Over a period of 10 years I did 2 major campaigns for Northwest Technical College, a 5-campus 2-year technical and community college in Minnesota. NTC, part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, had a campus in Moorhead (across the river from Fargo, N.D. and part of that metro area), East Grand Forks, Wadena, Detroit Lakes, and Bemidji. Because of the small size of the towns and the confusing array of course offerings from campus to campus, the admissions process was quite complicated.
I was tasked with two separate campaigns, involving a marketing plan, new positioning statement, viewbook, billboards, TV, and radio spots. In the first engagement, I proposed the tag line, "Get There Faster". It spoke to the ability to get a degree and a job in two years instead of four. A slide in enrollments was reversed, and the NTC campuses enjoyed an increase in traditional students, who had previously been opting in larger numbers for 4-year schools, because of the appealing college life, athletics, community, etc.
However, NTC also felt a need for non-traditional students to matriculate in larger numbers, and in doing intercept research at local malls I found that a large number of our respondents were interested in career changes and promotions, and just needed a nudge to see NTC as an option instead of a few private career colleges that had sprung up in the area. So I suggested the Focused on You campaign: using testimonials of real students facing real issues.
In order to bring this to the screen, I conducted several dozen telephone interviews of students around the state and in North Dakota, looking for compelling stories. I tape recorded their comments, transcribed them, and cut together a script of the chosen students prior to scheduling the shooting.
We had a limited budget ... only $15,000 to do eight spots, but we wanted to have a cinematic look. So I shot guerrilla style on film, with very little lighting, using a Aaton A-minima 16mm camera. Our crew consisted of myself, my daughter Shelley working as grip, and the client. The A-Minima lends itself to hand-held work, but does require all the standard film challenges including changing film speeds and magazines in the field. So I was serving as both cinematographer and assistant cameraman.
We shot the 8 spots in 5 days, which allowed about 3 hours for each spot, plus a half hour to record the audio of each person re-saying their own words into my DAT audio recorder. Travel and film magazine changes filled about 4 to 6 hours each day... making for very long days!
Atlanta Cinefilm processed the film and telecine was done by Kevin Marck in Cincinnati. To get the salsa clubs, I raced up to Winnipeg the last night, melted into the crowd and got some dancing footage, then high-tailed it back to Fargo in time to catch my plane.
These spots, along with the viewbook and other materials, were well-received and were effective for the school until they reorganized and changed their name a year or two later.
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