Story by Gregg McQueen, Bronx Free Press
Students at the City University of New York’s Lehman College have gained hands-on experience in film production, while highlighting key attractions in the Bronx.
They did so by creating a series of video vignettes that showcase the borough’s high points.
Dubbed “Best of the Bronx,” the video shorts were shown in taxicabs across New York City, and also aired on NYC life, the city’s official cable network, as well as BronxNet.
“It was a great opportunity to show off the Bronx, and provide a unique educational opportunity for our students,” explained Jerold Barnard, Director of Lehman College’s Multimedia Center.
“Best of the Bronx,” supported by a grant from the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, profiles City Island, Wave Hill, Little Italy on Arthur Avenue, Woodlawn Cemetery and other landmarks.
About 20 students were selected by Lehman faculty to participate in the project, which started off with weekly workshops on all aspects of video and film production including writing, editing, camera operation, sound recording, graphic arts and hosting.
Film industry professionals were brought in as guest speakers, and to help cross-train students across all production tasks, regardless of their specific role on the project.
Podcasts of each workshop were created, so future media students at Lehman could benefit from the expert instruction.
The “Best of the Bronx” crew then hit the streets to practice their newly honed skills and showcase the landmarks that distinguish the Bronx.
Lehman junior Nialaney Rodríguez was among the student producers who worked on the vignettes.
“The whole point of this project was to make one-minute interstitials that would grab the viewer’s attention and make them want to come to the Bronx,” she said.
Bronxites often lament that many out-of-towners simply know the borough as “the one that was burning” or only possess knowledge of three main tourist attractions ― the Bronx Zoo, New York Botanical Garden and Yankee Stadium.
“We wanted to get away from that and show the little places that aren’t as well-known but are just as great,” Rodríguez explained.
The collection of ten videos features less widely recognized gems such as the Andrew Freedman Home, the Clock Tower, the Grand Concourse and The Bronx Museum of Art.
Lehman faculty collaborated with the Bronx Tourism Council to select locations for the video series, focusing on places of cultural significance as well as dining and entertainment sites.
Barnard said the primary goal for “Best of the Bronx” was to provide an expert training experience for students by exposing them to all facets of a professional video production.
“We also wanted to produce the highest quality of work possible,” added Barnard.
“These videos will be seen by many people across the city, so they couldn’t look amateurish in any way. From our standpoint, it was a complete success.”
The first video ― a profile of Arthur Avenue ― debuted in early October 2013 on NYC life, with the remainder rolling out one per week for the next nine weeks.
Vignettes were hosted by Lehman students Maddy Sher and Lawrence Mays.
All segments were limited to a one-minute running length in order to be used in the taxicabs.
Though supported by Lehman faculty and the industry specialists, Barnard said that the students performed all of the work on the videos themselves.
“Writing, filming, audio ― they did everything,” he remarked.
Production of all videos took approximately three to four weeks, and had to be balanced with the students’ other classes.
Rodríguez said that the students who worked on the project became a tight-knit group, and it was an experience she would never forget.
“It’s disappointing that the audience wouldn’t be able to see all the fun and sometimes frustration that went behind getting that one shot that probably only appeared in the vignette for a split second,” remarked Rodríguez.
The students spent long hours filming at each site, often working from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.
“These kids had very grueling shoots and long days,” stated Barnard.
“But the upside is they also got plenty of experience solving problems and encountering real situations that they would if they worked in this field.”
Seeing a broadcast of the finished vignettes was an exciting moment for Rodríguez.
She joked, “Seeing a video in a cab for the first time, I was jumping out of my seat. I’m sure the cab driver thought I was crazy.”
To learn more about the “Best of the Bronx” project and view the student videos, please visit www.lehman.edu/bestofthebronx.
Read the full story with photos at the Bronx Free Press.