Post-Mortem on the JCU Christmas Video

Now that we’re a few weeks past the much-needed holiday break and the Spring semester is starting to find its groove, I thought I’d be interesting to take a look at one of the best, or worst, parts of any higher ed marketer/web person’s job: the annual Christmas video (or holiday/season’s greetings video.)

When I got to John Carroll in 2010, they really weren’t doing videos, per se, but more of the “static photos of campus set to Christmas music” type of videos. To go from that to this was a big jump up for our marketing team, who hadn’t produced this type of piece before.

The next year, 2011, was our 125th Anniversary, so we produced a historical look back at the events of the University. We produced this video for a big fund-raising gala we held, and decided to also share it with our on-campus and alumni communities.

This past year, it was back to a more traditional form for the Christmas video. After brainstorming a bit, I thought it’d be interesting to really involve our campus community, and invite them to participate in our video. The premise: set up a camera in the lobby of our busy student center lobby and invite people to talk about what they were thankful for during the holiday season.

We put out an open casting call a week in advance, and followed up using our intranet, daily news emails and digital signage. We did talk to a few folks ahead of time, mostly faculty and administrators, to make sure they’d show up and had a voice, but the students were our main need. Even up the time the shoot started, we weren’t sure that we’d actually get anyone – this was, after all, a completely optional event and something that had never been done at Carroll.

Luckily, we had a great turnout of students, faculty, passers-by, administrators, support staff, athletes and so on. The trick was crafting it into a form that told a story and kept moving. I think we accomplished that, as you can see below. We have great production partners in Route1a, who I’ve worked with both at an advertising agency (that was fun) and at Allegheny College.

If I cast a critical eye at the video, overall, I’m really pleased with how it came out. We captured a great slice of Carroll culture. I wish we had more faculty representation, but we had more than enough students to balance it out.

There are also two shots that if I had to do over, I’d either cut or re-do. You can tell that they look radically different then the other shots. The administration requested we shoot people after our main crew finished shooting, so we had to recreate the best we could with our DSLR and lighting setup. Was it perfect? No. The worst ever, no. Love to get a Mulligan on it though.

The good news is that we’ve got a few months to think about things before we have to do it again.