All posts by Katie Dudlets

Theater2Film: Powered by Students

Posted on: August 17, 2017

Imagine audience members forming a line outside the theater, waiting to get in to see the next big movie. Your movie. The one you helped write, film, edit and produce as part of 100-person production as a student. Popcorn is purchased, seats are located and anticipation hangs in the air.

All of this is possible at the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. In addition to a film and media production concentration from the Media and Information Department and minors in fiction filmmaking and documentary production, ComArtSci has a unique opportunity for budding filmmakers: Theater2Film.

The Big Production

T2F TixStay With Me,” debuted at the Traverse City Film Festival this summer. Throughout the entire 2017 spring semester, students were managing budgets, staying on top of production schedules, designing shot compositions, shooting on the weekends and discussing performances with actors (who were also students) among dozens of other tasks - there was an overwhelming amount to do. Luckily, the cast and crew was comprised of nearly 100 students.

“Working with [that many] students on a film is a big undertaking, but it gives you a good picture of what it’s like in the professional world,” said Anna Young ’17, a recent Media and Information graduate and one of the supervising producers of the film. “You have to have great communication skills.”

While Young managed budgetary details and coordinated the overall process, other students like Kim Labick ’17, one of the film’s directors, oversaw the details of the story itself. From pre-production to filming to post-production, she was involved in every step of the film’s creation.

“Being a director for any film is essentially balancing the chaos of the creative side with the organization of the production side,” said Labick, a recent media and information graduate. “It’s definitely hectic and sometimes seems overwhelming, but to me it felt like absolute mental freedom.”

Organized Chaos

Though distributing tasks to a large number of people can ease the workload for some, working with that many individuals can bring new challenges. Media and Information graduate Amy Wagenaar ’17, who was one of the directors of photography, remembers feeling nothing but resilience as the group worked to overcome every obstacle.

T2F Feature

“In the face of constant setbacks and external and internal issues, the students were able to come together to make a feature-length film,” said Wagenaar. “The film community of MSU is a tough crowd. We know how to deal with almost every single setback, because we’ve experienced it firsthand.”

Media and Information sophomore Hannah Byrd dove into her passions as a freshman and became the youngest of the assistant directors for the project. Byrd admitted that finding her passion within the industry wasn’t easy, but she has advice for other budding moviemakers.

Follow your gut feeling as to what you want to pursue and start with that,” said Byrd. “It’s okay if there are some twists and turns and you decide you want to do something different later. If you’re passionate about something, go for it, and if you’re passionate about something different later, that’s fine. At least it’s a path to get there.”

“Stay With Me” was only Theater2Film’s third feature. As the program evolves, there will be plenty of room for future student filmmakers to find their place and their passion in the chaos of it all.

By Kaitlin Dudlets

 

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Media and Information Researcher Tracks the Viral Growth of “Pseudo-Knowledge”

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We’ve all heard that you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. Thanks to thousands of blogs, forums and alternative news sources online, the internet has become a breeding ground for misinformation. Even stories of little green men from outer space have gained a following of believers around the world.

Media and Information Assistant Professor Josh Introne has been researching this dedicated following of extraterrestrials to understand how and why false stories seem to grow so successfully in online conversations. While it may not be the “fake news” we’re most familiar with, Introne has been tracking a 10-year-long conversation about alien visitation. He presented his findings at the International Conference on Social Media and Society in Toronto this summer.

Introne Presenting

Growing Pseudo-Knowledge Online

Introne refers to these misleading virtual narratives as “pseudo-knowledge.” This sort of widespread misinformation is troubling, not only because it is inaccurate, but also because it can “persist in the face of attempts to correct it,” which means it can begin to influence what the larger community deems to be true.

“We find that pseudo-knowledge adapts online, like an organism, in ways that make it easier to defend and spread,” said Introne.

This happens for two reasons. The first is that online pseudo-knowledge is exposed to a number of people who attack its validity. Unfortunately, these attacks only damage the story’s weak parts, which are quickly replaced by new parts that are easier to defend.

“This is like how some vaccines work,” said Introne. “A vaccine is a weak form of a pathogen, and when our bodies are exposed to it, our immune systems create defense mechanisms that work against even stronger forms of the virus.”

In the case of pseudo-knowledge, attacks are like a vaccine that only serve to make it stronger.

“The second reason has to do with the community that develops around the pseudo-knowledge,” said Introne. “It’s important to understand that pseudo-knowledge grows through a kind of group-storytelling. Lots of people are available online to contribute and bring lots of diverse knowledge and interests to the discussion.”

A Community Narrative

Introne and his research team, including Spartans Julia DeCook, Irem Gokce Yildirim and Shaima Elzeini, followed a 10-year-long conversation about aliens visiting Earth. They collected data and analyzed content to better understand how the conversation unfolded. The team also used a type of narrative analysis to determine how the story was changing over time and found that there was a hierarchy of individuals responsible for the “official” version of the story.

Introne Feature New

“We observed that people who are proven to be trustworthy and intelligent are allowed to contribute to the story, and in doing so, become part of the group responsible for it,” said Introne. “Both the community and story itself grow like a tree: the original contributor guards the trunk, and those who contribute branches defend both the branches and the trunk.”

Though there is clear misinformation that is used as “evidence” in the creation of this pseudo-knowledge, Introne found that there is also a good amount of reasoning and careful research included.

“Over time, all of this gets woven into a dense thicket of information that’s pretty hard to disentangle,” said Introne. “In this way, pseudo-knowledge becomes a natural home where misinformation can be woven into a belief system.”

Moving Forward

The role of the internet in the sharing of information is ever-increasing, and Introne’s research is far from complete. In the future, Introne wants to see if the findings in the ancient alien theories domain hold up in other domains, like extremism. He is also planning to conduct some additional experiments.

“I’m hoping to test the evolutionary fitness of different kinds of narratives,” said Introne. “Ultimately, our goal is to figure out how the structure, rather than the content, of a story might influence its ability to thrive in a social network.”

By Kaitlin Dudlets

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ComArtSci Ph.D. Student Earns NCA Top Master’s Thesis Award

Posted on: August 16, 2017

Last year, master’s student Samantha Shebib was sitting next to her thesis advisor, Dr. William Cupach, at the National Communication Association (NCA) business meeting in Philadelphia. As they watched the scholars accept their awards he told her, “I can’t wait till it’s you up there,” while pointing toward the stage.

Shebib FeatureCupach’s confidence was not unfounded. This November, Shebib, now a doctoral student in ComArtSci’s communication department, will travel to Dallas to publicly receive her NCA Top Master’s Thesis award at the NCA convention. Completing and defending her thesis was the final step in earning her master’s of science in communication from Illinois State University.

“Defending my thesis was very nerve-racking,” said Shebib. “All research has limitations. You must outweigh the pros and cons of every step. You really have to defend what you did, and most importantly, why you did it.”

The NCA’s selection committee judged all of the nominated theses on “the quality of the scholarship, including its conceptual or theoretical foundation, methodological rigor, originality and creativity, substantive contribution, and potential impact in the field.” Not only did her thesis win the NCA award, but it previously gained attention at Illinois State, bringing in the School of Communication’s Outstanding Master’s Thesis award in April.

"To get recognition on something you worked extremely hard for is the most rewarding feeling,” said Shebib. “This NCA [convention] will definitely be a moment I’ll never forget.”

Shebib’s thesis details the various communication patterns marital partners engage in when discussing financial issues and how these communicative patterns are related to their marital satisfaction. Her study found that if a spouse believes they have different beliefs from their marital partner on how financial obligations should be managed, they are more likely to communicate in ways that are dysfunctional. Conversely, if a spouse feels they have similar financial beliefs to their partner, they are more likely to communicate constructively by being cooperative, supportive and compromising.

“Engaging in constructive forms of conflict during financial discussions is related to higher financial communication satisfaction and higher marital satisfaction levels,” said Shebib.

The Ph.D. student said that because all relationships experience conflict, studying interpersonal communication is both relatable and practical and she’s excited for what her next three years at ComArtSci will bring.

“I’m looking forward to learning more here at MSU and working with the incredible faculty in the department of communication,” said Shebib. “Everyone in this department is like a legend in our field, so I couldn’t be more honored to get the opportunity to learn from and work with them.”

Shebib wants to focus her time as a doctoral student on statistics, quantitative research methods and experimental designs, because at the end of the day, she said, the way you design a research study (regardless of the study’s topic) is the most important part.

"As one of my professors, Dr. Van Der Heide, told me, “No math can fix a poor design.” It’s all in the design and the statistical analyses one uses to test the hypotheses they posit,” said Shebib. “What you’re writing theoretically and what you’re hypothesizing need to be faithfully tested by your method.”

By Kaitlin Dudlets 

 

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Traverse City Film Festival Recap

Posted on: August 7, 2017

TCRecap FeatureMy name is Katie Dudlets, and I am one of ComArtSci's interns, which means that I am responsible for telling the stories of the faculty, staff and students of our college. Last week, I had the opportunity to cover the Traverse City Film Festival and experience all of the amazing creative work that Michigan State University and ComArtSci had to offer. For those of you who weren’t able to attend, let me fill you in on what you missed.

Stay With Me,” the psychological thriller produced as a part of the Theater2Film program, was premiered in front of a packed house on Wednesday. The film was completely sold out, and audience members were jostling for seats. Unfortunately, I was one of the unlucky few that wasn’t able to see the feature due to the lack of available seating, but I heard the film was spectacular. I became part of the set-up crew for the after party, which was an awesome way to celebrate the film’s cast and crew. Karl Gude and Dean Prabu David toasted to the students’ extraordinary efforts in storytelling, from the musical score to the cinematography, from the acting to the final editing. Students mingled and laughed together, happy to celebrate the final product with their fellow filmmakers and family members.

Feature Film

Later that night, The Woz hosted its opening party at Hotel Indigo. Techno music played over the crowd as they strapped into virtual reality headgear and were transported to another world. Gamers young and old crowded around the mobile video games along the wall as spirited teams of five dueled it out around a wooden barrel, fingers flying over controllers as one group of pirates tried to dominate the other. Groups of two or three held their arms out to keep the animated Sparty from falling and clapped to make him jump over obstacles. Yes, they looked ridiculous. The Woz was a spectacular showcase of what can happen when brilliant minds bring together innovation, imagination and skill. It was a fantastic gaming experience for all who attended.

Woz

On Thursday morning, our artist-in-residence Timothy Busfield debuted “Tenure,” a 25-minute short produced by students as a part of his “The Television Pilot” class. The episode was well-received by the audience for its authenticity in showing a woman’s struggle to balance her love life and a successful career. It was featured as a part of the “All The World’s a Stage” shorts and Busfield answered questions about his experience following the showing. Every heart in that auditorium melted a little when he spoke about his wife, Melissa Gilbert, who was the leading actress in the film. “I love working with her,” said Busfield. “She’s my favorite actress. She’s my favorite person.”

Busfield

Friday was another big day for ComArtSci. The morning started off with an illustration of true journalism as the collection of short films, “Inside Flint,” provided the audience with a look into the lives, struggles and frustrations of the people living in the Mid-Michigan city. I sat in the theater listening to the incredulous laughter and outraged snorts and shouts from the crowd as they reacted to the sad truths on the screen. You really couldn’t help but see the true significance and power of journalism in that moment - if it weren’t for the incredible journalism of people like Curt Guyette, it’s possible that the water crisis would still be an unknown. The spoken word piece “Hard to Swallow,” by Flint’s own hip-hop artist Mama Sol, was part of the “Faces of Flint” series that aired on WKAR and was created by producers in collaboration with MSU School of Journalism faculty and students. It was a much-needed piece of art in the mostly hard-hitting series of shorts. Mama Sol managed to eloquently put into words the pain and anger the city had experienced, and had us all wanting to do more to help.

Later that afternoon, MSU students once again had the spotlight. In similar fashion to the feature film just days earlier, there was a completely packed house for the collection of documentary and fiction films made entirely by students. What struck me most was the way in which these individuals had managed to depict not only raw emotion and hard-to-describe concepts, but also their ability to tackle difficult issues like bipolar disorder and the Line 5 oil pipeline conflict.

Student Shorts

The World is Beautiful” brought us on Charlie’s journey of discovery through incredible moving sketches and a quirky voiceover. “Creativity: A Gut Reaction” breathed life into a poem on the thrills of creativity and the ache of losing it. The short thriller “Amorphous,” inspired by the stories of the author H.P. Lovecraft, unnerved the audience as an unfortunate hypnotist gets more than he bargains for in a motel room with a disturbed young woman and her brother. “On The Way Up” gave us an intimate view of a relationship complicated by mental health issues and an attempted suicide and made viewers question what they would do in Sophia’s shoes.

And finally, “Immiscible: The Fight Over Line 5” lit the room with tension as we learned of the environmental threat lurking under the Straits of Mackinac. This threat is known as Line 5, the 64-year-old Enbridge oil pipeline with the potential to damage Michigan’s over $22 billion water tourism industry. Each of the short films had a unique story and had the audience’s attention from the opening scene of the first film to the credits of the last.

The creative work displayed from Michigan State at the Traverse City Film Festival made me not only proud to be a Spartan, but also insanely excited about what we are doing here at ComArtSci. We are truly producing the next generation of storytellers.

By Kaitlin Dudlets 

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Summer in East Lansing

Posted on: July 20, 2017

If you have questions about our degree programs and what you can learn here, stop by! Now is a great time of year to drop by the department to talk with faculty, staff and students. You won't find all of us in our offices every day of the week because many of us are working off-site, but people are here working and others are dropping by. The more relaxed pace of summer means that going out to lunch together, impromptu meetings and thoughtful discussions in the hallways all take place and can really help visiting program applicants get a good sense of who we are, what we offer and what the culture of the department is like. We recently hosted a number of visiting graduate students and faculty from Singapore and Germany, visitors from the U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center, faculty from the MSU College of Human Medicine and from a top journalism school in Shanghai, and we are scheduling informal visits by doctoral applicants from the University of Michigan and other universities. And while faculty can be insightful sources of advice about our programs, talk with our staff and graduate students since they know these same programs from the inside out.

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Doctoral Student Researches the Effects of Nostalgia on Health Communication

Posted on: July 19, 2017

It’s that feeling you get when you think about high school football games in your hometown, or how great the college years were. It’s thinking back to holidays surrounded by family and home-cooked meals. It’s that sentimental yearning for the joy experienced in another place or time. It’s nostalgia.Hussain Feature Old Site

This is the emotion that doctoral student Syed Ali Hussain is studying in the School of Journalism. His research focuses on understanding the art of persuasion and social influence in the context of designing health communication campaigns.

“Nostalgia is experienced by people of all ages, culture and gender as a strong emotional appeal,” said Hussain. “It has been used extensively in the advertising industry to sell products and services. I wondered if it could also be used to promote healthy behaviors and attitudes.”

Hussain said that nostalgia is most common when people are distressed or or feel uncertainty. They can’t help but think of the “good old days when things were better.”

This intensified level of nostalgia during difficult times in life is what led Hussain to research its effects on depression. He is looking to persuade people to move from unhealthy to healthy behaviors. In this case, he wants to persuade individuals to go from keeping depression to themselves to seeking professional help.

Nostalgia Video Leads to Empathy and Positivity

As part of a study supervised by ComArtSci assistant professor Dr. Saleem Alhabash, Hussain put together a video in an effort to convince individuals with depression to seek help at MSU’s counseling center. To induce nostalgia, the video used images and music to evoke the viewers’ childhood memories. But as the video moves into the teenage and college years, there is a significant change; the thoughts and emotions that come with depression become more and more present. The video ends with a message to seek counseling when in distress.

“The video was made after a lot of research because we don’t want anything to backfire or trigger something harmful [for viewers],” said Hussain. “The script was highly authenticated and based on interviews that I’ve done with people with depression and from blogs [about] depression.”

In the study, a control group watched a non-nostalgic video, while a second group watched the video Hussain had created. He then measured change in their emotions, attitude and level of intention to seek help. He found that the individuals that watched the nostalgic video had significantly higher feelings of nostalgia and that the video evoked a lot of positive emotions. This positivity led to a more positive attitude toward the counseling center, which in turn led to increased behavioral intention to seek professional help.

During this study, participants were also asked to write down their thoughts about the video after the viewing. Results showed that individuals who watched the nostalgic video wrote longer, more detailed and engaging responses than those in the control group. He also found that the individuals who watched the nostalgic video that had no depression were also more understanding toward those who do have depression.

“People without depression may not realize how it feels to be depressed. Many people give advice like “Why don’t you go for a walk,” or “Just snap out of it,”” said Hussain. “But in our study, we found that individuals without depression expressed a more positive and empathetic attitude towards people who do have depression, which is an important step towards reducing stigma.”

Images of Depression

Before using the nostalgic video as a research tool, Hussain conducted another study on visual narratives of depression under the supervision of Lucinda Davenport, a professor and the director of the J-School. In other words, he studied how people with depression express their emotions and feelings through images and photographs. During the study, he showed participants various depression-related images and asked them: “What do you see in this image? Tell me a story about it. Help me understand this image, give me an example.”

“All of the images were from blogs [about] depression on Tumblr, in which people have expressed their emotion through photographs and images, and less words,” said Hussain. “This is important because depression is an illness which is often hard to put into words alone.”

PowerPoint PresentationHussain said that the participants with moderately severe depression had stories and anecdotes to tell him about what each image meant to them. In this image, individuals picked up on the difference between the lighter and darker legs. They explained that the two legs in the forefront are like the lives that everyone else sees or what is shown on the surface, while the other legs are synonymous with the lives that they are truly living, being constantly worried about a million little things.

"In this research, I found that images are a good medium to use in a counseling session,” said Hussain. “The images help in creating rapport with the participants and sharing the narratives of depression with much ease.”

During this study, Hussain noticed that the participants also started to feel better after being given the opportunity to talk and ventilate their feelings. He was surprised to find just how much the individuals spoke. Sometimes he had to schedule additional sessions to complete the interview and finish discussing all of the images.

Global Impact

Before coming to the U.S., Hussain was working on behavior-changing communication projects with communities in his home country of Pakistan.

“I had a lot of experience working in villages on mother and child health during natural disasters,” said Hussain. “At one point I realized a need for more evidence-based interventions so I thought I would come to the U.S. for higher studies.”

Hussain received a Fulbright scholarship that allowed him to come to the U.S. to earn his master’s. After completing that degree, he continued toward a Ph.D. Now that he’s going into his final year, Hussain plans to go back to Pakistan.

“I will go back and continue the research that I have learned in the U.S.,” said Hussain. “Over these years, I have realized that the kind of social issues we are facing need a multidisciplinary team of people to solve them. So I plan to go back to Pakistan and start building one.”

By Kaitlin Dudlets

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Come Get Your Game On at The Woz

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The Traverse City Film Festival has more to offer than just a traditional film experience. Go beyond the screen to the place where art, science and technology come together at The Woz. The game design program at Michigan State University has developed a showcase of immersive, educational and entertaining video games for you to explore.

GEL Lab 1

The Woz opens its doors on Wednesday, July 26 from 6-9 p.m. at Hotel Indigo. It will then be open from Thursday to Saturday, July 27-29, from noon-8 p.m. and Sunday, July 30, from noon-3 p.m. Visitors can play mobile games developed for smartphones and tablets, explore virtual reality experiences on the HTC Vive and play with friends in a number of multiplayer interactive experiences.

William Jeffrey and Brian Winn, both faculty in ComArtSci’s Department of Media and Information, have assembled the showcase from student-created work coming out of the MSU game design and development program and from projects in the Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) Lab.

Jeffrey and Winn are most excited about one of the newest games from the GEL Lab, called Plunder Panic.

“Plunder Panic is a swashbuckling, multiplayer arcade game where two rival crews battle for supremacy on the high seas,” said Winn. “Defeat the enemy captain, scuttle their ship, plunder enough booty or end up shark bait in Davy Jones’ Locker.”

This game can support up to ten players all at once. Players can win the game by defeating the captain of the rival team, plundering enough gold to sail away or sinking their opponent’s ship.

“Plunder Panic has multiple ways to win, meaning you always have to keep an eye patch out for what the other team is doing,” said Jeffrey. “We think the game is a blast to play and hope that the visitors of The Woz love it too.”

GEL Lab 2

Another one of the many projects being showcased is called Spartio, which was created by students during the spring semester and polished in the GEL Lab during the summer in anticipation for The Woz.

“Spartio is a game that utilizes the Microsoft Kinect camera system for player input,” said Winn. “Stretch your arms, rotate your body and clap your hands to help Sparty avoid falling from platforms, navigate past laser beams and leap across giant pits.”

Virtual reality experiences were a big hit at last years’ Woz and this year there will be several new and unique immersive experiences including the Virtual Vineyard, a grant-funded project from the GEL Lab.

“In Virtual Vineyard, you can explore a vineyard in virtual reality, interact with winemaking equipment and learn all about the winemaking process,” said Winn. “We will also be showcasing a collection of entertaining VR experiences created during the spring in our new Building Virtual Worlds course.”

Over the past year, students and faculty in the game design program have developed a number of new projects across a variety of platforms. They have created mobile and desktop games, virtual reality experiences and even games controlled by a camera with Microsoft Kinect.

“There is such a wide variety of games to play, across all different styles and genres,” said Jeffrey. “We truly think there is something here for everyone to enjoy. Our students have been working hard to create games for others to enjoy, viewing The Woz as a great event to showcase their work and get it out in the world.”

By Kaitlin Dudlets

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Spotlight Shines on MSU at Traverse City Film Festival

Posted on: July 18, 2017

This article was originally published by the College of Arts and Letters

Michigan State University is once again taking the expertise of its filmmaking faculty and creative talents of its students on the road to the 2017 Traverse City Film Festival (TCFF).

As the official Learning and Innovation Partner for TCFF, MSU will feature student-produced films and offer filmmaking workshops, an interactive hands-on gallery, and kids camps at this year’s festival, which runs July 25-30.

TCFF TopFor the third year in a row, MSU’s Theatre 2 Film project will premiere a student-created, full-length feature film at TCFF. This year’s film, Stay With Me, is a psychological thriller in which a struggling Midwest farm family descends into dysfunction when threatened with the loss of their home. The premiere is set for Wednesday, July 26, at noon at the Old Town Playhouse, 148 E. Eighth Street.

A collection of five short documentary and fiction films produced by MSU student filmmakers will be shown together on Friday, July 28, at 3 p.m. at Kirkbride at the Commons, 700 Cottageview Drive.

The films include:

Other MSU-produced shorts appearing at this year’s TCFF include:

  • Hard to Swallow, part of the “Shorts: Inside Flint” program onFriday, July 28, at 9 a.m. at the Central High School Auditorium, 1150 Milliken Drive
  • Hubert: His Storypart of the “Shorts: Fork in the Road” program on Wednesday, July 26, at noon at Bijou by the Bay, 181 E. Grandview Pkwy
  • Tenure, part of the “Shorts: All the World’s a Stage” program on Thursday, July 27, at 9 a.m. at Milliken at the Dennos Museum, 1701 E. Front Street

MSU’s Game Design and Development Program and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences is offering a hands-on interactive media and gaming showcase, also known as The Woz. Free and open to the public, The Woz offers festivalgoers an opportunity to explore and experience the latest in gaming and virtual reality technology. Located at Hotel Indigo, 263 W. Grandview Parkway, The Woz will be open daily, July 26-29, from noon to 8 p.m.; and July 30, from noon to 3 p.m. A free welcome party is scheduled for Wednesday, July 26, from 6 to 9 p.m.

TCFF Woz

Michigan State University is offering two-day camps for youth, ages 12-16, that focus on filmmaking and game design and development. These camps – Filmmaker Camp and Game Design Camp – will have participants creating their own short films and digital games from scratch. Both camps are being held July 27 and 28 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Central High School, 1150 Milliken Drive. The cost is $200 for each camp. There are a limited number of openings available. To secure your spot, register at tcff.msu.edu/#camps.

Leading MSU faculty will discuss mobile storytelling and how to find funding for films at these workshops:

Mobile Documentary Filmmaking

  • DATE & TIME: July 29 at 3 p.m.
  • LOCATION: NMC Scholars Hall, 1701 E. Front Street
  • TICKETS: $5 per person and can be purchased through the TCFF website

Finding Fund$ For Films

  • DATE & TIME: July 30 at Noon
  • LOCATION: NMC Scholars Hall, 1701 E. Front Street
  • TICKETS: $5 per person and can be purchased through the TCFF website

Shape the Next MSU Feature Film

  • DATE & TIME: July 27, 4-6 p.m.
  • LOCATION: NMC Scholars Hall, Room 105
  • TICKETS: FREE

The public is invited to stop by the Spartan Headquarters, located at 333 E. State Street in Traverse City, to receive free MSU swag, free film tickets for students with an MSU ID, and more information on all TCFF events associated with MSU. Spartan Headquarters will be open daily July 25-28 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and July 29 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information, visit TCFF.MSU.EDU or follow #MSUTCFF.

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ComArtSci’s Sandi Smith Awarded University Distinguished Professor Title

Posted on: July 13, 2017

Sandi Smith Feature ImageAmong nine other Michigan State professors, ComArtSci’s own Sandi Smith has been named a University Distinguished Professor in recognition of her achievements in the classroom, her research and the community. This recognition is among the highest honors to be awarded by MSU to a faculty member.

“I am very honored to receive this award, but as with any accomplishment, I did not achieve this on my own,” said Smith. “My colleagues and graduate students in the department of communication deserve the recognition, too.”

Along with the title, which was voted on and approved by the Board of Trustees, Smith receives an additional stipend of $5,000 per year for the next five years in order to support professional activities. Smith said she will use the stipend to fund graduate students as they work in applied areas of interpersonal and health communication research.

Smith teaches and researches on topics such as persuasion, communication theory and interpersonal communication. In the past, her research has focused on persuading individuals to carry signed and witnessed organ donor cards, encouraging college students to consume alcohol moderately, if at all, and studying how interpersonal relationships with probation and parole officers contribute to positive outcomes for women on probation and parole, among many other topics.

The award is especially meaningful to Smith as her late husband, Charles Atkin, was also honored as a University Distinguished Professor. He was the chair of the department of communication for 15 years and was also an accomplished scholar.

This is not the first time Smith has been recognized for her work. She was previously honored with the Distinguished Faculty Award at Michigan State University, has received the B. Aubrey Fisher Mentorship Award from the International Communication Association and has received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the National Communication Association, among other honors.

By Kaitlin Dudlets

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Advertising Professor Brings Award-Winning Experience to the Classroom

Posted on: July 6, 2017

“They all want experience, but you can’t get experience until someone hires you, but no one’s going to hire you if you don’t have experience.”

Schiavone FeatureThis is the predicament that haunts so many college graduates, and current advertising professor of practice Lou Schiavone was no different. After pursuing his master’s in English and comparative literature from Columbia University, he moved back to Connecticut and once again became roommates with his parents. He worked at a bookstore and a few indoor tennis clubs while scouring the Help Wanted section of his local newspaper, hoping to break into the publishing industry.

“I saw an ad one day for a copywriter,” said Schiavone. “I had no clue what it was. I thought it had to do with copyrighting a name or registering a trademark. That was how clueless I was. Advertising was not on my radar in any way.”

Schiavone went into the interview with an accordion folder holding poetry, a couple of term papers and a few book reviews he had written. It was far from a portfolio, but it earned him the chance to prove his worth and he landed the job.

A Successful Career

After bouncing locally from agency to agency, Schiavone made his way to New York and landed at McCann-Erickson, where he would go on to create award-winning ad campaigns for a number of high-profile companies.

“When I got to New York and McCann, I got to work on Coca-Cola, L’oreal, Sony, the American Express Gold Card and AT&T,” said Schiavone. “It was really a lovely mix.”

Schiavone ended up heading over to work at Ogilvy, where he worked on accounts like Seagrams, Duracell, the British Tourist Authority and Paco Rabanne. He continued to work for a number of highly-visible accounts, and even did pro-bono work for brands like the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum and Meals on Wheels.

Schiavone was the creative director and copywriter for this poster while doing freelance work.

Schiavone was the creative director and copywriter for this poster while doing freelance work.

And then Schiavone got recruited to come to Michigan. He worked at Doner in Southfield, which had primarily been a regional agency, just as they were getting approached by national and multinational clients for work. Schiavone’s creative group worked on brands like Iams pet food, British Petroleum, Chiquita Bananas, Ballpark Franks and Lay-Z-Boy, as well as more regional accounts like The Detroit Zoo, The Detroit Institute of Arts and University of Michigan Hospital.

“I was at Doner for about eight years and then I went to work at Enlighten, a digital agency in Ann Arbor, which was strategically a great career move,” said Schiavone, who remembers the convergence of traditional media into a new digital world where everyone lives online. “My time at Enlighten helped me to see the convergence coming and also to know how to fit what I do into that landscape. It gave me a skillset that helped me stay relevant.”

Bringing Experience to the Classroom

His continued relevance and impressive track record in the advertising profession are what put him on ComArtSci’s radar. Before long, he was approached by the university to teach.

“I’ve practiced my craft in the real world, and now I teach what I’ve done my whole career,” said Schiavone. “They have a commitment in this department and in this college to bring in people who are actually still practitioners in what they teach.”

If there’s anyone who knows what it takes to be successful in the advertising industry, it’s Schiavone, and he wants to pass that information onto his students. He says that talent is of paramount importance and that “there’s a lot of talent here” at ComArtSci.

Another one of Schiavone's freelance pieces.

Another one of Schiavone's freelance pieces.

“Besides talent, timing is really kind of everything,” said Schiavone. “If I look at my own career, it had everything to do with timing. Sometimes it’s about knowing people who can open doors for you. That doesn’t mean you won’t do well on your own once you go through those doors, but it does help to develop relationships with people who can facilitate your movement upward.”

Schiavone has certainly propelled his students upward and onward. Recent advertising graduate Savannah Benavides ’17 won a National Silver ADDY after Schiavone urged her to submit her class project, recognizing her talent despite her doubt. Alumnus Matt Richter ’16, who just won a National Gold ADDY for his work with alumna Lauren Cutler ’16, credits much of his success to the relationship he built with Schiavone, citing him as one of the professors “who will bend over backwards to get you a job, because they believe in you.”

A Global Industry

Schiavone also emphasizes the importance of staying relevant by keeping up with current work in the industry, not just in the U.S., but globally. New markets like Sao Paulo, Tel Aviv and Moscow are turning out great work.

“You don’t have to know every agency and every player, but it does help to know where the really good work is being done,” said Schiavone. “It’s really a global business now.”

Beyond talent, timing and staying relevant, Schiavone says that he can’t think of anyone who ever got anywhere on the creative side of advertising by playing it safe.

“I think it’s important to play full-out, to take your foot off the brake - metaphorically speaking - and actually let your mind go to a place that’s unfamiliar,” said Schiavone. “I think that’s absolutely critical. If you just work within a box and play it safe, you’ll have a career. You just won’t have a terribly exciting one.”  

By Kaitlin Dudlets

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