By Austen Trevers
For the first year ever, Communication Arts majors got a chance to put their broadcasting skills to the test as a group in a no-sleep, 36-hour film competition. The event was part of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) association’s annual convention at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn.
One team of four students — Merrilee LaVilla, Eric Dodson, Jacob Bean and Emily Tumlin — created their short film starting on Friday night. They toured several locations in Nashville shooting footage for the film, which had to revolve around a theme that NRB chose. With no help from faculty, the four had to come up with a story line, shoot all the footage and edit the 4-minute film themselves for a chance to win bragging honors and cash prizes. The competition lasted until Sunday morning.
The Communication Arts department became members of NRB in fall 2013 as an opportunity to expose majors to networking, educational and more hands-on film competition events, according to department chair, Dr. Cassandra Johnson.
“I knew participation in and attendance at NRB would open up new doors for our majors and give them a chance to see other Christians who are actually making a living by balancing serving God with their craft,” Johnson said.
Lavilla said the competition was challenging.
“The competition really pushed me, having no sleep and trying to preform at my best was very challenging,” she said.
Dodson echoed LaVilla’s remarks, saying NRB was a “wonderful” experience for him.
“I thought the NRB competition was very neat and productive,” Dodson said.
Though the students did not place at the competition, they already know areas they need to strengthen in their work.
“One thing I need to really work on is my editing skills,” LaVilla said. “I did not know much about editing this year so I was not able to help much on the editing part of the video.”
Dodson agreed, saying, “I believe I can improve on my editing skills and also my shots.”
Besides the competition team, the department was able to take five students to serve as volunteers during the event. The volunteers were responsible for working the conference with NRB officials. They served as everything from registrars to bouncers.
Freshman Alisha Provence and senior Aurelie Gaborit enjoyed being part of the NRB experience.
“I loved working the NRB convention,” Provence said. “It gave me the opportunity to meet some very interesting people.”
Provence, who would love to go back to NRB next year, says her favorite part about going to NRB was spending time with other communication majors that she does not normally get to see. Because she is a freshman, she has not had many classes with the competition team, nor with professors Johnson and instructor of communication arts Matthew LeHew, who took the students to the event.
“Getting to know everyone on the team was special and very fun,” Provence said.
Johnson is proud of all the students who were able to attend.
“Our competition team worked really hard. It doesn’t matter to me this year that they didn’t place; they came back a closer group of friends,” Johnson said.
She added that she was astounded by the efforts of the student volunteers as well.
“We got so many compliments at NRB about how respectful and hard working our students are,” Johnson said. “And, indeed, they all had a good attitude and served with smiles on their faces. They were very happy to be there.”
According to Johnson, the department is already working to make sure they are able to take more competition teams back next year. They are also hopeful that NRB will allow them to bring more volunteers as well.
“Not every school gets to serve as volunteers, and that’s probably because of the perks NRB gives those students,” said Johnson. “They get everything from a cash stipend for food for the week to a free hotel room for the conference to access to many of the events that only those who have paid exorbitant costs to be there get to experience —not to mention the number of celebrities they see while there.”