When hiring an in-house videographer to join staff you have to consider many things. First, one person alone can’t offer the array of content creation that a team of people can. Our collective experience includes writing, storyboarding, live television production, casting, and more. Then, there is the cost of their income and benefits, plus the cost of equipment. I’m talking about cameras, lights, microphones, editing software, and more. There is also the risk of your new hire turning out to not be the perfect fit for the job. Maybe they get a better offer and leave after just three months. That’s wasted money, and you’re back to the hiring process.
Gracepoint Media began working with Weatherford College in 2019. At that time the school was considering how to improve their video marketing strategy to increase their online presence and exposure. Compared to hiring an in-house videographer, Gracepoint offered a more cost effective and safe option. We own all of our equipment: an arsenal of cinema quality cameras, various microphones, audio mixers, video switchers, and we love buying new toys often. Plus we have a team of various expertise. We’re not relying on the skills of just one person.
We started by creating just one video for WC, a promo about dual credit for high school students. The response was great, so great that in over a little more than a year they asked us back for a total of 17 projects. In that time we’ve built a great relationship with WC. We’ve helped to celebrate milestones, create content in a pandemic, and added livestreaming to their repertoire. This a timeline of those 15 months, and the strategy that went into each project.
It was a year of celebration. In 2019 Weatherford College was commemorating their 150th anniversary. They were on a mission to become a praised school for music. New athletic teams were approved to be added, and new programs were in the works. The school wanted to capture every moment. They wrapped up the fall semester with strengthened pride, and began the spring of 2020 with a full set of new goals. Three months into the new year they were hitting pause and changing course.
Early in 2019 Weatherford College embarked on an initiative to become an All-Steinway School, a recognition from the internationally known Steinway & Sons Pianos. It’s a title that only 44 two-year or community colleges hold worldwide. The distinction requires that schools commit to providing the best equipment for the study of music. For WC that meant adding nine new pianos. WC President Dr. Tod Allen Farmer quickly committed the funding for one new piano, and gave the greenlight for the inaugural Weatherford College International Piano Competition. That’s where Gracepoint Media became a small part in the initiative, capturing video from the inaugural event. To raise the funds for the rest of the equipment took a large effort from the school and the WC Foundation. To help, we created video content using testimonial from Dr. Farmer himself.
“The Steinway initiative is going to help propel Weatherford College to the next level of excellence. It’s the next step forward as we mature”. – Dr. Tod Allen Farmer, Weatherford College
In the second semester of calendar year WC wanted to be sure to capture every last big moment of their sesquicentennial. The board of trustees accepted our bid to create content for the remainder of the 2019 calendar year, and through the end of the 2020 spring semester.
It was important for us to understand the branding that would shape all of our content in that first semester. The tagline for the year was “150 Years of Changing Lives”. We created every story with that tagline in mind. Wherever possible we included visuals of historic significance. And with every student, faculty, and staff interview we asked them to describe how Weatherford College is changing their life.
One such project of the year involved testimonials from five students. The purpose was to say thank you to the donors and the other significant parties that contribute to the success of the school. We scheduled sit down interviews with each of the five students to get an in-depth story about their background, their present, and their future, all while weaving in Weatherford College as an important player in each of their journeys.
“Weatherford College is changing my life because where I come from is the Navajo Nation Reservation in New Mexico, and not a lot of kids get the opportunity to go to college.” – Faith Holyan, Student
It was important that the turnaround was quick for video content after each event. Many of the important dates were on Saturday, and the school’s Public Relations team wanted to share a video recap each Monday following.
By the end of the 2019 calendar year we had the privilege of producing, filming, and editing nine pieces of original content for Weatherford College. Each of their proud moments were captured, keepsakes to be shared in their next 150 years.
As if WC could end the year with any more pride, finally the fundraising efforts paid off. Steinway & Sons named Weatherford College an All-Steinway School.
At the start of the 2020 year we immediately began planning the next semester’s worth of content. By the end of January we had one shoot done and additional dates on the calendar through April.
This year it was time for Weatherford College Wise County to get some attention. The campus was marking their 20th anniversary. Weatherford College was excited to build more exposure to Wise County campus. WC wanted a commemorative video with testimonials, plus two promos that were to run in area movie theaters. It was the first shoot on our books for the new year.
We had a packed day of back-to-back interviews with students, faculty, staff, and community leaders. That’s when it became obvious to us the potential for the great story we could tell about this campus, if only we had more time. We scheduled two more visits.
After three shoots we transcribed nine interviews to craft a script about the past, present, and future of the campus. The campus is small, and relatively young, but the students, faculty, and staff prove that the school is a great resource to the community. It was a privilege to shine a spotlight on WCWC.
“In five years I see myself working in a dentist office and helping people every single day like I want to, and the Wise County Campus has definitely made that goal very possible for me.” – Sarah McKinney, Student
The next time we were back on the main campus in Weatherford, the day was beautiful and sunny. February in Texas can be tricky. One day it’s warm, the next is icey. This day was perfect. We were there to capture a welcome message with Dr. Farmer, plus a full day shooting file video of classrooms, labs, and finally a basketball game. We already had one more date on the calendar after that to shoot baseball, but that shoot never came.
In mid March WC made the decision to shut down the campus and suspend classes due to the COVID19 pandemic. The sidewalks that were so busy, bright, and warm just weeks before were now totally empty. The baseball shoot was off because the season came to a sudden halt, no one in the gym, no one in student housing. Campus was deserted.
We did go back for another shoot in April, for the second inaugural WC International Piano Competition, but campus was eerily quiet, nothing like that beautiful February day when we were last there. This time masks and gloves were necessary. We could not stand within six feet of one another. It was the kind of shoot we were quickly getting used to.
Rather than in-person, this year the competition was totally on video. The challenge was to give the participants and winners the quality experience they deserve from an in-person ceremony. We compiled the video ceremony with messages from Dr. Farmer, head judge Dr Hyeyoung Song, and Dean of Fine Arts Duanne Durret. We captured each of the three in person, from a safe distance. The competition submissions were all sent in from the participants themselves. WC Vice President Mr. Brent Baker provided voiceover so that all winners’ names would be read aloud. Each participant received the recognition of their name and picture on screen, followed by a sample of their submission. The ceremony premiered May 1st, live on Facebook. It has since been viewed more than 5,000 times. The new All-Steinway Institution is now planning for their 3rd Annual WC International Piano Competition.
“Weatherford College international Piano Competition opens small windows for our young musicians. We hope and believe that through these windows music may find many hearts who have been waiting isolated in the darkest time of life.” – Dr. Hyeyoung Song, Weatherford College Artists in Residence
By this time all classes were now online, and there was little more than guesses about when in-person classes might start again. WC administration worried that online classes might not appeal to everyone. It would be a shame if someone put their education on hold because of the new challenges of restricted human interaction. WC approached us with an idea to “demystify” online learning, address some of the misconceptions, and explain why online classes are a great option. We discussed doing the entire thing over zoom, using only screen recordings, but we wanted to come up with something bigger.
WC gathered three students to explain in their own words their surprise of online learning. Each of the three were all from different backgrounds: a mom with four daughters at home, a full-time employee, and a full-time rodeo athlete. Because we’ve worked so closely with WC they were comfortable putting us in direct contact with the students so that we could schedule each at their own homes.
The challenge was that each had very different schedules, and none lived near each other. Over the course of three shooting days we traveled nearly 500 miles to interview three students and two faculty. The reward was that we got to capture each student in their environment, in the same setting where they take their online classes. We knew that would resonate well with others who were also at home wondering if school online was the right thing for them. We were right. Weatherford College marked a seven-year high for enrollment in the summer two session, online classes only.
“After 35 years in law enforcement I never thought I’d be learning web development. […] Online classes are taking me on a brand new journey in my career.” – Jo Ann, Student
“I’ve qualified for the college finals three times in the last three years, […] and I would not have been able to do that without the flexibility of the online classes to practice as we have to practice to win.” – Lane, Student
Campus remained closed for classes and most student services through both summer sessions, but people were still calling to ask for campus tours. The school could not miss out on welcoming any potential students, so they came up with the idea to create a video tour. Their
thought was simply this, follow a student ambassador around just as if they were giving a tour, because the priority was to get something published asap. We suggested that we could do something even better, just as fast.
Rather than following the tour guide we recorded an intro, a close, and a voiceover. This allowed us the time we needed to walk the campus on our own to capture the school at its best, and allowed the tour guide to use a script. We came early in the morning and stayed late into the evening to catch golden hour. The visuals for each location were carefully planned. The response was quick. The tour was published online within 48 hours of delivery. It’s been viewed 17,000 times on Facebook, with 34 shares.
In addition to the video, we offered a package with other virtual elements. While we were on campus for the recording we took 360-degree photos and created a mock interactive virtual tour, with video elements embedded at certain stops. This wasn’t an option that WC was ready to take on at the moment, but it sparked our own hopes to add this as a regular service.
WC made it through an unprecedented year with highs and lows. The last thing left to do was to send their graduates off with the fanfare they deserved. The Office of Student Life asked us to create the school’s first ever livestreaming commencement ceremony.
The ceremony was outdoors at the Weatherford High School football stadium. We connected with the venue personnel to be sure that we would have exclusive access to their network connection, to ensure the best stream for WC.
Those watching from home had a better view than anyone there in-person. We used three live camera angles, one wide shot on the graduates, one close up on the podium, and one roaming camera on the field. The rain early in the ceremony was an obstacle. Our equipment got a little wet, but we were ready with a backup plan to move from the track to underneath the stands. The sun was finally shining before the ceremony was over, a perfect metaphor for the semester this school endured.
“As if COVID19 wasn’t enough, here comes the rain, but like everything else you have overcome, and you will graduate.” – Dr. Tod Allen Farmer, Weatherford College President
In the first six months of 2020 we created another eight pieces of video content for WC, a total of 17 videos in 15 months, from 2019 to 2020.
2019 was a year of celebration for Weatherford College. 2020 so far is a year of strength and potential. We are happy to have been a part of both.