Author Archives: cmwillis

Through Irish Eyes visits TV Production Class

James MahonMr. James Mahon, Irish news journalist working at WDEF Channel 12, spoke with students in COMM 2020 TV Production about what it takes to make it in the news media. “I applied at 180 different stations and got 180 rejections,” said Mahon. He stressed the importance of having an online presence and of developing a unique persona in order to stand out from other job applicants. “You’ve got to be a little bit different….That’s OK to look or sound different.”

Other tips for media practitioners Mr. Mahon gave were to get started now creating content, to work on telling stories in simple language, and to try to be visually compelling. However, the most important message the speaker emphasized was on developing yourself. “You’ve got to be the best version of you!”


Hanging at Heritage

Chattanooga State’s PFTT 250 Film students will be crashing The Backlot. The Backlot is an event that takes place on the third Monday of each month at 6:30pm at The Heritage House. If you love film and filmmaking, come check it out!

The Backlot at Heritage House from chatt state films on Vimeo.

Regent, Tom Griscom, visits COMM 1010 Survey Mass Comm class

Tom Griscom speaking to studentsOn Monday, September 8, Tom Griscom, former editor of the Times Free Press and current regent for the Tennessee Board of Regents, visited with students in Chris Willis’ COMM 1010 Survey Mass Comm. Mr. Griscom shared his insights on storytelling, the transition to digital and social media, and the value added to a community by a local newspaper.

Mr. Griscom challenged students to think of creating new forms of communication from scratch, in the digital age, and what would be the key ingredients. “I’d still have a newspaper….it should invest in rich content,” said Griscom. He went on to emphasize increased market penetration via social media and using more video in place of photos.

These ideas further illustrate the need for digital media communicators with modern storytelling skills for the new media marketplace.

Chatt State Media Club represents at SXSW 2013, by Chris Willis

What can we say about South by Southwest 2013? For some it was the chance to learn about new technology..

Students using Black Magic Cinema Camera

Being able to get up close and personal with the Black Magic Cinema Camera was worth the entire trip to me. -Tanner Stewart

For others it was the chance to meet famous people..

Student celebrity sightings.

I met basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neil, Director/Musician Rob Zombie, Actress Brie Larson, and Film Critic/Corresponder for Extra, Ben Lyons. I can’t imagine a better way to spend my spring break! -Samantha Durkan

For others an opportunity to visit the set of live productions..

Bravo Taping of Watch What Happens Live.

I learned so much about the inner workings of the film industry and discovered things I could never of found anywhere else but SXSW. It was a great experience. -Jacob Henson

And for others just a chance to be part of something huge..

Students in the big crowds in SXSW.

We worked really hard raising money and going above and beyond to make this trip happen. We didn’t know if it was possible but we did it and will take away so much from this trip. -Chad Wilson

For me, it was an opportunity to see a few of my students who’ve worked hard all year–among many others who’ve worked just as hard, to jump head-long into this industry event. This conference provided so many learning opportunities and challenged us all to work harder toward those landing students those dream jobs. Special thanks to our SGA and RiverRocks Chattanooga for their donations that made this possible!

An Unexpected Masterpiece, by Casey Brostek

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is fantasy adventure director by Peter Jackson, starring a wonderful cast including Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman. The tale takes place in Middle Earth, many years before The Lord of the Rings trilogy, in a world of monsters and beasts, of gold and glory.

Logo from The Hobbit

We start in the Shire with a young hobbit named Bilbo Baggins who meets a wizard whom forever changes his life. When the wizard, Gandalf, introduces Bilbo to a group of dwarves, the hobbit is convinced to leave his comforts of  home to  follow them on an epic quest led by Thorin Oakenshield to reclaim his treasures from a powerful dragon. Throughout their journey, the team battles with trolls, dances with starvation, and are saved by the mighty eagles of the sky, all in hopes that they will reach their destination in time to take back what rightfully belongs to them.

The sets were beautifully done. The grass, trees, and costumes were the result of plenty of practice from the previous three movies, no detail being ignored or neglected from the individual strands of glowing hair on the elven-people’s heads to the edge of the very same axe that Gloin would later pass down to his son Gimli. The lighting helped set the same dreary and mysterious tone that was also strong in the previous movies, showing that continuity is important to this director.

Acting is important, and this movie really lived up to my expectations. A very talented cast led to a very well done movie which seemed to draw the entire audience into Middle Earth. It felt as if we were in the movie, helping our friends find their way out of every bad situation, pulling them through every turmoil. Their emotions were passed to us through their words and their expressions. We had happy moments, we had sad moments, we even had moments that terrified us. This movie had it all.

Overall, this movie was excellent. It took a while to get to the action, but with a movie based on such an adventurous book, the set up was completely necessary. Some people don’t have the attention span for such a wait, but many would agree that it really set the tone for the rest of the film. There were a few liberties taken away from the book that I didn’t care for, but that is what made this movie its own. I give this movie a 9.5 out of 10, and if you are a LOTR fan, or a fan of fantasy adventures in general, I would highly recommend this film.

What it takes to be Club of the Year

The Chattanooga State Media Club is having a terrific year! After winning the Club of the Year award at Hats Off to Excellence this week, it seemed like a good time to recap all that this group has accomplished over the year.

First up, students from Chris Willis’ Video Production II course and members of the Media Club worked with students from Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences to produce a music video in September 2011. The song, Splashin’ by Sw@ggbotz, represents good, clean, summertime fun.

In October students crowd-sourced the coverage of RiverRocks events, put on by Chattanooga Presents and Fidelity Trust Co. This resulted in several outstanding video essays that captured the essence of key events in the outdoors festival.

Also in October the Media Club partnered with the Chattanooga State Drama Club to produce a Zombie movie, the highlight of which was having Dr. Catanzaro in full zombie makeup attack a student.

For Halloween and Christmas students were involved in coverage of fundraising events at Track 29: Halloween Bash and Beck the Halls.

Over the Spring semester students have been busy preparing for a trip to Orlando to attend the Florida Film Festival, tour Full Sail University, and to take a Special Effects tour at Universal Studios. However, during this time they have also been working on videos promoting SGA elections and other student clubs. The Media Club covered the Spring Talent Show, and have also provided coverage at many campus events.

Also this Spring our Club submitted 4 films which will be shown in the Broad Street Film Festival downtown at the Carmike Majestic 12 on April 19. Please come out and support our students and vote for their films! Past winners from Chattanooga State include: Graham Uhelski for New Madrid and Touch of Sapphire by Morgan Smith.

The work this club has produced has been described by clients, such as the organizers of RiverRocks, as being on par with that of professional studios that costs tens of thousands of dollars. Their demo reels are exemplary of a quality program where students gain hands-on production experience, yet they are also learning to effectively manage large projects and to deal with clients. So again, hats off to the Chattanooga State Media Club for a great year of working together and producing quality work. Good job!

6 Reasons to Love Electric Six, by Chris Willis

For those of you who don’t know the disco/punk/garage band that is Electric Six–I pity you! The band is a six-piece alternative outfit dating back to the mid-90s and their work has held a small but consistent following throughout. Perhaps their best-known track, with vocal backing by Jack White, is “Danger! High Voltage”:

Their style can be described as the best, or maybe worst, of pop-synth with tongue-in-cheek chicanery in every lyric. Their popularity surged in the UK during the early 2000s with the Fire album, but they have not dissipated, in fact, they have produced approximately one album every year since 2003. An excellent example of the silliness that pervades the style is “Dance Commander”:

In recent years the band has covered “Radio Ga-ga” by Queen and “The Rubberband Man” by The Detroit Spinners. In 2012 they plan to release a 2-CD live performance album that is as yet untitled.

Oh, here’s the other 3 reasons: “Gay Bar”, “I Buy the Drugs”, and “I’m the Bomb”.

(sources: wikipedia,

Airbrushed Images Banned in UK

Remember all that discussion we had in class about image manipulation with Photoshop and the impact that has on our society? No? Well, here are some links:

Wet Dreams and False Images Documentary

The latest on this issue are reports that the British Advertising Standards Authority has banned recent Loreal ads featuring Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington because they were not representative of what the makeup products are actually capable of delivering.

Would we want the US government to step in on such an issue? Would the National Advertising Review Board here in the US ever make such a move? My take is that everyone knows the lie, but we like to believe in it. We all like to think that with just a little bit of magic we can be completely transformed.

Game Education Rant

At GDC 2011 I attended an Game Educators Rant which was pretty enlightening in terms of the obstacles we are up against in developing two new concentrations in Game Technology here at Chattanooga State. Most interesting to me was Ian Shreiber’s viewpoint (or my understanding of it) that traditional higher learning institutions have lost their way, having become too focused on tuition and losing sight of their mission–teaching, research, and public service.

Ian goes on to talk about the reality of the gaming industry when it comes to education:

…The video game industry doesn’t care about degrees. At GDC you can see over 10,000 employed, experienced, professional game developers who only care about one thing when hiring: can you help them to make a great game? And if the answer is yes, they don’t care if the reason you can help them make a great game is because you’ve got a PhD in Computer Science from MIT, or if it’s because you taught yourself assembly programming at age 11 and have been constantly building your skills ever since and you never bothered with college because it took time away from making yourself a better programmer.

This point sticks with me and I was glad he posted the entire rant on his blog: Perhaps this is true in many other areas of the media industry. Do degrees matter when it comes to getting those illustrious jobs? Usually at a minimum we can say they don’t hurt, but I think Ian implied above that they actually could.

I do see hope for our Game program though. As Kingsley Montgomery, a consultant for our new degree, pointed out to me in an email recently, we are focused on TOOLS. It is up to the students to use them to create work that can fill their portfolios. And we are providing access to the tools and the expertise to learn them at a fraction of the cost of other schools. It’s a pretty good deal..

News Gamification: Will leveling compel the younger generation to keep up with the news?

Do you believe that earning rewards for reading news articles would motivate you to read more of them? If the answer is No, are you over 30? My guess is that younger people are accustomed to earning progress or leveling in more aspects of their lives.


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