Friday, December 14, 2007

Finally a chance to reflect on a semester that went by way too fast ...

It seems like only yesterday that I stood in the Virginia Ball dining room staring awkwardly at the 16 other students that would soon become some of my best fellow workers and friends. At that time, I do not think any one of us could have imagined the roller coaster that was ahead. Four months and a documentary later, I realize how unique of a semester it has definitely been. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to take part in an immersive learning experience here at Ball State, especially one with this particular subject.

When I was in high school and even younger, sports were always a big part of my life. Even now, as my playing days have come to a close, I still find myself glued to the TV several nights a week watching the Colts, IU basketball, Lady Volunteer Basketball (OF COURSE!!!) and other sports which is why I thought this specific seminar was going to be such a perfect fit for me. I was not disappointed. I learned so much about sports in general, the female athlete, Title IX, and exemplary women's athletic programs, all while gaining a lot of real world skills that I will continue to take with me past this project.

"It's not exactly something they cover in history class…" said Mia Tabberson in our documentary; this is the perfect idea about Title IX. Title IX is certainly not something that you hear about often, even in history classes with women who would probably not be there without it. However, it is such a crucial part of everyday life for many women. I know I never thought about Title IX when I was involved with sports and several of the Burris Owls from this year had similar feelings. We, as a society, have gotten to the point where we do not have to think about Title IX much anymore, which is a great improvement. However, it is a never-ending process and a law that needs to continually be challenged and reflected on as years pass. I enjoyed the opportunity to truly reflect on the opportunities that are being given to women today with sports and also in academics, business, and all other areas in which women have made such great strides toward equality. I hope through our seminar, that not only our students had the chance to learn more about female athletics and Title IX, but that those who viewed our documentary also took the time to think more about the immense opportunities females are being granted today.

Continuing to reflect back on this semester, I have gained so much knowledge in other areas besides Title IX. I have learned how to work effectively and cooperatively in a group setting. I have learned skills that I never thought I would, such as operating a camera and setting up lights. I have collaborated with 16 other students and 2 wonderful teachers that have such different talents and personalities but also have such similar goals and work ethics. It has been a semester of ups and downs, but I am thankful to have had the opportunity to take part in immersive learning. Good luck to next semester's seminars!

Coming to an End

It's Friday afternoon, and very shortly our Fall Seminar will be officially over. It's odd to think that I will have to get up extra early in order to find a parking space, I will have to walk on campus, or that I won't be receiving daily emails from Kecia.

Last Tuesday night we had our last screening of the film in the Letterman Building, and we had an amazing turnout! Shortly after 7:00 p.m. the room was packed and we had to bring in more chairs. The walls were lined with people, and there were even a few Burris players sitting on the ground in the front. This time we even had a few very insightful questions. After the screening I had a several of my friends come up to me and tell me how wonderful the film was, which is always great to hear.

Wednesday was our final day of class. We turned in our portfolios and watched the completely FINISHED Behind-the-Scenes! Well, there was one small clip we had to fix, but after that it was COMPLETELY finished. It was nice to hear our classmates compliment us on the work we had done. The music boys were really pleased that we used a lot of their songs. Now we are just waiting for our copies of the movie. I'm very excited to go back home and show my family the work that we have all done.

The ending of the seminar is rather bittersweet. It's nice to finally be done and not stress, but then it's sad because our class has such a close bond with one another. I would do the stress and long hours all over again, for an experience like this one.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Coming Up for Air

Sitting in the front row of the packed room in Cornerstone, it hit me. This is my final. Not an essay in a blue book or a multiple test online, but this, a Gala! It also hit me that a whole semester has been compiled into a 46 minute film.

For those who couldn’t make it to the Thursday and join the audience of Steve and Don Shondell, Burris volleyball players from 1982 and 2007, Ball State professors, and all the friends and family that came with their support and enthusiasm, I’ll try to sum up the experience.

The Cornerstone Center of the Arts did a wonderful job with the twinkling lights and Christmas trees. The Events Committee in our class did a great job with setting up volleyball nets that had photographs of the Burris volleyball players and behind the scenes of us this semester, taken by us. In a corner we had the Behind the Scenes documentary, compiled by non-Telecommunications majors. After mingling with delicious appetizers, most of the seminar went up and spoke to the audience about their experience in the project. Despite everyone being tired from the rush to complete the film, no one tripped to the stage.

And then the film began. Not to give anything away for those coming Tuesday, but I was too awed to be nervously sneaking glances at the audience. My friends were amazed at the music and the camera’s shots. One friend said she was surprised to have the emotional response she did. After the light slowly came back on we wrapped it up with a few more speeches and a Q and A session.

Earlier I had compared this experience to scuba diving, and Sam had said how her grandmother first thought immersive learning was about swimming (“Not sub-mersive Grandma”). But now as we are working on our portfolios and looking back, I think we are realizing how we were truly submerged into this project.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

SCORE...we're Done! NOT

Sitting here on this Saturday afternoon, I'm wondering if I should head over to the VBC. See, for the past 3 Saturdays, I've been living with Evan, Blake and Jon in the smallest room ever created by an architect. "The Cave" is not being occupied, to my knowledge, at this moment, and it feels really weird.

We finally had our Gala. Never thought that I would see that day. However, now that it's over and we finally got to see the movie all the way through, we know that there needs to be things adjusted. Personally I think that the Gala was a huge success, but as I watching the movie, I was mentally editing it, and I don't know if I will ever be satisfied. Granted we had issues right up to the Gala, but knowing what we want it to look like is something that I will always have on my mind.

We still have plenty to work out. I'm planning on going in sometime in the next day or so just because there is still much more that I want to work on before Tuesday, our second screening. After Tuesday, who knows...

I'm sad that I'm leaving next semester because I still want to be apart of the post-production process. But I'm confident in leaving it in the hands of my fellow VBCer's. Because if there is one thing that I learned this semester, it's being able to let go and trust other people, because they want everything that I want for the project.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

It's too late... I'm using too many elipses...

0400 . . .

The gala is . . . technically, well, tomorrow. The butterflies are more than hardcore now, and even though I am home, I still cannot manage to let my brain rest.

I feel so much for our editors who have been working so hard in the cave, and I have complete trust in their abilities to turn out a film that is guaranteed to turn heads. They truly are the core of this project, and I don't know where we would be without their talent, commitment, and patience. We could not ask for more.

Today was an eye-opener. Everyone has been talking about immersive learning and what it is like to collaborate this entire semester, and I guess I just took it as a given. I thought, “Of course, we have to work together. We are together all the time." Today, I realized I have to be open to others. Yes, I have been teaming up with others for weeks, but I have always tried to do things the way I envision them, and haven’t really gotten past that until today.

The Behind-the-Scenes Documentary crew has mainly consisted of Kristen, Samantha Davis, and me for the better part of the semester. We were assigned to do a piece in the early weeks and just kind of were . . . in charge from then on. With other committees and commitments outside of the project, I have been spread pretty thin giving me limited knowledge/focus about the project with the two them. With the gala nearing and other projects wrapping up, I have been able to spend more time with them, but am extremely behind on the keyboarding/editing skills they have acquired. Long story short, I went in with different ideas and skill sets, and I quickly became frustrated. After talking with Laura and Kristen, I realized my frustrations (with myself and the BTS documentary) only made the situation more difficult.

The skills I am learning, no matter how minute they might seem compared to my peers, are those I might not have learned otherwise. So, again, I thank them for their patience in teaching me and putting up with my stubbornness . . . next time, a swift kick will do.

On the topic of collaboration and new skills, Blake and I worked together on the invitations and programs for the gala. My interest and abilities with photography and Adobe Photoshop were rekindled while working on these projects… which remind me that the gala is EVEN CLOSER! There were a few problems we didn’t catch through editing the programs, but as Jamie said, “If that’s the worst thing to happen, we’re in good shape.” (KNOCK ON WOOD!)

The photos for the gala are in, and spiffy at that! Adam Wilson was hiding his awesome photography capabilities all semester! Some of the best photos we have are from the state game with the Owls, and our audio gentlemen in the studios. I really hope everyone enjoys them.

As I type, Adam and Dan are pulling one of many over-nighters in Sursa for the second week in a row. They top my list of favorite people, and have probably the toughest job of all because they have to wait for the rest of us before they can finish their work. I have complete faith in them, and will never pass up bringing the cherry scented lotion for their cracked hands and chocolate coffee for rejuvenation.

Last kudos go to Sarah Marty and Michael Straub who lent us their time in finishing up this project. I can’t wait to see your work with our final presentation.

. . . bed.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Non-committee Comes Together

So here's the final count. We have 87 hours of footage, about 55 of which are interviews. The movie is going to be about 45 minutes long. I hope you're thinking, ". . . how?" Because it was no easy feat.

The people in charge of carving the story out of the countless hours of footage have throughout this process been known as the narrative committee. Although I feel it incumbent upon myself to note that it was more of a narrative "non-committee." Throughout the entire semester there has never been a set group of people who collectively comprised the narrative committee. It was whoever felt strongly about it that week, with of course about 5 regulars. As this is a student-led project and we are all on the same level, no one of us could really turn another one down who was interested in helping, even if it was a scattered showing. The fact that all 17 students are so strongly invested in one story has been the most amazing and equally challenging aspect of this project. But fear not! We did manage. It just took . . . a little bit longer.

We tried a couple of different organizational ideas and finally landed on the most effective to date about 3 weeks ago. Every single reel of footage was assigned to someone on the narrative "committee" (on average about 10 people), which means each of us had about 8 or 9 reels to either watch fully or review the transcripts. In doing this everyone was supposed to find the golden quotes and place them into an appropriate place within the rough script outline posted on our group's personal (wiki) website. It got a little crazy sometimes, and I'm sure not all of the quotes were golden, but in the end everyone did their work. Now, two days away from the premiere, I've seen our work together (thanks to the editors) and I'm very impressed that so many minds can do individual work and it can come together so organically. I'm very proud of our work.

Sorry can't talk now...

I'd like to blog, but I am so busy trying to score the documentary I don't really have time to talk about anything. Dan and I have been up past 7 AM everynight, working over 18 hours a day for the past week or so. It gets to be time consuming when you are composing, performing, recording, editing AND mixing all the music for a film project.

Hopefully I will see you all at the Gala, there I will be able to answer any questions you might have about the process. Later!

Monday, December 3, 2007


There are only three days left until our showcase. To think, just three months ago, we began this project, and it all comes down to these last few days. There has been a shift in urgency in all of us, but, at this stage, there are only a few specific tasks to be complete, namely editing and scoring. Both the t-commies and music tech people are working to finish their respective pieces, while working together to ensure cohesion between the two projects.

One challenge to this goal is that Evan, Audrey, Blake, and Jon have been working here at the mansion, while Dan and Adam have been at the music building using the recording studios. This distance makes it difficult at times to collaborate effectively, as Dan and Adam need to see what they are scoring. As a result, there are lots of trips between the two buildings to transfer files and get a general sense of what each team is working on.

For those of us without a lot of the technical expertise needed to edit or score, we have been trying our best to fill in where possible. It has certainly been a source of frustration to know there is a tremendous amount of work to be done, but to not be able to directly contribute to completing that work. A few people have complained of feeling useless or like they aren’t doing anything. In all honesty though, at this point, there are a limited number of things that can be done and a limited amount of people that can effectively complete those tasks. The situation is a conundrum, because we want to make sure that the editors and musicians have everything they need to do their job, but we don't want to be in the way of that process either.

With seventeen of us, as we have found throughout the semester, it is far too easy to have too many cooks in the kitchen. We try to help out by finding scenes or quotes to fill in our story. Others provide a fresh eye and mind to the editors as they piece together sequences, while others have been around to offer support and boost morale.

Some of the general moods I sense around the mansion are panic, frustration, anxiety, and hope. In three days, all of those emotions will melt away with a huge sigh of relief as we sit back and watch our film with a deserved sense of pride.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

He built WHAT?

Some of us have been spending some pretty crazy hours at the mansion lately. Last night, I arrived around back in around 10:30 pm and headed upstairs to the East Parlor, where my office is located. As I approached, I heard power tools and smelled sawdust; for a couple of terrifying moments, I thought that one of my students had finally snapped, and s/he was taking out pent-up frustrations on the lovely hardwood floors or the VBC furniture. All I could think was, "Donna (our office manager) is going to kill me!"

Rounding the corner, I found that the ever-resourceful Blake was in the process of building a teleprompter. Yes, folks. Building. A teleprompter. A few days ago the TCOM kids worked up this incredibly brilliant scheme to make it look like folks were speaking directly into the camera while they read the text of Title IX; they inverted the text (backwards) on a laptop screen, which they then set up beneath the camera, and they used a mirror over the laptop (and under the camera) to reflect the words back to the subject being filmed. Apparently, that wasn't enough for Blake, who returned from Menards armed with enough materials to actually construct a base and frame to hold the laptop and the mirror.

Forty minutes later, Blake was calmly vacuuming up sawdust and the new apparatus was ready for shooting the next day. My point is simply this: that one of the best things about this semester for me is watching the students identify what they need, think through the problem, and then find ways to CREATE solutions. It's not unlike watching Dan and Adam match musical themes to bits of film, or watching the narrative team piece together a story out of a million jigsaw pieces of footage we have shot, or watching the students brainstorm ways to visualize an abstract concept that we want to convey in the film. I was just surprised that this time the problem-solving was so, well, tangible.

Given our struggles with finding an HD projector for the gala screening, I am half-convinced that I will come in tomorrow night and find Blake building one of those, too. . .

Voices in my Head?

It’ll come as no surprise to those of you who have been following our journey that we hold some crazy hours at the VBC mansion. Being part of a voiceover team, it makes sense for our meeting to be late at night so that we can see the chunks our editors have diligently worked on (and often are still tweaking into the wee hours).

So what do you think of when you hear we are working on voiceover? Do you think of the deep manly voice on trailers? Do you think of some stuffy voice droning on and on?

We had many discussions on whether we wanted it or not. Working on the voiceover, I realized how hard it is to write for a visual medium. It definitely reminds me of caption writing like you see for pictures in newspapers or magazines. It’s funny, because as an English major I’ll start rambling on about something I think is eloquent, and Aaron will give me a blank stare or Kecia will give me a "humor her" head nod and I realize I need to slow down and simplify.

Whoever the narrator is, we promise he/she/they won’t be hokey or preachy. I have changed from thinking of voiceover as intrusive and distasteful to more of a guide; someone summing up a two-hour game, or stating a fact, or setting a scene. The narration will also not be a book on tape, but instead concise, since a picture is already worth a hundred words. Our goal is that it will be smooth and seamless in the movie; you might not even notice it!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Trip to the Archives

It wasn't much of a surprise that I was assigned (and somewhat volunteered) to research for our project. From the first few weeks I took it upon myself to research Burris as a school and know its history. This led me to the archives in Bracken Library. While to many people this process would seem dry and boring, but as an English Literature major, I am used to spending a lot of time in Bracken doing research.

On my first visit I learned that Burris was almost closed in 1982. After sharing this information with the rest of the group, it seemed like something everyone thought we should explore. Interviewers started asking members of the Burris community about this incident, and I started looking more into this to see what I could find.

Almost an entire semester has gone by, and researching is still being done. When asked by the shooters and editors if I could find newspaper articles about the 1982 closing, I went back to the archives. This trip was more focused, and I found many clippings about Burris during this time. I wrote all of these down in my handy dandy legal pad, along with exactly which file I found them in, and gave this sheet to the editors to shoot later in the week.

While this may not be the most glamorous part of documentary film making, it is something that has to be done. Without going to the archives the first time, we wouldn't have known so early on about the school being threatened in 1982, and wouldn't have known to ask our interviewees about this topic. I am happy I was able to use one of my strengths to help the project.

Keep on keeping on,

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ups and Downs...and Ups again

As the semester comes closer to its end, I find myself looking back and evaluating my experience at the Virginia Ball Center. Coming into this semester, I was very excited to have an out-of-the-classroom learning experience. I was a bit nervous about the different type of semester-long project that cannot be finished by simply cramming at the library the last week of classes. I was also anticipating the diversity of the group of people I would be working with.

My parents kept telling me that this would be a very challenging experience, but completely worth the time and effort. I actually slightly disagreed with them because I knew we had at least 15 people in our challenging could it be if all the work was split up between us!?

The semester started off as good as I could have imagined. Our group got along from the start and soon developed inside jokes and positive group dynamics. I thoroughly enjoyed our class discussions that usually involved gender issues, which is one of my all-time favorite topics. I would leave our daily meetings feeling intellectually fulfilled.

As our semester progressed and we broke off into committees, the stress level of the project increased. It became my number one priority to work with the narrative committee. Many days I found myself feeling completely bogged down and full of stress from trying to develop skills and creative ideas to help produce a narrative for the film. At times, I would feel as if we were making tremendous progress...only to run into another one of the various speed bumps along the journey. Discouraging...

Finally, Finally! A skeleton narrative was produced which was followed by a storyboard. At this point, I could feel our project starting to really come together...there was an end product in sight and we would successfully accomplish our goal.

We have had to place together interview clips/voiceover, visuals, and narration to fit into our storyboard. This required the time-consuming process of going through each and every reel of footage (85 discs to be exact) and recording timecodes for each clip. When I saw the rough cut of the documentary last week, I felt very proud of our work... and thankful that I had been motivated enough to sit at my computer for 13 hours straight the previous day/night in order to give the editors more clips.

I saw clips throughout the documentary that I had personally chosen and it made me feel great inside. It really showed me that all of our hard work throughout the semester has been worth it. If I felt that incredible sense of accomplishment from seeing the rough cut, I cannot wait to feel the sense of pride when we show our final product on Dec. 6!

To sum up this semester in one sentence...
This semester has been the most stressful and challenging educational experience of my life thus far, but the development of skills and sense of accomplishment have been completely worth the time and effort.
Looks like my parents were right...again!

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Today Kristen and I worked for about six hours on the Behind-the-Scenes documentary. Six hours sounds like a really long time; we got one segment finished. We decided to edit together the clip about the '82 reunion, because we thought this would be a rather easy clip to put together, we have a lot of footage, and Audrey gave us some great sound bites for it.

Putting together the clip wasn't necessarily difficult, but it was rather time consuming. After we started working on the clip we realized that a lot of the B-roll footage we had wasn't that great or wasn't what we needed. That was probably what took up a majority of our time. Finally, we decided just to watch the whole reel over again to see if we had missed anything good. We did. There was some good footage on the reel that wasn't captured. No biggie, we got it and used it. It made our little segment flow a lot better.

We also got the chance to learn a few new things about Final Cut Pro. One of the major things we learned that will help us in transitions, was the cross fade. It is exciting to learn about a program that you didn't think you would be able to comprehend! I love having that feeling of accomplishment when the day is done. After several hours of working you get to sit back and watch a three minute clip that you have completely dissected and put back together again, and you get to have a moment of pride.

I get so excited when we finish just a small clip, I can't wait until we actually finish the whole Behind the Scenes! To be able to look at something you once before knew nothing about and then to conquer it and produce a great (hopefully) final product is an amazing feeling.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Diamond in the Rough

Since our return from the University of Tennessee, we have been devoting our lives to logging, capturing clips for the storyboard, logging, editing and panicking. Did I mention logging? Our time has been spent locked in The Cave, dorm rooms and apartments at all hours -- throwing ourselves into our roles in the project.

The result, thanks to an incredible story board, was the beginning of a "rough cut" that took the story caught in 17 minds and placed it on one computer screen. We still have a lot of work to do, and I can't say how much I appreciate the editors and music boys being able to work with so little time and a crew comprised largely of non-T-com students.

Right now, our narrative script, which shows us the clips that will represent each frame of the story board, is filling out nicely and sequences are forming. Music is being mixed and placed into the film, and ambient noise is being modified.

Last night, the rough cut of the film so far was showed to members of Ball State's and the Center's faculty, and was followed by a discussion of the film's narrative. The outside opinions were helpful, giving us all a chance to step back and look at the film as, using a comparison of Fred Johnson's, a pliable sculpture. We were able to step back from the storyboard and look at new ways to shape the scenes and stories we are creating.

I think Thanksgiving break is going to be a real blessing for us. We'll be able to come back and look at the project with fresh ideas, after having days of isolation which I know at least half of us will use to stew over the project and think of new ways to use clips, new pieces of footage to include, new interviews that introduce ideas. . .

Friday, November 16, 2007

All Alone

I have a secret to share with you. No, it’s nothing bad, I just wanted to let you know that I just spent an entire week by myself in a huge mansion. Now, before you get to far ahead of me, let me just tell you that it was actually the Virginia Ball Center and I was alone because I decided to stay behind while the group went to Tennessee to film. Usually, I would’ve jumped at the chance to take a free trip to a place as great as Tennessee, but I felt that it was more important to stay behind and try and get some work done.

While I was alone, I made sure to set a clear goal for myself and try my best to accomplish it. For myself, as a T-Com major, I thought it was most appropriate for myself to get as much footage captured as possible. What capturing, you ask? Glad you asked; capturing is the process by which one puts any and all footage shot into a digital form on the computer. It seems simple enough and it actually is, but it's the time that it takes where one can run into problems. To cut up about five minutes of footage, it takes about 20 minutes to scroll through the entire tape, find the section you need, then capture it to the hard drive. It's a huge task when you realize that we have over 70 to go over.

Having my work set out for me, I tried my hardest to get as much footage captured as I could. It took many hours and lots of coffee, but I got really close to my goal and I have to say that I'm proud with how far I actually got. Before they left, the other T-Commers were doubtful I could finish all the footage and sadly they were right, but at least I got quite a bit done and made sure there was progress on the home front while everyone is gone. Did I enjoy myself? Certainly, but I don't know if I'd do it again; the mansion is scary at night!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sweet #11

Burris has done it again. Not that we weren’t expecting them to, it was just the icing on the cake. Two Saturdays ago, the Lady Owls won their 11th State Championship against Brownstown Central. For us, it was the classic ending that we had been anticipating from the beginning of the semester.

Way back in August, I was one that was hoping to be impartial the entire time we were filming. The game, the girls, the essence of what the school was and is – that was our subject. We, the Virginia Ball Center, were planning on doing a documentary from an indifferent stand point. No one was going to get “too involved.”

On November 2nd, I was the red-head with the “Owl Eyes” shirt on, screaming my head off (and loosing my voice a few times) because the refs didn’t know an “out” call from an “in” call.

As you can see my hope in the “stand by and watch” documentary was no more. I had become a fan, a fan of Burris volleyball. Not just the game, but the entire process of how it’s played the team members and coaches. I’d even gone so far as when someone would ask if Burris was going to win, I would say yes, and proceed to knock on wood.

The overall experience has made me realize that even when documentarians attempt to film their “subjects” from a bipartisan view point, it’s practically impossible. You have to completely take yourself out of the emotional aspects of everything that you film. Now we are in the process of putting the film together. Because it’s a “documentary” one would hope that we show a film that shows the straight facts, but I can say confidently, that the pride we have for Burris will shine throughout the film.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

filming, omg!

The tape count is now up to around 83. That is just over 80 hours of footage that I have helped capture with my fellow videographers. Coming into this project I had never shot any athletic event, let alone volleyball. I remember back to the Cathedral game early in the Burris Owl's season where I was trying to follow the ball and all of the action going on on the court, it wasn't easy. My skills behind the camera have definitely improved throughout this process.

I have been able to have my hands on a camera (an HD camera) any time I wanted. I have, by far, filmed more this semester than any other semester in my college career. From all the games to the interviews I have lost track of the amount of time I have spent behind the camera. The project has also brought experiences that I would have never received taking regular classes. Most recently, I had access to film the IHSAA State Finals match and be court side during a Lady Volunteers basketball game. I don't know too many students that get to be film that close during a high profile program's game. In fact, I really only know one, Blake, one of our other shooters. Even though the Lady Vols demolished their opposition by 61 points and Candace Parker didn't play very much it was still amazing to be down there (See below).

Filming for a documentary is unlike any other type of film. Although we have an idea of what we want, there isn't a script. Basically, it is essential that we are everywhere. We have to shoot as much as we can because that's where some of the most important parts of our story will come from. If we aren't there and if the camera isn't rolling we miss it and can't put it into our film.

There are around 20 more days until we have to show an end result and we still have more to film, but the major bulk of everything is done and the editing days are upon us. With that said I wonder to myself, "What were we thinking, why did we film so much?" Cutting 80 hours to around 1 hour seems daunting as I am sitting here, but we have made it as easy on ourselves as we can. We have been logging, transcribing, and picking out, from the many hours of footage, the best shots to be slipped into our editing software and eventually be cut together for a final project.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Every Rose has its Thorn

Now that you have all gotten to hear about all of the great and wonderful things that happened on our trip to Tennessee, I feel that it is my duty to shed some light on some of the more challenging and frustrating aspects of a trip, and a project, like ours. This is in no way intended to bring negative attention to the trip or anyone involved. It is merely a way for us to share our struggles in hopes that our mistakes, or even those things which were out of our control, can be avoided in the future.

The first thing that pops into my mind when I begin to list the challenges that we experienced is simply the matter of group dynamics and how those dynamics become amplified the longer a group is together. Anyone who has been on a vacation or trip with several people will immediately know what I'm talking about. I'm sure we can all remember those family vacations when mom and dad would threaten to "pull the car over right now" if those in the back seat didn't start behaving. Although our troubles were a little more valid than the childish pestering that goes on in most back seats, we still all have personalities and when they are forced to be together for five straight days they will clash. I don't know that there is really a method for handling this type of challenge because every person handles it differently. However, I feel it was the first and most important challenge that we had to deal with because it could have kept us from accomplishing our goals for the trip. The best way we combated this was to have moments when we could completely forget about the project and just enjoy being together. It helped us realize that our problems were not really with each other but stemmed from frustration and anxiety about the project.

The second challenge we had to deal with was the unfamiliar surroundings. My classmates have talked about the beauty of the campus and how impressive many of the campus structures and buildings were. However, when it came time to set up the camera and do an interview we weren't able to pick and choose where we wanted people to be or the places with the most photogenic backgrounds. Our interviewees were gracious enough to give us their time, so we wanted to go where it was convenient for them. In our main interview room we found ourselves overturning a table with the Lady Vols logo on it for our background. The sound was a whole other animal as the traffic and the campus' apparently robust public transportation system were always nearby. At one point a crew of men carrying leaf blowers walked right by our interview room at which point I began to suspect sabotage. However, in the overall scheme of a one hour interview, a few moments of train whistles and car engines won't ruin all of the footage.

The last challenge is time management, and it is one that we have been dealing with, not just on the trip, but throughout the project. However, as I said earlier, minor issues are greatly magnified when seventeen people try to travel together. With that large of a group, something as simple as going to the grocery store becomes a trip that requires five phone calls to plan. These little stresses really began to pile up over the course of the week along with the added stress of our ever-shrinking time frame. If there is one thing I learned this past week its that no matter how well you plan and communicate, something will go wrong, someone will not be informed, and you have to move on and just deal with it.

I think as a group we did an amazing job of rolling with the punches. Even if we knew we couldn't quite make lemonade with our lemons, we were at least going to get lemon flavored water. I think the fact that I am able to think back on the trip with such a humorous tone says a lot for our ability to overcome the challenges and obstacles that we faced. I hope to see you all on December sixth so we can fully share this semesters experiences with you.


Good Old Rocky Top!

Last week, our group spent time at the University of Tennessee and what a great experience it was! We were given so many opportunities to see what Title IX, along with a lot of hard work and dedication from the staff and students, can produce in a large university setting.

On Monday, we had the opportunity to tour UT’s athletic facilities. We were able to see the football stadium, softball fields, soccer fields, volleyball court, and several other areas. A definite highlight for me that day, and I know for several others, was getting to see the women’s basketball locker rooms, lounges, film viewing areas, and Pat Summitt’s office. Seeing these facilities really made me realize how far women’s athletics have come. It blew me away! From their stadium seating film area to their beautiful trophy cases (filled to the brim with National Championship trophies of course) and lounges complete with pool tables, leather couches, and flat panel TVs, it really became apparent to me exactly what Title IX, Pat Summit, and Tennessee’s commitment to women’s athletics has done for this program. Many of the other facilities we viewed had a similar feel.

We also were fortunate enough during our trip to be able to watch two women’s basketball games. One of the games was against the U.S National Team which included big time players such as Lisa Leslie, Rebecca Lobo, and Dana Taurasi. It was a great game and it amazed me how well Tennessee was able to compete with the national team, a team full of talent and experience. It just goes to show the caliber of Summitt’s program and how devoted these women are to being able to contend with the best.

During my time in Tennessee, I also visited the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. It was interesting to see all of the old jerseys and photographs and read the stories of those women who pioneered the way towards the equality in athletics we are starting to see today. It was a fitting time to visit the Hall of Fame because Pat Summitt and Holly Warlick (two of our interviews) were all over the place. It made me realize just how valuable those interviews were because both of those women were and continue to be significant individuals in women's athletics, particularly in the sport of basketball.

Tennessee is an example school as far as support of women’s athletics. It is astounding what can happen when schools make the effort to hold their women’s programs to the same standard as they hold their men's programs. However, in the back of my mind throughout the trip, I could not help but realize that not every school is like Tennessee. It takes a lot of hard work and effort from a school to be able to support their women’s athletic programs in the way that Tennessee does. My trip to Tennessee was a great one and I learned a lot, but it also made me understand that, while support of women's athletics has improved greatly, many schools still have a long way towards equality in athletics and that the fight for Title IX is certainly not over …

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Summitt

Road Trip: University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Assignment: Interview Pat Head Summitt, star coach in the world of women's basketball

All seventeen of us who roadtripped to Knoxville walked into the Pratt training facility on UT's campus not really knowing what to expect. My heart was pounding; I thought it must be as loud as the basketballs that were bouncing all around me.

All of us huddled in our orange chairs in the corner, in awe of Pat Head Summitt. She commands a court of girls who know that on Rocky Top, academics come first and winning is expected at a level we can't even begin to understand. I sat in my chair with a continuous flow of people coming up to me, reminding me that Pat doesn't have time to speak with us, we only have ten minutes, questions have to be clear, concise....

And for a second I wasn't sure if I would burst into tears of laughter. I realized that at twenty, I could quite possibly be giving the biggest interview of my entire life. The list of questions I was staring at seemed trivial and completely unable to help me. Then she walked over.

After introducing myself and watching her return to the court, my mind goes blank. I know she came back and I know we talked. I know I asked her informed questions about Title IX and the success of her program. I know that I did everything I could to keep her talking and giving us as much of her time and knowledge as possible, asked questions hoping she would forget that she had a meeting in ten minutes -- we managed to get twenty-five minutes of on-camera interview time.

I wish I could talk more about the interview. Later that evening, I watched the interview and was completely amazed by my voice on the tape. I remembered Pat's responses, but was so engrossed in the whole experience that I couldn't remember any of the questions I had thrown at her.

I can't say how honored I am to have her respect our project enough to give us her time, and how honored I am that my class would choose me to conduct the interview. Having my classmates surrounding me and an incredibly talented shooter, Blake Brenneman, make the experience perfect and unforgettable. I thank the University of Tennessee, their Women's Athletics Department (especially Donna Thomas) and Pat Summitt for their time with us. The knowledge we gained and footage we captured bring our documentary to a whole new level in so many ways.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Immersive Learning = Unexplored Territory

Ball State makes all of its campus tour guides memorize the definition of immersive learning. How do I know this? Because I am a tour guide myself. Of course, being three months into a bona fide immersive learning experience, I felt no need to memorize the printed text. On tours I just talk about my experience. But I always think to myself, the other tour guides must be very befuddled when trying to elaborate.

I sometimes find it difficult to explain exactly what it is. Not the project, mind you. Give me two minutes and I'll explain our (broad) project goal. Give me three minutes and I'll read you Ball State's immersive learning definition. But ask me about the heart and effects of immersive learning and you'll be sitting a while. But don't worry! I'll just hit some high points here.

My parents never had to light a fire under me to get me to work. I get the feeling the other 16 group members (all of whom I met at the start of the term) would tell you the same thing. But immersive learning has brought me onto an entirely new and, thus far, unexplored level of motivation. There are no tests and very few mandatory class meeting times. Yet, I find myself waking up at 9 in the morning on days when nothing is on the schedule, working for hours on tasks I assigned myself. No one tells me to do probably about 90% of the work I do. I just do it. And I know I'm not the only one. There is something about an atmosphere where 17 talented and motivated people have been thrown together knowing that the university has invested money and so many other resources in our work. Everyone wants to create something extraordinary. Everyone wants to leave their mark. And everyone cares. That's my favorite part: everyone cares.

In summary, immersive learning is this: As we move along in the semester, the bar just keeps raising higher. And the coolest thing? No authority figure, no parent, no outsider is doing that. We the students are raising the bar ourselves.

Tracking the Trailer

I hope everyone who's following this blog has had time to check out the theatrical trailer that we recently edited together. You can see it here:

The more I watch it, the more I really like it. Considering the amount of sleep lost to get it ready, I would really appreciate any feedback from our collective viewing audience. Be it good or bad, I would really like to know what you think.

Working on this was exhausting and exciting. Evan, Jon, Audrey, and Blake put in a lot of time and thought towards the storyboarding and editing.

I worked primarily on editing the music to fit the trailer. The music was a nearly complete idea that me and my esteemed colleague, Adam (the Wilsonian Man), had been working on for a couple of weeks. As I was frantically trying to decide how to score the trailer, I grabbed this musical idea and threw it onto the first thirty seconds of the movie. It didn't fit perfectly, but it was pretty close. Most importantly, it had the right feel. So I consulted with Blake, and we agreed that this was the music for the trailer. We then hashed out specific edit points where the music had to line up with the video, and decided to meet each other half way. I began to cut up and re-orchestrating the music to accommodate the different scenes while Blake finished editing the video using the rough cut of the music as a template. Once we were happy with our work, we combined it and did some final edits to nudge things into perfect sync. Then I did a mix down of the music and we adjusted the dialog to sit on top of that, and presto chango, it was 4 in the morning and it was done. It was pretty fun. Once we got really rolling, we didn't want to stop until it was totally finished. I'm really excited about the final editing of the whole film. Seeing all the pieces of the puzzle lock together is going to be extremely satisfying. And it'll be intense!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I totally dominated Final Cut Pro!

Yep, you read right. The philosophy/psychology major has mastered professional editing software. Well, maybe I didn't master it, but it feels like I did! This past week I spent most of my time working with Teri and Samantha D on the behind-the-scenes documentary. During the all-nighter we started to pull together all of the footage of the class that has been taken thus far. We soon realized that while we had lots of footage of classmates doing things, we didn't have anyone talking about our project. We decided at that point to do a couple interviews with Aaron L. and Rachel. We also created a list of all the subjects that we needed people to speak on so that we can 1) use the footage we already have and 2) create a documentary that is representative of our creative process. At this point we want to interview our classmates on the subjects of interviewing, the reunion, the Tennessee trip, frustrations with the project, learning new skills, our own attempts at playing volleyball, and our enhanced appreciation and excitement for Burris volleyball. I'm sure we will add more subjects as the semester progresses.

On Wednesday, Samantha D. and I discovered that Kecia expected a clip of the behind-the-scenes documentary by next Tuesday. We looked at the mess before us and decided there was no way to we could create a trailer that hit on all the subjects that we wanted to cover. We had been working intensely on a small section devoted to the all-nighter narrative meeting and came up with the idea to just focus on that section for the Tuesday screening. It was very important to us to create a trailer with structure as we need to get used to envisioning the project, itself, as a story. We added an introduction and a nice wrap up, as well as a few surprises of which I am quite proud. By the time we were finished we had created a trailer with a little story line and even some music.

The completion of a 3 minute and 42 second trailer might not seem like a huge accomplishment, but for me it was. I had spent most of the semester completely avoiding anything associated with technology. I was convinced that I would break or mess up any of the great work that was being done by my more technologically savvy classmates. Tackling this fear was a huge achievement for me. I also experienced the reward that comes from creating something tangible. Most of my college experience has been spent reading and writing papers. A whole semester may result in one paper that I actually like, but this was totally different. I don't know exactly how to explain it, but I finally felt like I had something to show for all of the work I (and the others) had done. It is simply different from turning in a paper at the end of the year, or giving a presentation. I was so excited about what I had completed that I told everyone I saw and even called my mom. That's something I have never experienced with a good paper and it's awesome. I can't wait to continue working on this part of the project!

**And thanks to everyone who popped in and imparted some of their wisdom on us: Adam, Dan, Aaron L., Blake, Laura Huffman, and anyone else I have forgotten**

Friday, October 19, 2007

All-Nighters and Boxed Webs

This week the group and I decided that we needed to sit down and hammer out more of a narrative for the film. Since we are college kids, we decided to do this in the form of an all- nighter at the mansion. (Because really, who wouldn't want to sleep at the mansion??) Most of us congregated between 7 and 8 with food, and started talking about the plan for the rest of the evening.

Once we had more of an organized game plan, we watched a couple of the interviews together while we finished our late dinners, then began coming up with sub-groups and categories. These were branches of our big themes such as gender, community, and sports. We all decided we needed to be more specific and came up with many sub-topics to focus on. After this we ventured up into the creepy 3rd floor and started designing our "box web". We started with Burris history and branched off from there. We also made lists of follow up interviews we want, interviews we have yet to get, and other footage we need to make a good movie.

While some of the narrative team was in the attic, other members of the group were working on the behind-the-scenes documentary while our musicians were composing a song for the film. Both made very good progress. Kristen, Teri and Samantha had clips to show us throughout the night, and interviewed Aaron L. and myself so they could incorporate sound bytes into their film. I have yet to force myself to work on editing with the Final Cut Pro, so I have a lot of respect for those that have sat down and learned it. And as for the musicians, we could hear the drumming all the way in the attic. It amazes me how they can complete a song in one night.

After descending from the attic, the Aarons went on a pizza run to keep the rest of us fed and motivated. The narrative team watched and read through interviews, finding the parts that we found insightful as well as fitting into the narrative topics we had just layed out. This was more difficult then I thought it would be. Nearly every interview has so many good sound bytes within it. This makes it difficult to choose just a few from each person.Around midnight some people started trickling out because of work or meetings in the morning. Others stayed and kept working until about 2 a.m.

After that our productivity went a little down, but those of us that were left listened to Adam and Dan's newest song. Then we had a little drum circle/jam session which helped keep up our spirits. We slept (ghost free) for about four hours, claiming both couches and floor space.

The first of what I can only imagine will be many all-nighters was incredibly successful. We showed Kecia our web the next morning, and she seemed pleased with our work. She also listened to the new song which she enjoyed. I learned that many of us work a lot better at night and it's when many of us are free since our jobs fill our daytime hours. The narrative keeps coming further and further and I can't wait to see the final product.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My New View of Volleyball

If you had asked me what I thought I would gain from this project, I would not have said an interest for volleyball. I’m not much of a sporty person, at least that’s the evidence of my past, but I have fallen into the net so to speak.

Many interviews I’ve seen and read, whether from teachers at Burris or parents of players, seemed to express the same surprising change. Volleyball wasn’t on their radar until they saw the Burris women play. Perhaps any sport, if it has the skill and drive set into its foundation, will gather a community around it. Or is it a supportive connected community that fosters a successful sport?

Either way, watching Burris volleyball was an experience I was not expecting. In particular I am thinking of the Central versus Burris game. Wowee. Instead of yawning like I did at high school football games, I was anxiously wringing my hands.

It was really interesting to see a contrast from the intensity of the biggest game of the season to seeing Steve’s 5th grade gym practice. He worked on the basics with the kids. These kids were so organized and attentive, it seemed as though Steve’s focus infected everyone in the room. My gym classes were rather scattered and not very productive. I never learned a drill or skill, just that I couldn’t do a chin up.

Although being a spectator is a blast, I am very glad that everyone is doing such a good job of logging all our footage because stopping play by play to type what happened can be taxing. But transcribing and reading all our hours of footage so far is like the practice for our documentary. If we keep the focus and dedication during these “drills,” our biggest event will be a wonder to watch.

Monday, October 15, 2007

1982 Reunion

On Sunday, October 7th, the first Burris state championship team gathered at the Virginia Ball Center. Throughout their day at the VBC, they reminisced about old times, recalled fun memories, and caught up on the lives of their former teammates. Little did they know how much we, as students, enjoyed watching their interactions and listening to the recollections of that memorable season back in 1982.

The team had loads of memorabilia which was fun, not only for them to look through, but also for us to see as students. Through countless interviews, we have heard a lot of stories and remembrances from that year but being able to see the pictures and watch the actual footage from the game really made the stories come alive.

One of my favorite events from that evening was sitting in on the women as they watched the state championship game from that year. It amazed me how much some things have changed 20 some years later, but also, how some things have not changed at all. While the intensity of play, the uniforms, the rules, and several aspects of the game are now different, I still saw the same Steve on the sideline with his ever calm demeanor and the same passion on the faces of the team that I continue to see on girls today.

The following day, the women were recognized at the Burris vs. Muncie Central game. I think it was great, not only for the women, but for all those in attendance to remember that year and reflect on the remarkable tradition that everyone now knows as Burris Volleyball. And what a better game to solidify exactly what tradition and volleyball means to Burris!

All in all, it was a celebrated weekend for all involved. Good luck to the Burris squad as they begin sectionals and the upcoming state run!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

PTSO Presentation

The Oct. 9th PTSO meeting was the first chance the Virgina Ball Center has had to represent ourselves as students and really talk about our side of the project. Four of the seminar's members, including myself, gave a four minute presentation. Each of us talked about an area that we were passionate about, and were able to accurately represent what we are hoping to accomplish both for the Burris community and for ourselves through this immersive learning experience.

Honestly, I don't think I could tell you what I said in front of that crowd. I'm always shocked by how nervous I am presenting to my classmates, and how my mind just switches over to business mode when I'm in front of a foreign crowd. I fell right into my groove and felt really comfortable.

The audience - small, but mighty in their question asking - was interested in what we were doing for their community, but also very interested in each of us as students. We talked our majors and how each of us chose to be a part of this seminar because we believe that it truly will change us as people.

The teaser shown at the end of our presentation definitely perked their interest. I was excited to see Dr. McGee's clip at the end, with him sitting in the front row at the meeting (he was my first interview for the project).

I'm incredibly proud of my co-presenters and hope to have more opportunities to share our excitement about our project.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Storybook Ending

Monday night's match between Burris and Central was perfect. With the Owls down 2-1 after the first three games, we were talking amongst ourselves saying, "They just can't lose tonight, especially before sectionals." So much for being impartial as filmmakers.

My first experience with the Owls was at Cathedral. Being an extremely competitive person, I was a little upset about the loss, but never expected to become this involved and attached to the success of the team. While Aaron and I were shooting behind-the-scenes footage we didn't have to try hard to capture the emotions of our peers as they were engrossed by the games. I particularly remember Audrey walking out of the gym after Burris' second loss of the night, returning with more pep to cheer the girls on, and even getting frustrated when the Central team cleared the bench and blocked her view. Few of us came into this project with a great understanding of volleyball, but as the project moves along with us becoming more involved, we want them to come out on top more than anything.

Witnessing the dedication of these girls, Steve, and other community members to the team is also amazing in itself. I grew up in Northwest Indiana, which is a softball breeding ground. I began with t-ball and continue to play intramural tournaments, so I understand what it is like to be a part of something you love dearly and want to see succeed. However, I have never seen a volleyball following like this. The intensity of the crowd in Ball Gym on Monday was awesome, and reminded me of high school basketball games. I can't stop thinking about how privileged these players are to have such a great coach and program within this community.

Talking with the 1982 players who returned for the reunion also reinforced the whole community aspect. The women were so excited to see Steve again and reminisce about their playing days. I am extremely grateful to have spoken with some of them about their experiences with athletics at Burris and later in their lives.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Wendy Jones, who was only a freshman on the State Championship team, but had a lot to contribute. Jones went on to play volleyball at Tennessee and was able to witness how support for teams fluctuated throughout the country. She is also a mother of two children with a husband who coaches them in his spare time. Jones and I spoke about athletes in the news recently, Marion Jones in particular, and how they influence players today. She spoke a lot about the impact athletics have on our youth, and how important it is to present sports to them in a positive way. I was impressed with her knowledge on Title IX and feel she offered a lot of information pertinent to our project.

We are all very pleased with how well the reunion went, and we appreciate the time they spent with us. Hopefully, they enjoyed themselves as much as we did.

I also want to say thank you to Steve Shondell and Wes Lyon for their cooperation. They have been wonderful dealing with us, which probably isn't the easiest along with their already busy schedules, and we are thankful.

Good luck tomorrow night Owls, and stay strong during sectionals!

Friday, October 5, 2007

With a purpose...

I recently went to California to visit Berkeley Law School. I had received an invitation to attend the Trailblazers in Justice Gala hosted by the law school’s Center for Social Justice. I took the opportunity to attend this event because I plan to attend law school, and Berkeley is one of the schools at the top of my list.

More about the honorees and the gala can be found here:

Being among so many people who are so passionate about their work and commitment to social justice was quite inspiring. One of the speakers commented about the reputation lawyers sometimes are faced with as soulless and untrustworthy, remarking that, for these people, that portrayal couldn’t be further from the truth. The work being done and issues being tackled by them are nothing but admirable, and they deserve to be proud of themselves.

I really do admire these people and aspire to work among them. I want to have a positive impact on important issues—mostly education. This seminar provides the opportunity for our team to address Title IX and the issues of community, sports, and growing student-athletes. It is very empowering to be able to work so closely with such talented peers on such a big topic. We’ve fully invested ourselves into the seminar, and I can’t wait to see all that we accomplish.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Starting Early

Sam E. went to interview Don Shondell a few weeks back, and I decided to tag along, I'm so happy I did because now I have that connection. Sam and I went to the 8th grade Burris game vs. Delta this evening. We got there a little early and had a chance to watch the 7th grade team, I was impressed seeing the potential that these girls had. I was astonished when it came time to watch the 8th grade team. The level that the 8th grade team was playing at was very competitive. Just watching the girls pepper and seeing the ball control they had fascinated me. During warm up when the girls where doing a passing drill, they were passing with such precision, they took the top spin off the pass!

I started playing volleyball in maybe 5th or 6th grade, at this little private school in Ft.Wayne. My 8th grade year, I wasn't nearly the athlete that these females are. I remember just playing the game without really thinking about it, no strategy. At one point, Delta and Burris had this extremely long rally. Morey was playing middle back, and on the first touch instead of passing the ball to setter, she freeballed it into the deep corner. At that moment I thought, "WOW" what a smart play! That is the one play that really sticks out in my mind, but there were other examples of how these middle school girls were playing the game smart, not just at a high skill level. I look back on when I started and how I played, and wish that I had the training these girls have. I didn't even know what it was to snap my wrist until High School.

These girls are so incredibly lucky to have these opportunities. Nowadays, sports are so incredibly competitive, the only way to compete is to become a specialist at a certain sport as early as possible. I wish I would have known that when I was younger, I wish that I would have started to play the game more strategically earlier. The Burris team is very fortunate, and they may not realize it just yet, but they will.

Getting to know Burris

I'm endlessly impressed by the community that Burris has created. All of my interviews, conversations and interactions with Burris High School have strengthened my first impression: a small community that is proud of its students and that strives to give them the best opportunities possible.

I met with Gerri Black today, a girl living away from home at sixteen, attending high school classes and taking part in a year-round volleyball program. And yet she is completely balanced- finding time to do work with a rigorous athletic program and training to put herself in the best possible position for her senior year of volleyball, and finding time to meet with some strange college girl eager to know everything about her school career. I was honestly blown away by the maturity these girls have and the discipline they are able to instill in themselves.

The player-coach relationship is only one example of the incredible amount of respect one sees when spending time in this small community. Parents respect the determination of their players and the community respects the programs, everyone doing all they can to support each other. Student-athletes devote themselves to their sport and maintain a high level of respect for themselves, as well. The more time I spend with Burris community members, the more I become intrigued and find myself looking for more interviews, asking more questions.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Music for Everyone

Working on the film score for this documentary is definitely going to be a bit of a challenge. Dan and I both have some experience putting music to video but never have we been given the opportunity to spend an entire semester producing audio and composing music for such a large project. I guess the greatest challenge will be having plenty of musical sketches and various themes which portray different emotions that can be formed into a fitting accompaniment to such a dynamic documentary. Since you can never fully expect to complete a piece of music for a film before the video is finished being edited it has become our mission to have as much material as possible.

Having a fairly clear idea of the direction of narrative will also be a key aspect in the compositional process. We do not necessarily want to compose a "Jock Jams" soundtrack but we do want to incorporate many percussive elements that will keep up with the pace of such a film. Since Dan is a percussionist and I play guitar, we both want to use an instrumentation that will be easy for us to execute during the recording process. That way we won't be frantically looking for a string quartet, for example, to play our composition.

Since this is the first VBC Seminar that has employed the use of music tech students I do feel a bit of pressure to live up to the expectations of excellence and hopefully to set a precedent that audio as well as video can be excellent on student films. I am anxious and excited to see how the rest of this semester will progress. We have very much to do and not really a whole lot of time to do it in. But I am confident in our team and I say we are fully ready to accept this challenge. And hopefully relating to my contribution to this film, there will indeed be "music for everyone!"


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New Experiences

They told me when I joined the Virginia Ball Center, that I would learn lots of new skills. Until this week, I never really thought much about that, but then I did my first interviews. Before going too far, you must realize that I haven't done any filmed interviews since I was in high school. Even then, they were just with my friends and we were just screwing around with a camera. I know, we didn't always make the best of our time in high school T-Com classes, but by God, at least we had fun!

Having finished my first VBC interviews and looked at some of the footage, I'm really surprised with how easy it actually is to complete a real interview; it's actually quite painless. I was worried for the longest time that it was going to be a long complicated process that would take all day, but it was quick and easy to do. My first interviews were with Coach Carr and Reese Peacock, and I couldn't have made a better choice for my first interviewees. They were nice, very easy-going, and gave us all some very good footage to use. Setting up for the interview was also a breeze. For the first one, we basically just went outside and pointed the camera at a shady spot under a big tree. It made for an interesting shot and an easy one to use. As for Reese's interview, it was a little bit more difficult in that we had lights to set up, but overall it was nearly as easy.

Looking ahead, I'm now very excited for more interviews and I was actually quite disappointed about today's interview being canceled. I know there will be more interviews and I'm sure I'll be sick of them by the end of the semester, but for right now I'm just excited. I only hope my excitement doesn't get the best of me or make my fellow VBCers too annoyed. ...Nah, they love me!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Grasping Immersive Learning

When I was asked to write what my experience of immersive learning was like so far, I started with a simile. Most learning I have done is like being on a cruise boat with binoculars. You can see the glaciers and whales from a distance as a person drones on from the speakers about the cold hard facts. Immersive learning is like scuba diving. I’ve never done it, but it’s a lot more dangerous than being on the deck of a boat and you have a lot more responsibility.

So I’m a little out of my comfort zone carrying ominous anxieties. The “what ifs” are a bit heavy on my mind. What if I don’t make my mark on the project? What if I can't keep a balance of my on deck activities and my scuba diving adventures?

At the beginning the VBC was more like snorkeling than scuba diving. As a class we were peering at the project we were going to submerge ourselves in and learning new skills like interviewing and different types of narratives for documentaries. We were researching the history of Burris, the history of volleyball, and Title IX. Now we are working on taking our knowledge and transforming it into a tangible object. We are beginning to scuba dive and I have a feeling it’s going to be a whale of a time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Gold Medalists in the Making

This past week was the 3rd and 4th grade Olympics at Burris. The whole reason for the VBC to attend was to get footage of Steve being the emcee for the event. However, we were very surprised by the extra footage that we shot.

One of the first things that I noticed was that there were different groups of kids that were displaying flags from various countries. As they walked onto the soft grass of the BSU soccer fields, they held the flags high as some parents watched from sidelines. As we began to film the kids we shot good footage of this really cute little 4th grade boy playing the national anthem on the trumpet. Potential montage of national anthems? Maybe…

Then the races began, literally, the races. These kids ran for what seemed hours straight. Steve announced the 50 yard dash, and then the 100 yard dash, and then the quarter mile dash. I’ve never seen so many dashes in my life.

The shooters took a break from filming as we watched the kids partake in the much anticipated arm wrestling tournament. As we watched from the sidelines, Steve began announcing them with gusto and excitement. Then the boys would rise from the ground, throw their fists in the air and march to the box where they would wrestle their opponent. The crowd began to cheer for their respective classmates. And slowly, as one would fall, the winner would jump into the air like a gladiator leaving the arena with a victory. It was one of the funniest things I have ever witnessed.

The day outside with the 3rd and 4th graders of Burris will be one of my favorite memories of the VBC. The kids were so excited to be participating in a very old tradition. I’m glad I was there to be a part of it.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Burris Dominated...

Class 2A top-ranked Burris won all four matches to win the Ben Davis Invitational. The Owls defeated Zionsville 25-10, 25-14, McCutcheon 25-18, 25-13, Jennings County 25-17, 25-13, and Martinsville 18-25, 25-17, 15-12. Taylor Unroe topped Burris with 38 kills and 26 digs.

For me, these scores show that Burris is in control of the court. They play at a highly competitive level throughout nearly entire tournament and dominate other teams. The determination to win and play at such a high level of intensity is a major reason as to why Burris wins state championships.

The fact that I get to follow such a competitive and accomplished team is very rewarding because my high school volleyball played the same way. There are not many opportunities to see high school girls working so incredibly hard and putting forth so much effort. Volleyball is definitely a sport where you can see true dedication and intensity.

These girls have pressures in all areas of life (school, what to do after high school, parents, friends, social pressures, appearance, etc...). On top of everything that goes along with being a high school female, this group of girls dedicate hours upon hours to practicing and playing volleyball.

In my opinion and from my own experiences, it takes a huge amount of dedication and determination to stick with this sport at such a competitive level. If you are not playing to achieve high goals then you should probably get out. I cannot compliment the Burris girls and others teams enough for pushing themselves to the limit in volleyball.

Growing Pains

Today we begin Week Five of the seminar. For the past month the students have been sharpening their skills and gathering up tools, and now it's time for me to get out of the way while they get to work. We have studied film theory, watched a slew of documentaries together (and debated their relative merits), read widely in issues of gender, explored the basic principles of ethnographic research, and discussed how narrative is crafted. The students have participated in workshops on shooting and editing, conducting interviews, and gathering research. By the beginning of last week, it was clear to all of us that the foundation for our project was firmly in place and it was time to start building.

This seminar is both the most exciting and the most terrifying experience I have had as a teacher. Getting seventeen high-achieving, incredibly motivated young people in one place and trying to harness all that energy into a cohesive project. . . well, let's just say that there are days when I can feel the sparks exploding around us. Few of us are trained to work collaboratively, and many of us in the room (myself included) have learned to enjoy the feeling of individual achievement, not to mention the security (or is it an illusion?) of control. There are moments when what I am asking them to do seems impossible. But there are other moments when I catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of what we might be able to achieve, or when I realize that they are already pushing each other to stretch and grow.

I am learning about myself, as a teacher and as a person, because the intimacy and intensity of this experiences demands it. I already knew that I am a control freak, and yet it has surprised me how difficult it is for me to step back, let go of some of the control, bite my tongue when a conflict arises, settle in and be still and trust them to do what I know they can do. I already knew that I work best when I am deeply focused, and yet I am astonished at how obsessed I am with this project; I wake up in the middle of the night with ideas and plans and worries, and I think about it every waking moment. It's exhausting, and humbling, and invigorating.

Today, looking out the window at the impossibly gorgeous September morning, I can't quite believe that I get to come to work and do this.

I am going to try to hang onto the peace of this moment, because I have a feeling I will need it as we start picking up speed towards our goals.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

"Gone Fishing"

This evening I feel like I got a glimpse of just how good this project is going to be. Blake, Kecia and I went to Steve's condo to get some footage and an interview. I was super excited to see Steve in an environment other than the gym and I definitely was not disappointed.

The first exciting point of the night was that when we arrived, Steve told us he was watching game footage from the Ben Davis tournament. Kecia immediately seized the opportunity and asked if he would continue to do so while we filmed him. This provided some great insight into Steve's volleyball knowledge and his thoughts on some of the players. Also, we got to see the inside of his condo which is bare except for one wall that is covered in plaques, awards, and pictures from his career at Burris. All in all I felt like it was a rare moment to be able to get inside the head of a genius and hear what he thinks when he watches a match.

Then he took us out to the pond and we watched him catch a few fish. We were able to do an interview with him as well while he fished and I was really happy with how easy he was to talk to. My favorite part of the interview was when he talked about growing up with his dad and always being around volleyball. We got some great stories about him getting stuffed into lockers by the BSU team when he was a kid and about how he and his friends were beating the college club teams when they were in junior high. To top it off, all through the interview we had a perfect shot of the sun setting right behind Steve as he fished. We couldn't have asked for anything better.

Hearing the kind of stories and experiences Steve has had made me really excited about the project. I hope everyone else's interviews are going as well.


The Stories of Don Shondell

My interview with Don Shondell on Thursday the 13th was quite an eye-opener. For nearly four weeks we have been researching, discussing, and filming from a distance. However, we knew we were missing the key human aspect of our story (in the making). Interviews were to be the next step. Don Shondell was a perfect choice for the first of the interviews. He took me through fifty years of his volleyball experience. His stories ranged from coaching in the army to watching his three sons play announcer at pretend volleyball games to his seven granddaughters volleyball successes. (The eighth granddaughter is too young to play yet, but given the Shondell history, one can assume volleyball is in her future!)

I found Don’s take on gender in sports one of the most intriguing parts of the interview. Men’s volleyball has had a rocky history that continues still into the present. Issues range from a reputation as a “hit and giggle sport”, as labeled by Don’s first athletic director, to facing serious threat of being cut in very recent years despite the program’s overwhelming history of success.

However, the biggest stressor for the Men’s Volleyball program seems to have stemmed from Title IX, the piece of legislation passed in 1972, providing that no state-funded program can discriminate on the basis of gender. In trying to accommodate that, many less acclaimed sports got pushed aside in the effort to equally fund women’s sports. Don talked of scholarships being cut from the men’s teams as well as reoccurring threat of cutting the sport altogether. Obviously as a long time coach and lover of the game, this has been extremely difficult to swallow for Don and so many others. Yet, he spoke of it with no bitterness in his tone. He also mentioned more than once how great it has been for females to finally get their chance, including his granddaughters. In summation, he noted realistically and calmly that he could only do his best and work with what he had, no matter the situation.

My own conclusion was that only a true lover of the game could not only handle turbulent times but prevail during them. Interviewing Don was a joy. I only hope we manage to capture his enthusiasm in our film.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The First Interviews

Sept. 12th- Dr. McGee & Mr. Dawson

After spending my entire summer interviewing members of my hometown community, I can honestly say I was itching to get back into interviewing. My interview with Dr. McGee actually followed Aaron L.'s time with Mr. Dawson, and I feel they both went really well. My nerves had settled after learning my way around lighting setup and sound checks.

Both interviewees were really positive about the community of Burris as a whole and that kind of optimism is contagious. Seeing a group of people rallying around something so rarely seen in "society at large," in this case a girls' volleyball team, is invigorating and motivating. You want to do all you can for them and it's difficult to maintain the balance between objective documentarian and wanna-be member of this mass of positive energy.

I think it's definitely important for all interviewers/interviewees to give themselves time to collect their thoughts and settle their nerves. We've discussed the value of silence and good listening skills in class multiple times. It's amazing what you can learn from each other just from the moments you choose not to say anything . . . The hardest part for me in that situation is not shuffling in my chair. My biggest fear is to be the person that ruins footage with noises from the sidelines.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Adventures in filming

Kecia and I braved the halls of Burris on Friday when we filmed the photo shoot for fall sports teams. Before that began, we actually wandered the halls for a little while with the camera. That was an interesting experience. Put a camera on a bunch of 10-14 yr. olds, and they will have one of two reactions: Frantically wave their arms and stick their faces in front of the camera, or cower in a corner, hoping the camera won't catch them. And theorize this - it was mostly boys who hammed it up, and girls who hid. Whoever is logging this footage should be alternately entertained and annoyed as shots are spoiled. Or, we might find that people's behavior in front of the camera tells a story worth pursing in itself. This is, after all, why we filmed the photo shoot.

It's hard to say how much of the footage we'll actually use for our documentary, but we captured the team lining up and looking serious for the team photo, then figuring out how best to pose for individual shots. It's fascinating to film people being filmed - you notice all of the things that people do to make themselves look their best (or however they want to come across). We're dealing with that same issue in our documentary - trying for authenticity, when the very act of filming can change people. But at the same time, the story about how people want to be perceived says something interesting about them as well. I imagine much of filming and editing will be about trying to capture, well, "the true meaning of pictures." And much of the struggle will be to figure out what that is.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

I'm so glad I don't have to do interviewing.

Thank god there are more jobs to be done than interviewing. It is simply not my thing. I found the exercise to be enlightening, for sure, but I wouldn't want to do it again. It was difficult and uncomfortable from the very beginning.

First, we were assigned to write a list of events that we perceived as being pivotal in our lives and to give this list to the person assigned to conduct our interview. I found this hard because I don't consider many events in my life to be very interesting. Also, it is hard to really open up for an assignment. I would be putting myself out there. I surprised myself by actually disclosing quite a bit of personal information during the interview. It was not the easiest topic, but I did it with a smile and a laugh (gotta love defense mechanisms). I suppose that speaks to Megan's skill as an interviewer. She certainly made me feel comfortable enough to share the information. I guess I didn't realize exactly what I said or how it came off until we watched the interviews in class. It sort of hit me hard when I realized that now everyone in class knew that personal information. Of course, it was my choice to say what I did, but I guess I didn't really think through everything.

I also found being on the other side of the camera difficult. I'm not the best person at coming up with and asking questions. I felt like I should have been "probing" deeper into some topics, but I just couldn't think of the right questions to get there.

All in all, I think the experience was a positive one, even if it made me uncomfortable. I have so much respect for those who can conduct great interviews. It is definitely a gift to be able to make people comfortable enough to disclose personal information for something public like a documentary, and also to know the right questions to ask.

I also have gained empathy for our interviewees. The interviews may not be that difficult for them, but to sit through a screening with people from their community while they watch themselves speak about personal and possibly difficult situations will be trying. I think it is very important that we remember that and show our subjects respect. I have no doubt that we will show them anything but the utmost respect, but it is certainly something to keep in mind.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Inside and Out of Interviewing

For week 3 at the VBC we focused on Interviewing, with a workshop from Professor Laura O'Hara. I enjoyed her lectures for she is a very dynamic individual with a lot of experience on the art and science of communication.

Our assignment was to interview a peer on camera and be interviewed in return. This was beneficial in three ways: 1) We got to practice the art of writing questions, and believe me it is an art. 2) We got to see what it's like to be in "the seat," and what sort of uncomfortableness can occur. 3) While watching we realized some technical aspects to be aware of (auto focus is bad, outside in front of a street is bad, air conditioning is bad).

Other than the pain to watch your face for eight minutes on a screen (why hasn't anyone ever told me to get Botox to my eyebrows so they'll stay still?) I enjoyed it. I can't wait to start getting interviews from the community and then finding a story for our documentary.

I also want to comment on the film we watched in class, The True Meaning of Pictures. The whole class had an amazing discussion, and these events are what makes me greatful to be apart of this seminar with these people. It was a provoking film, and to watch it as current documentarians, it opened our eyes to certain topics such as honesty, exploitation, having choices that might loose some of the audience, and the relationship between your "subject" and you. I'm glad we watched it; an intense film that showed us some of the challenges of documenting and being an artist.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Burris Invitational

The Burris Volleyball Invitational gave me an opportunity not only to experience another High School volleyball game, adding up to two total games in my life, but also to see tournament style competition.

I have been so impressed by the level of play and athleticism that has been displayed in the few examples I've witnessed. Volleyball had been a leisure sport/activity, up until the first time I saw Burris play. You could set up a net in the backyard and just have fun - in no way is volleyball the same as that when you enter a gym. I especially felt that way at Ball Gym with a home crowd backing the Owls.

The final games against Assumption (the # 1 ranked team in the nation!) were so close. Burris looked very strong going against such a formidable opponent. You can read about it in an article that ran in the Star Press here:

Though it is unfortunate they lost, as it always is, I don't think Burris has much to feel bad about.

When I don't have my hands on the camera, I'm having a hard time keeping my eye off the game. I should be looking for shots, but often am too excited about what is going on on the court. I find myself clapping and getting nervous about crucial points and think, "What am I doing?" But I really can't help it. Though I probably won't be cheering in an Owl suit with the students , I don't think my excitement will stop even as I get more attuned to the world of High School volleyball.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Burris Booster's Club

Going to the Booster's Club meeting was interesting. I never went to a meeting of my high school's club, but it was very prominent in our community. I enjoyed meeting some of the parents in the Burris community and allowing us all to get further acquainted with each other and the project itself.

While the club has a long way to go, since this is the first time in about five years since a Booster's Club has met, they seem to be right on track to creating a successful program. The members (or soon to be members) had some great ideas and input. There will be plenty for us at the VBC to help out with if and when they need us, and I think that's great.

One thing that was really solidified at the meeting was how close of a community Burris is. When one woman was mentioned as someone's mom, every Burris parent and coach in that room knew who she was. I went to a high school of about 1300 and it would take me forever to try and describe someone who wasn't in my close group of friends to my parents. This strong community is what will drive this club and make it work. I look forward to watching the Booster's Club get on their feet and help out their kids and the rest of the kids in the community.

Burris Picnic

The Burris picnic was an interesting experience. It was neat to see the Burris community away from the volleyball setting and to get a better feel for the unique dynamics of the Burris community.

The dunking booth was an experience in itself. It was cool to see how the students interacted with each of the coaches individually. The kids loved the dunking booth (who wouldn't?!) and they especially loved Steve Shondell. They certainly seemed to enjoy all the coaches, but the line grew pretty quickly once he appeared. I think that says a lot about the kind of person he is. He was a good sport about the whole thing, even though it appeared he had hurt his back. It's neat to see how he has not only made an impact on his volleyball players, but numerous other students as well through his teaching. It makes me wonder if there is a correlation between his coaching methods and teaching techniques, both of which seem to earn the respect of his students and players.

From what I saw, the Burris community, in general, is a very child-focused community. A lot of parents would not be willing to be out in the 90 degree heat in order to support their children's school, but the field was packed with children and parents which I thought was commendable.

The evening of the picnic, I also spent some time with the camera which I had not done up to that point. To my surprise, it was not quite as difficult as I had anticipated. It was fun to play with the camera and see what types of things you can do. I, personally, have never spent that much time with a camera so it's a new experience for me, but I enjoy the learning part and I think the rest of the humanities majors will as well.

All in all, the picnic was an enjoyable experience. It was good to get out of the classroom for awhile and mingle with the community that we have been talking about so much for the last few weeks!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Summer News Story

Over the summer I shot and edited a story about Steve Shondell (Burris Volleyball coach) winning the National Volleyball Coach of the Year Award. The story aired June 28, 2007 on Newslink Indiana (WIPB-TV). My reporter, Brad Underwood, and I attended two summer practice sessions in June and interviewed Steve and some of his players. Just watching the interview with Steve should give you a decent grasp on his personality.

Here is the link to watch it (Quicktime required):

Let me know your thoughts.

-Blake Brenneman

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Reeling to Go

Hello all,

First off, I just want to second everything Aaron had to say about Title IX and such. I'd also like to say that I, too, am extremely pumped about working on this documentary. With the group of people we have, I think we're going to turn out a really good film. What I gathered from meeting you all this week is that we all were expecting to produce a film that is on par with professional studio work, and I think that is awesome.

I am also enjoying analyzing other films. I think it is crucial to determine what angle we want to produce ours from. I've found myself watching TV different lately. I am constantly listening to the audio for gliches, which I kind of did already, but now I am really paying attention to style and production quality for different interviews/talkshows. It's interesting to see how different stations and shows do things a little differently.

That said, I'm also getting really anxious to start some big time work on this project and see how the season and characters shape the narrative we present. And that work is definitely getting ready to show itself.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

I'm pumped!

I just wanted to start this off by saying how excited I am to be working on this project. This has been an awesome week meeting and getting to know everyone. I have to say my biggest surprise was actually going to the game on Tuesday and watching the girls play. They really blew me away with how good and talented they are. I have always been a proponent of girls being able to have the same opportunities in sports as guys, but I think I fell into the trap of thinking that and never acting on it. I never really took the time to watch a lot of women's sports and appreciate the hard work and talent the athletes have. Already this project has changed the perspective I have on "title IX" and the way I view women's sports.

I had a great time on Tuesday shooting with Blake, (even though I only shot about 10 seconds). It was a lot of fun learning how to use the camera and practicing following the ball and the players. I have absolutely no experience with filming and using cameras so it was a new experience for me. I'm really excited to learn more new things this semester, including getting to know the whole project team better.

As an anthropology major, it is rare to be able to work on something like this. Anthropology is a very traditional discipline that doesn't stray far from the classroom, except for archaeology. However, anthropological documentaries are an emerging subfield that is growing in popularity. So, I"m really anxious to see what this project is going to add to my perception of my major as a whole.

Well I'll stop rambling now but I just want to say that I hope that everyone is as excited as I am about being a part of this. I'll see you all shortly.

Go Owls!
-Aaron L.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Opening Set

View our latest entry here.

This blog is a group effort by Ball State University students at the Virginia Ball Center. We'll be blogging our experience in covering the 2007 season of the state and national champion Burris Girls' Volleyball Team: In other words, documenting our documentary.

Check back here for:
  1. Progress reports on our documentary.
  2. Stunning insights into our own creative process.
  3. Forays into the online world of Volleyball.
  4. Occasional coverage/analysis of the girls' practices, games, and related miscellany.
Ready? OK!