Video competition finalizes winners, issues still linger

Ian Wallace

Sept. 18, Lawrence’s Office of Development and Green Roots Initiative announced the winners of the Sustainable Lawrence Video Competition, a contest among student teams to create a video promoting sustainability. While teams welcomed the opportunity to gain film experience, some thought the competition limited their creativity, took advantage of their time and did not properly clarify judging criteria.
Last spring, three teams were given video-making resources to create three-minute videos based on the themes of environmentalism and sustainability.
This fall, a popular vote was held on the university’s Web site. However, a panel of judges with experience in art and environmental issues determined the winning video. The first-place team received $3,000, and the runner-up and third place teams got $1,500 and $500, respectively.
The video produced by juniors Nate Grady, Kevin Gabrielsen and Kaushal Malde won the judges’ votes for first place. Sophomores Tom Coben and Rosie Graber created the runner-up video. The third-place team, consisting of seniors Stephen Anunson, Katie Langenfield, Carolyn Armstrong, Molly Preston and junior Oren Jakobson, won the online popular vote for an additional $500 prize.
Some students appreciated the opportunity for the filmmaking practice. Said one competitor, “We just wanted to create a simple video that is straight to the point.”
Other students said they hope the competitions continue in the future.
However, the competition also faced criticism. Some students from the teams claimed that there was a conflict between their creativity and the requirements of the competition. One student alleged that the Office of Development took advantage of students’ interest in making videos to create a “commercial” for the school.
“Some of the guidelines were strict, and there were so many specifics,” said one filmmaker.
“The entire time you have to keep referring back to the rules, asking, oh can we do this?” the filmmaker continued. “It seemed contradictory. They wanted us to think out of the box, and then we had to keep coming back to these specifics.”
Additionally, all footage shot became property of the Development Office. The Development Office received the rights to many hours of footage, which included testimonials and interviews with students and faculty.
Additionally, some members of the teams called into question judging fairness and representation of the rules after the results were announced. The panel of judges was intended to be composed of alumni in the film industry and environmental studies professors. However, according to Calvin Husmann, vice president for development and alumni relations, no such people were available, and the panel had only one environmental studies professor alumnus. Other judges had expertise and careers in sustainability issues.
“We were told it was a panel of judges that were filmmakers,” said a student filmmaker.
There are also claims by some members of the teams that the popular vote was misrepresented on the Lawrence home page, which stated, “Several months ago, three teams of students earned a chance to compete for a $3,000 prize and the opportunity to see their video featured on the Documentary Channel. Voting runs though Wednesday, Sept. 16 and the winner of this popular vote contest will be announced at a public screening on Thursday, Sept. 17 in the Warch Campus Center.” Some student filmmakers felt that this implied that the popular vote determined the $3,000 winner, which was not the case.
“One of the misconceptions for us was that we wanted to make a quality film, and we thought filmmaking was a bigger part of it. But for [those in charge] it was more about who the film appealed to,” said the filmmaker, “Did we really misunderstand this or did we just want to make it about creativity?”
The Development Office has ceased its student video competition projects. Instead, an employee makes similar videos on a more regular basis.