Students Craft Rest-Stop Video Pitch

Allan Appel PhotoAfter a long night doing who knows what, disheveled guy walks into the I-95 service plaza in Milford. He’s down in the dumps.

Guy encounters great Subway Footlongs, Big Macs, Dunkin delights! The place is so clean. The lights so soothing and bright!

Guy decides to order sandwiches, one from each tenant restaurant .

Guy begins to eat. He exhales. He’s transformed. He’s happy.

You’ll soon see that 30-second info-packed video commercial in various media outlets as part of a campaign to attract young people to the renovated service plazas all along I-95 from Madison to Darien.

The commercial was entirely conceived, written, and produced by the video class at Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School.

The client is Project Service LLC, which has a contract with the state to renovate the half-century-old service plazas on I-95 between Madison and Darien in exchange for the right to operate them.

Project Service LLC Director of Marketing Shari Dell, who’s a former school teacher, said she wanted to create a commercial to attract young people to the plazas.

So it made sense to have young video production crews create the commercials to play up the new eateries, spiffed up bathrooms, shopping opportunities, WiFi, and other unexpected stuff.

Enter Robb Blocker, who teaches video production in Co-Op’s state-of-the-art facilities.

In September the challenge was offered.

Blocker’s students produce a weekly video news round-up for the school and also record school performances. They also get experience recording lectures and events at the Shubert Theater and for Yale, along with public service announcements, for example, for the city Board of Ed’s Parent University initiative.

The spiffy facilities and the students’ talents had never been deployed to make a short commercial film in a public place.

Namely the Milford service plaza, one of the 17 of 23 plazas along the busy high-speed corridor that have been renovated.

Before the crew went out, Blocker divided his class into working teams and led his students in scriptwriting and story-boarding. Junior Paige Kissinger’s script concept featured a child and adult entering the plaza. The child wants to use the bathroom, but the dad is focused on the food.

“My boss wanted to focus on the vendors,” the restaurant-tenants, said Dell. So Paige’s concept was not chosen.

Aaron van Leesten’s was. With the help of Brianna Walker and storyboard creator Karina Ortiz, Aaron conceived of a story of a slightly strung out young guy, to be played by Co-Op art teacher Zach Chernak, who goes into the plaza and is utterly revived by the ambiance and great food.

Aaron said the biggest challenge was to reduce what began as a three-minute story down to 30 seconds. He did that by learning how to visually convey the information. I tried to maximize each shot,” he said.

The kids also learned to work in public and to work cooperatively with each other. At the shoot itself, Isaiah McKnight (pictured) minimized his contribution as a gaffer in charge of the cords and a taper, someone who delineated the area in the restaurants set aside for the filming.

“It was very important to pull the cords [carefully] and to tape down"so that members of the public, who drifted through the filming area, wouldn’t trip or be injured, Dell said.

“I definitely got more interested” in video production as a potential career path, said Isaiah.

He and others came back to the fun of working with a dozen friends under circumstances requiring team work, skill in implementation, and good cheer.

“What you do is important,” he said, “but who you do it with is really important.”


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posted by: ElmCityVoice on April 9, 2014  1:53pm

Congratulations to Robb Blocker Co-Op Arts Magnet students. It’s a very impressive half minute ad.