May 3, 2020 Rich Rezler
The ceremony looked much different, but Washtenaw Community College was once again well represented when the Michigan Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced its Student Production Award winners on Sunday.
The Michigan-NATAS typically hosts an in-person ceremony — held the past two years at WCC’s Towsley Auditorium — but moved this year’s announcement of the College/University and High School division winners online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the 12 years WCC has participated in the competition, more than 70 student projects were selected as finalists and more than 30 have won first-place honors, while competing primarily against students from four-year college and university programs.
WCC is the only two-year college represented on this year's list of award winners; and it joins Michigan State University as the only two institutions with multiple first-place finishes.
This year's WCC winners include:
SHORT FORM-NON FICTION
Bolanos faced an unusual challenge when the subject of the documentary she wanted to produce for her Documentary Video Production class – a family friend who immigrated illegally to the United States – said he preferred to remain anonymous. Although he is a legal citizen today, he was worried about potential political backlash.
The solution? An imaginative, 24-minute documentary of an illegal immigrant's journey to become a U.S. citizen, told while only Bolanos’ hand-drawn graphics cover a black background.
WCC Digital Media Arts faculty member Matt Zacharias said the fact that documentary was animated “set it apart from all others in content, style and form.”
“There’s a lot of controversy about immigration, so I wanted to get someone to put themselves into an immigrant’s shoes for the 25 minutes they’re watching this project,” Bolanos said. “I want to explain why immigrants want to get here. I think some people don’t understand what it’s like in other countries.”
Telling those kinds of stories is what brought the 20-year-old Milan native to WCC to study Digital Video Production after she spent a semester at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
“I loved fashion, but I care more about the environment and human rights,” she said. “I decided I wanted to find a career in which I can help with that.”
The story behind that decision was told in Bolanos’ self-documentary, “It Was All the Fashion,” which was also a Student Production Award finalist in the Short Form-Non Fiction category.
“Olivia is the first WCC student to ever be competing against herself in one category,” Zacharias said. “Further testimony to her brilliance is that two other nominated productions – “Sock Monkey” and “Distorted” – she was on both of those production teams. Need we say more?”
Patrice Scott won the Director category and Emmanuel Flores-Haro won the Editor category for a music video titled “Distorted” that was created by a team of students from a Foundations in Digital Video class.
In that class, students pitch video ideas. Several of the best ideas are selected and production crews are formed from students in the class.
“Distorted” was a music video pitched by Scott, who also produced the music. The storyline is a shy guy and shy girl who are interested in each other, but too nervous to start a conversation when they have a chance encounter at a bus stop.
“They end up not talking to each other and beating themselves up over it,” said Scott, a 21-year-old graduate of Arbor Prep High School studying Digital Video Production at WCC. “I wanted to explore the mindset of each of them.”
The challenge is telling that story with no dialogue between the characters, played by friends of Scott. The music is also lyric-free.
“Patrice is a natural director. He’s not ‘trying’ to be a director, but he is one,” Zacharias said. “A lot of students tell me that they want to direct, but that’s usually a euphemism for either wanting to be the 'boss' or have the rock star title. Patrice has a vision and he goes for it. People want to be on his team because they know he has an eye and concepts that are brilliant. And, he is a super kind and charming person. Patrice Scott is a Filmmaker with a capital F.”
The final product was edited by Emmanuel Flores-Haro, who also helped Scott organize the shots necessary for the project.
Flores, 17, is a student at Washtenaw Technical Middle College, a high school chartered by, and located at, WCC. Zacharias said he is only the second WTMC student to win a Student Production Award.
“Manny is creative, tenacious and he's going places,” said Digital Media Arts faculty member Dan Kier. “He is creative and has strong writing skills.”
“Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum”
Jake Duda combined his love classic cars, history and video production into a 47-second commercial for the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum. The project evolved from a larger documentary project on the Willow Run manufacturing complex, where Duda’s grandfather, George Oddy, worked from 1968 to 2004.
“I wanted to give the entire thing a nostalgic feel,” said Duda, a 25-year-old Salem High School graduate studying Digital Video Production at WCC. “It’s something I really enjoyed working on.”
The project combines classic automobile commercials with current-day footage Duda shot himself at the museum. To give the entire project a vintage look, Duda created his own 8mm film filter to lay over the new video.
Zacharias calls Duda a “sleepy genius.”
“Jake is one of the quietest students in the room, but behind his shyness is a super creative editor, and his graphic-animation skills are off the charts,” Zacharias said. “He writes and directs and has amazing directorial instincts.”
The College/University awards had a total of 41 finalists in 15 categories. Other WCC finalists included:
SHORT FORM-FICTION: “Sock Monkey,” Arlo Flynn
SHORT FORM-NON-FICTION: “It Was All the Fashion,” Olivia Bolanos
SHORT FORM-NON-FICTION: “Food Foundations,” Olivia Gramprie
PHOTOGRAPHY: “Journey of a Ginger,” Amanda Taylor