Potential donors to Hillsdale College have been viewing the same promotional video for the school since 2004. That will change with the production of a new video, set to be shot later this month and completed by June 2013.
Manifold Productions, Inc., a D.C.-based film company, will produce its third video for Hillsdale since 1990. The school had videos made in 1990 and 2004 and decided that it was time for an update, said William Gray, Hillsdale College marketing specialist.
“Obviously the college has changed a lot over the eight years since the last video,” Gray said. “We have new buildings, the Kirby Center, online learning. Those kinds of things will be reflected in the new video.”
Like the previous films, the movie will last about 15 minutes. But unlike in previous years, there will also be a six-minute version and a two-minute trailer-type version, used as a teaser to entice viewers to watch the full-length film. Hillsdale leadership and Manifold are still discussing how best to use the trailer.
But despite updates on the latest promotional video’s content, Gray said its focus will remain the same as the last two: the college’s mission.
“I think the important thing to highlight is that the things Hillsdale hasn’t changed is its principles,” Gray said. “We stay true to what we’ve been doing since 1884. There are different things to talk about but the underlying message is very similar.”
The director and producer of the film, Michael Pack, traveled to Hillsdale on Sept. 8 and stayed for a week, scouting potential locations and interviewing students with associate producer, Dan Curl. Pack agreed with Gray in that the new film will stay true to the unchanging values of the institution.
He further elaborated that the video is for donors to watch, not for potential students to view as a recruitment tool.
“The purpose of the video is to help Hillsdale raise money, especially money they don’t get from the federal government. It’s designed to reach people that have never heard of Hillsdale,” Pack said. “Because of the principles it stands for, and not just the pretty place, Hillsdale is unique. That’s what all three films have in common.”
Gray said this video is played primarily at off-campus functions and receptions, often as an introduction or prelude to a speaker like college President Larry Arnn.
While the scouting crew was on campus, they were busy. The Sept. 11 memorial service and the top of Central Hall were highlights of the crew’s tour of Hillsdale.
“They went everywhere,” Gray said. “We visited lots of different classrooms in Lane, Kendall, and Strosacker. We went to the sports complex, observed practices from sports teams such as tennis, football, volleyball, track and field. Everywhere they wanted to and could go, they went.”
The purpose of the scout trip was to come up with a shooting plan so when Manifold returns on Oct. 20, the five-man film crew will be ready to shoot.
“Several different groups of students were interviewed — about 50 in all — so Manifold could get a sense of what Hillsdale students are like,” Gray said.
These interviews were not filmed, but photographs were taken for reference in the film-planning stage. When the film crew arrives to shoot, several of the interviewed students will be asked to participate in a filmed and loosely-scripted classroom session, staged in Kendall.
Senior Travis Lacy of Oklahoma City was one student who participated in the interview session, but has not yet received notice if he will be used in the actual production.
Lacy was initially emailed by Gray and, with a group of roughly 10 others from all classes, met one evening in the Dow Center for over an hour. Each student went around the room and gave their response to two different questions.
“The first question was to tell the story of how you ended up at Hillsdale,” Lacy said. “I said that my dad threw the Princeton Review and the ISS on my desk my junior year of high school and said, ‘Do your research and pick 10 we will go to visit, and we’ll go from there.’ Hillsdale ended up winning the contest.”
Lacy, a student ambassador for three years, said he has seen the 2004 film a few times when it has played in the admissions office for waiting parents.
Pack said he enjoyed his return to Hillsdale after almost a decade of being away.
“I had a great time visiting Hillsdale, as always. Having not been there in eight years, I was amazed at the new buildings and how it has changed. It looked great,” Pack said. “I love meeting students. They’re a great group of young men and women.”
Manifold usually produces documentaries, Gray said. One of its most recent and popular films is a documentary entitled “Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton,” which appeared on PBS. They have also done a documentary on George Washington.
“I am drawn, like I hope my audience is, to the principles Hillsdale stands for,” Pack said. “It delivers a great, traditional education to students, and I think the student body reflects that.”