will go in, and the entire space will be converted to a new classroom.
I’ll go downstairs to a little-used conference room and set up shop for the summer. Editing on the Slum Documentary Film Project will continue from there, as will editing on a variety of other projects in the works.
When the new construction is completed, I’ll move again, this time to a brand new, state-of-the-art studio just up the corridor from our brand new, state-of-the-art Digital Media lab. These spaces are being designed and built with you—the student—in mind. Everything has been meticulously planned out to make these spaces as cutting edge as possible, and as friendly as possible to future growth and the inevitable metamorphosis of technology.
It’s an exciting time here at Dordt, particularly for the Digital Media majors. They have a lot to gain from this construction and I, for one, can’t wait to move into the new spaces.
Hope to see you there!
January 16th, 2009
January is a great time to get out of NW Iowa and go to the Philippines. It was 85 and sunny.
But the trip wasn’t about getting tan and laying on a beach. It was about getting dirty and trekking through slums.
Ten Dordt students and I spent about 10 days on the other side of the world earlier this month as part of a quest to produce a documentary film about the global issue of slums. One in six of us (humans, that is) now lives in a slum.
That’s an appalling statistic.
That previous sentence has two problems to it:
1. It’s a “statistic,” and statistics are pretty hard to wrap our brains around.
2. It’s appalling.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that media, when used properly, can do a right-good job of shedding light on things that need some light shedding.
Slums, for example.
When we hear about one billion people, we really can’t even imagine what that is. It’s just a statistic.
And when we hear about “slums,” we can’t really imagine what that is either, unless we see one.
So 11 of us shot a slum in Asia and got up close and personal with just a few of these one billion people.
Here’s what we learned:
Those “one billion” aren’t so different than we are.
They have dreams and aspirations. They have kids, with names, and personalities.
And they don’t like the circumstances they’re in.
The family we spent a week with lives under a bridge. They dig through garbage (no kidding) all day to find things to sell so they can buy food.
We learned a lot while we were slumming it with our cameras. Our eyes were opened. Our vision was expanded. Our empathy for the poor of our world grew in large measure.
And we made new friends among the Filipinos we were priviledged to be with.
Now plans are underway for similar shoots in Africa and Latin America. You can read all about this project, and keep up with our progress at www.slumdoc.com
I hope you’ll bookmark it.