USF Students and Staff Take Home Telly Awards

Unstoppable Campaign webisodes and documentary on local history of jazz recognized



By Barbara Melendez News writer


TAMPA, Fla. (July 6, 2010) – One award went to students who spent time exploring the local jazz and blues music scene in Tampa. Three were captured by the USF Media Innovation Team for its unique video work for the University of South Florida’s Unstoppable Campaign.


It was an impressive showing in the 31st Annual Telly Awards, which recognizes the best in video and film productions across the country.


With this latest win, the award-winning Media Innovation Team (MIT), part of the Center for 21st Century Teaching Excellence (C 21TE), adds luster to its sterling reputation for producing outstanding digital content in support of USF’s instructional and institutional vision.   


Led by Bill Patterson, director of digital innovation and entrepreneurial partnerships, team members Christine Brown, art director and senior producer who served as the project leader, cinematographer/designer Josh Bertrand  and editor Daniel Baeder, provided production and post-production services to work their magic on USF’s Unstoppable Campaign with a series of engaging “webisodes.”

They received the Silver Telly, the highest honor, in the fundraising category and bronze Tellys in the campaign-promotional /branding, and editing categories.  In addition to previous Tellys, the team has received a wide range of international awards including Intercom, Davey, Webby, and Interactive Media honors.


 “We couldn’t be more proud of everyone in Media Innovation,” said Kathleen Moore. associate vice president for academic affairs and executive director of USF ECampus.  “They truly deserve this recognition.  And knowing they were being judged against thousands of entries from nationally-recognized media companies and ad agencies makes each award all the more significant.”


The MIT collaborates with USF faculty and clients both inside and outside of the university to produce distance learning, instructional and interactive design, web and application development as well as high-definition video production, online courses, DVDs and more.


“We pride ourselves on staying at the leading edge of digital content design in order to encourage student success through the use of current and emerging digital technologies,” said Patterson.


“We’ve produced projects on topics ranging from evapotranspiration, a Telly Award-winning hydrogeology animation, to USF’s 50th Anniversary Timeline.  We welcome the challenge of applying the best and latest design approaches to projects of all sizes and complexities, and are particularly pleased when we can ‘align through design,’ our instructional, institutional and entrepreneurial goals,” he said.


Students in the School of Mass Communications won a bronze Telly for The Tempo of Tampa Bay, a half-hour documentary on the local history of jazz and blues. The students were part of Kristen Arnold Ruyle’s video production class.


“When we started working on our documentary, one of the previous classes had just found out they won a Telly. Right then, I made it a goal to make a doc good enough for a Telly,” said the director of The Tempo of Tampa Bay, Ben Walter.


Some call a Telly the Oscar for the video and commercial film industry, thus the Telly Award is a prestigious addition to any producer’s bookshelf, let alone students just starting their careers. In addition, The Tempo of Tampa Bay received the Florida Choice Award at the 2009 Independents’ Film Festival last November. 


When the students started researching the local music scene they found historical references and resources lacking.


“It was quite funny because when reading musicians’ bios, we found out a lot of people left Tampa because Tampa wasn't a good enough place for music,” said producer Jessica McNeil Brennan.  “The only things we had to work with were celebrity musicians who now live in Tampa, but they didn't get their start here.”


As they continued to dig, however, Brennan and co-producer Candace Kaw found that the city actually had a deep history of blues and jazz music and a vibrant local scene. It became the focus of the documentary.


“I didn’t know there was so much jazz in Tampa,” Kaw said.  “I now have jazz on my i-pod.  I also gained a whole new perspective on the music industry and the business of music.”


Kaw said the documentary project and video production class helped her conduct engaging interviews, set up equipment and edit, and what she has learned has carried over to other projects, as well.


Sean Brown, the project’s videographer and editor, said his biggest lesson learned is “the importance of planning and working as a team. The thing that really impressed me about my team was their willingness to get things done right.”


All four USF graduates now are focusing on their future. Brown is moving to California to pursue a career in production, film and television.  He leaves having recently helped produce a music video for an Atlanta artist with Sarah Wilson, another award-winning USF graduate. And, right before graduating he saw another project of his, the film Dennis, win this year’s local Campus Movie Fest for best comedy.

Kaw’s next project involves producing a commercial for a video contest found on an internet site. Brennan is looking for a job but would love to work on another documentary, if the opportunity arises. Walter hopes to get a job at a university as a sports video coordinator. 


They all agree the hard work on the documentary was worth it.


“It’s awesome to know that all the work that we put into this is paying off,’’ Brennan said. “Not just for the grade we received, but for something that we can tell people about. We created a national-award-winning documentary. It is just so awesome to be able to say that!”


Now in its 31st season, the Telly Award competition gets tougher each year as entries have skyrocketed to nearly 13,000 from all 50 states and five continents.  Winners represent the best work of advertising agencies, production companies, television stations, cable operators, and corporate video departments.


The silver and bronze statuettes will be formally presented this October in New York City.


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.