To educate freshmen on how to deal with legitimate college challenges, Marketing Department Video Producer Chandler Ryd ’18, with the help of junior Gabriel Listro, sophomore Jane O’Connor, and sophomore Victoria Nuñez, created a “Conquering Freshman Year” video series.
The typical model for the five videos in the series, aimed at educating freshmen on the campus resources at their disposal, places a freshman in a common challenging scenario and illustrates what to do. The video topics included health services, the dean team, Career Services, the Student Activities Board, and academic services. Each video follows the same model: Listing a typical freshman year problem, providing three options of how to proceed, and then showing the best option by taking advantage of the college’s resources.
“Tragedy strikes. One morning, you roll out of bed with a mild fever. You’re not sure, but you might be mildly hallucinating,” Ryd said in the department’s health services video.
He continued in the video: “You have a few options. You can a.) slam a shot of Nyquil and hide in your room, b.) go to class and start a school-wide flu epidemic, or c.) go to the health center.”
The idea for the video began in the spring when Senior Director of Admissions Zach Miller ’11 came to Ryd with the goal of informing incoming freshmen. From there, Ryd said he approached the creative process by asking how the videos could best solve a problem. The issue, he said, was that freshmen didn’t feel prepared coming to Hillsdale.
When it’s crunch time, Nuñez said, it’s easy for freshmen to forget all the resources they have available to them. This series would’ve helped visualize what to expect her freshman year, she said.
The goal wasn’t only to inform students about the resources but also to do so in a way they would remember. This is where Ryd realized his goal of adding humor to the videos.
“For me, it was important that they were funny and fun,” he said. “We wanted to do it with a narrative and not just giving them the information, but by connecting them with a face and a comfortable and fun feel.”
Listro and Nuñez starred in the films, and Listro and O’Connor helped Ryd edit the videos.
Ryd said he was inspired by Sandwich Video among other comedic videos, and influences from directors like Wes Anderson. That’s how he landed on the style for the Career Services video, which follows certain cinematographic rules such as movement only in one direction at a time, and no diagonal movement.
Throughout the process, the four became friends, Nuñez said. Ryd hosted them at his house to watch movies, particularly Wes Anderson films, from which they drew inspiration.
Other creative choices include Listro’s idea of exaggerating colors. Early on, Ryd said, they decided each video would have its own color to create a distinctive style.
Ryd knew the video was created for freshmen, so telling it through the perspective of a freshman undergoing a problem would be most relatable. From there, the basic structure of the video was born: This is you, this tragedy strikes, and you have these options. It became second nature, Ryd said, and he now continually catches himself talking like that.
After getting the structure down, Ryd said, filling it in with jokes and establishing tone became the next task.
In order to make the videos authentic, Ryd included real anecdotes to maintain the integrity of the different Hillsdale resources featured. He interviewed Dean of Men Aaron Petersen, who told him a story of when he saw a group of students hanging out on the Galloway Residence patio and brought them burgers. That line made it into the video “The Dean Team,” which Ryd said gave a flavor of the deans that they appreciated.
Nuñez was new to the project but said Ryd was patient and understanding, even when filming 20 takes of the same clip.
“Chandler is the most patient director ever,” she said. “And the entire crew was really joyful and just had fun with what they were doing.”
Although she didn’t have an on-camera starring role, O’Connor did make it into the videos a couple of times. When Nuñez wasn’t around and they needed to film her hand reaching into a shot, O’Connor acted as her hand double.
“She loves saying she had a hand in it,” Ryd said with a laugh.
Ryd wrote the script for the health services video on his own, which then became the model for the other four videos. Listro then stepped in to brainstorm ideas for other videos that Ryd revised during the spring. O’Connor joined the project over the summer after already working with the marketing department for months. Although Listro, Ryd, and O’Connor all took the lead on certain scripts, the process for each was collaborative.
Listro and O’Connor did well, Ryd said, especially since they’re both funny. It was also helpful that they were both recently freshmen, so they could relate to the characters on a personal level. During the brainstorming process, it helped to have the balance between writers.
“I tend to go a little bit more absurd and zany with the videos, and Chandler’s like ‘alright we can’t do exactly that,’ but eventually we were able to figure it out,” Listro said.
When filming began, Listro and O’Connor were busy moving lights and adjusting the set.
Ryd edited the dean team video, O’Connor took the reins on the health services and academic resources video, and Listro completed the Student Activities Board and Career Services videos. During the editing process, Ryd described the dynamic between him and his assistants as a director-editor relationship, with him providing them notes and feedback on their work that they would use to make revisions. Each video requires two to three weeks of editing after five days of total filming.
Ryd is passionate about marketing and specifically about this series, Listro said, and that’s what made the videos so successful and unique.
Listro and O’Connor helped Nuñez in her scenes as well. So when Listro was acting, his experience on the writing side helped him to understand the objective of each scene.
Nuñez, a digital content intern for the marketing department, said her favorite filming experience was with the academic services video because of how funny and relatable it is.
“I am too often the student who doesn’t get things done,” she said.
Freshmen watched the videos during their orientation week, making Listro and Nuñez something of celebrities on campus. Following the video showing at an orientation dinner, one freshman student recognized Listro from the video and connected with him, learning they’re both from the same area. If not for the video, Listro said, the two wouldn’t have had that instant connection.
The videos are on the college’s main youtube account.