Filmmaking classes and around 90 students in all worked together to create 17 public service announcements (PSAs) about the importance of being registered to vote and voting -- encouraging civic engagement while honing their craft.

“I wanted to find a way to encourage more students to get registered to vote and to then actually go out and vote,” said Juliet Giglio of the English and creative writing faculty. “I also wanted to give my CRW 301: Intermediate Screenwriting students a real-life opportunity to write an informative and entertaining PSA.”

Jake Dodd, who teaches CSS 336: Cinematography and CSS 337: Motion Picture Editing, agreed to collaborate, and the classes worked with Allison Rank, a political science faculty member who spearheads the college’s non-partisan Vote Oswego civic engagement effort.

Rank provided information about how to register and vote, and “also gave me possible topics of importance -- including how to get an absentee ballot and the importance of ‘down-the-ballot’ elections,” Giglio said.

The 19 students in Giglio’s course chose specific topics, then spent two weeks writing and revising their scripts, also workshopping them in class. 

“We sent the 19 scripts to Jake Dodd's Cinematography class and they started storyboarding and casting the parts,” Giglio said. “Theater majors jumped in to help with some of the acting.  The students filmed the following week, taking into account the COVID restrictions.”

That footage went to two sections of Dodd’s editing class, who spent another 10 days to put together the finished product.

Creative lessons

The whole product process taught students about how to create PSAs in a short timespan while working around obstacles, on top of a number of creative lessons, Giglio said. 

“The writing students learned how to write for a client with specific needs: keeping the story to two characters, keeping it outside and keeping in mind the demands that the production students would face,” Giglio said. “But they had to do all that -- and include necessary content about voting and still make it entertaining.”

The COVID restrictions meant production students learned about filming with a lean crew, which  “meant that they didn't always get optimal sound because they didn't have an extra sound person but they figured out how to make it work,” Giglio said. “The editing students learned how to learn how to edit creatively, using a small amount of footage. They also learned how to fix the production sound and add graphics.”

The ambitious effort incorporated 90 students in writing, filming, acting and editing the short films in the span of five weeks.

“Overall, it was a valuable real-life filmmaking experience,” Giglio said. “Given all the limitations we had, I'm very proud of all of the films and all the hard work that the students did.”

All 17 films are available for online viewing. 

In addition to the lessons, the ultimate message was about the importance of being registered to vote by the Oct. 9 deadline. For more information about registration and voting, visit the Vote Oswego website.