How does one even begin to explain Jane O’Connor?
She helped make the marketing videos you saw during freshmen orientation. Her radio show, “State Facts,” has won national awards. I hear she does wedding videos. In Hillsdale.
Since the second semester of her freshman year, O’Connor, a junior now, has worked as a video production assistant in the video production department for Hillsdale’s marketing team. A fledgling film-maker, O’Connor got her start by working a backup camera for video producer Chandler Ryd ’18, producing video marketing materials, such as content for the college YouTube channel.
“She has also become a helpful assistant editor,” Ryd said. “She has a good natural instinct when it comes to editing and knows her way around Adobe Premiere, so I can trust her to do basic editing tasks and help out on larger editing projects by contributing ideas, adding b‑roll, or even cutting a scene herself.”
O’Connor’s road to the marketing department was not a straightforward one, however, as she got her start — and her inspiration — working in the audio visual department.
“I remember my first day on the job, I was just watching, it was just supposed to be a training day, but then one of the camera guys didn’t show up,” O’Connor said. “So at the last minute, I was told I had to work the camera, so they threw me out into the CCA to film.”
O’Connor said that all it took was that one unlikely experience to spark her passion for film-making.
“It was pretty simple, all I did was zoom, focus, and point at the thing that the people in the headset told me to point at,” O’Connor said. “But I remember leaving, and I was so ecstatic, I thought it was the most fun thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
O’Connor is a history major, though she says she’s unsure what her post-graduation life will look like.
“I think I would enjoy teaching.” O’Connor said. “Though I’m a little hesitant, I don’t know if I’m just using that as a plan B in my mind, just because film seems so ridiculous. More and more, I want to be editing at the radio station or editing videos, and I get sad when school takes me away from that.”
One of her most memorable film projects was also one of her first, O’Connor said. Working in the summer between her freshman and sophomore year, she helped to create the videos that freshmen see during orientation.
“That was super fun, it was really awesome to work with the marketing team,” O’Connor said. “It felt like working on a real movie set, but it was a small enough production that you could be involved with everything.”
One of O’Connor’s favorite parts of her job was travelling with the marketing team.
“We travelled all around this summer,” O’Connor said. “Places like Portland, Scottsdale, Arizona, Nebraska and Chicago. It was maybe not the best time to be traveling a lot, but it was really fun. It was for a series that we were doing on awards that the college is giving to alumni.”
For O’Connor, the trips were a chance not only to get film-making experience but also to bond with her coworkers in the marketing department.
“I got really close to Chandler, and to another coworker of mine, Josh Liebhauser, who also came along,” O’Connor said. “The three of us were just travelling, and driving, and hanging out together, and working, obviously. It was a really good time. It was probably the highlight of the summer, to get out and to meet some really interesting people with really interesting stories who had come out of Hillsdale.”
But O’Connor isn’t just a video guru, she also hosts a weekly radio show, “State Facts,” on WRFH. O’Connor was recently awarded the 2020 College Broadcasters Inc. award for Best Regularly Scheduled Entertainment Program, as well as the 2020 Michigan Association of Broadcasters award for Best On Air Personality for her radio program.
“Each episode, I look at a U.S. state, and I bring someone on from that state, and quiz them about it,” O’Connor said. “Then I’ll ask them questions, like what their favorite thing about the state is, and just try to get them to talk about why they love the state so much.”
Before spring break last year, “State Facts” was nominated for the Most Innovative/Creative Program award by the Intercollegiate Broadcast System, and O’Connor traveled to New York for the award ceremony.
“It was a really fun trip,” O’Connor said. “It was kind of rainy and terrible and smelled bad, and the people were indifferent to your existence, but something about that was very appealing to me, and I could see myself working there.”
With restrictions put in place due to COVID-19, winning the CBI award this year was a far different experience for O’Connor, as the event was held virtually.
“I didn’t actually attend the virtual ceremony, I was playing a show at Donnybrook that night,” O’Connor said. “At the time that felt more present and important. In the grand scheme of things, maybe I should have tuned in for a second.”
Though she was playing a show in her band at an on-campus house the night of the award ceremony, O’Connor is grateful for the award and those who helped her achieve it.
“I’m very lucky and fortunate to have Scott [Bertram] and the station and all the other support that allowed me to put a show on air that people liked a little bit,” O’Connor said.
Amazingly, O’Connor was still able to find time this past summer to film and create a wedding video for senior Caroline Greb and Ethan Greb ’19. It was the first wedding she’d ever filmed.
“It was kind of scary,” O’Connor said.
With minimal equipment of her own — most of what she uses in the marketing department is borrowed — O’Connor said she “made a lot of mistakes, but learned a lot,” despite being stressed and losing sleep editing the video.
“They seem to like it, which is really all that matters,” O’Connor said. “I stressed so much over that. I lost so much sleep, but not because of them. I just put it on myself because it’s kind of scary to have someone’s special day in your hands.”
Caroline Greb and O’Connor met in Hillsdale College’s External Affairs office in 2018 and have been friends ever since. Greb said she was very happy with the results of the video.
“Jane was amazing at making our video,” Greb said. She was a delightful presence on our wedding day and clearly loves her work. I had asked her just to simply capture our vows and toasts, and she took it upon herself to do an entire, artfully-made video with b‑roll, interviews, music and all. Jane has a unique ability not only to capture beautiful images, but to capture a story.”
While O’Connor says producing wedding videos likely isn’t in her long-term plan, she is grateful for the experience and looks forward to wherever post-grad life takes her.
“I’m honestly just happy to be behind the camera, and to be editing,” O’Connor said. “I just love creating projects.”