National recognition

National recognition 225x150
Students produce award-winning video.

Every year, the Broadcast Education Association (BEA) holds a festival to recognize the best videos produced by university students and faculty from around the country. The BEA Festival of Media Arts is one of the most prominent video events in higher education, and last year, saw more than 1200 entries into the competition. This year, two NAU students and University Marketing employees, Jenna Lyter and Javeon Butler, took home the prestigious first prize—the BEA Best of Festival Award, Student Non-fiction—for their work on The Campaign for NAU video.

Their video entry was designed to encompass The Campaign for NAU, one of the most important and comprehensive fundraising initiatives in Northern Arizona University's history. The video serves as introspection on how NAU continues to stay true to its roots as an institution prioritizing student success, and includes footage dating back to 1951.

“When we were asked to create the video we were excited, but definitely nervous,” says Lyter, a 2014 Advertising and Electronic Media and Film dual major. “We needed to include so many facets regarding the university—everything from donor impact to student success—and we didn’t really have any of the footage we needed to that point.”

Butler, a 2013 Electronic Media and Film major, explains that the experience was challenging and rewarding.

“First, we made edits to the existing script, then developed a list of 50 to 60 shots to match the revised messaging,” Butler says. “One of us would go out and shoot footage—everything from sunrises to aerials overlooking the campus—and then send it to the other, who would immediately take that footage and edit it into the video. It required a lot of communication between the two of us, but definitely brought us together as a team.”

Thankfully, Butler and Lyter didn’t have to do it all on their own—Kurt Lancaster, Associate Professor of Digital Media at NAU, served as faculty advisor on the project, and was instrumental in the video’s success. Butler and Lyter say Lancaster’s mentorship and guidance, both during the Campaign video and throughout their time at the university, has been invaluable.

“Kurt has always gone above and beyond for us, and for his students,” Lyter says. “He’s really good at challenging us to do our best. We can go to him with anything, and he always has time to help us. He’ll be in a meeting, and he’ll still take my phone calls. He just wants us to be successful, and we wouldn’t have gotten where we are without him.”

In the end, their hard work paid off. On October 18, 2013, the team’s video headlined The Campaign for NAU launch event, a gala dedicated to the initiative that saw NAU donors and friends gathered together to celebrate this new chapter in the university’s history. When Lyter and Butler’s video finished playing, they were met with enthusiastic applause from the audience, some of whom were moved to tears.

The response, Butler explains, made everything worth it.

“Watching the video at the launch event, and waiting to see how the audience would respond, was really nerve-wracking,” Butler says. “As the creator, you’re just studying the audience the whole time to find any little hint that will show what they feel about your video. Once they stood up and gave us that ovation, it felt amazing. It was the culmination of a lot of really hard work.”

Recognizing how well their video was received, entering it into the BEA festival competition was the natural next step, and on February 11, Butler and Lyter were declared the winners, a huge honor and prolific building block on their resumes.

“A week before the festival, we scrambled to submit it, and then forgot about it,” Butler says. “To even be in the running is a blessing, and shows how much a little hard work can pay off. There’s definitely a certain amount of prestige that comes with the award, and it’s an opportunity a lot of people don’t have.

Lyter reflects what receiving the award has meant to her on a personal level.

“It’s one thing for your boss or the audience to like it, but to be recognized for your work on a national level is another thing entirely,” Lyter says. “It’s intimidating, but really exciting.”

With this new honor under their belts and anchoring their portfolios, Lyter and Butler have set their sights to plans after graduation. Both are so grateful for the experiences they been able to receive, both at the university and through the marketing department, that have prepared them for their careers.

“Right now, I’m focusing on building my portfolio and continuing to learn more about the craft,” says Butler, who graduated in December. “Working on the video, and my time at University Marketing, have solidified my passion for video production. The experience really has been a huge instrument in my success.”

Lyter, who plans to graduate in May, expresses how much working on the video has defined her experience at Northern Arizona University.

“The experience with this video is probably one of the highlights of my time at NAU,” Lyter says. “We built the video from the ground up, and I don’t think anyone expected it to turn out like it did, which is really special. Now I have that experience and awards that I’ve earned. I’m where I wanted to be before graduation.”