Tell me a story…
|Second-year Broadcasting students Sheehan Desjardins' documentary Rough Draft looks at what it takes to break in to Bantam hockey, and eventually the NHL. |
Broadcasting students’ documentaries showcase high-level talent At the beginning of every school year Rick Castiglione writes the same phrase on the whiteboard of his classroom.
"Tell me a story.”
For each task his students are assigned with — whether it be to report on a news item for MRUTV, to write a radio bit for CMRC The Shift, or to produce a short documentary — the goal is always the same. Find a good story, and then tell it well.
Castiglione has been an instructor and mentor at Mount Royal since 2000, prior to which he spent 25 years as a reporter, anchor and producer for CTV Calgary and Winnipeg, and Global Calgary. His Broadcasting students spend most of their first year learning the basics of broadcast journalism, including how to run their own radio station and operate a camera, and then second year it’s on to producing MRUTV, a weekly Friday news magazine show aired online and on Shaw TV. MRUTV covers real news, hard-hitting stories such as missing and murdered indigenous women, sexual assault on campus, the Mount Royal student elections and even the Prime Minister’s press conference.
Broadcasting students are creating industry-level work that places them firmly at the forefront of the current evolution of media. The first cohort of the new Bachelor of Communication - Broadcast Media Studies (BCMM - BMS) degree will begin class in fall, 2016.
Before setting off on their individual career trajectories, students recently handed in original short documentaries they wrote, filmed and edited on their own. This is an incredibly important and rare opportunity for a student to receive, one which Castiglione calls "groundbreaking".
"There are not many institutions embarking on these sorts of projects," he says. "We give them permission to explore their options, give them feedback, and encourage them more.”
Two of the students’ documentaries focused on how hard work and determination are essential elements for achieving success.
|Lucas Roberts followed around an upcoming Calgary comedian for his end of year Broadcasting documentary assignment.|
Castiglione says audiences are increasing dramatically for documentary film, but that students have to be agile with all types of media in order to earn their audience. Instead of waiting for a major network to air their work, documentary filmmakers are streaming their stuff on personal websites, maintaining channels on sites like YouTube and Vimeo, entering into film festivals and pitching to Netflix and VICE.
“This is documentary designed for a new generation,” he says. “They want to see media that matters.”
Impressed by the courage his students show in tackling extremely difficult subjects, Castiglione encourages them to approach subjects using their own creativity.
“I want them to break out of that mold that mainstream media has put filmmakers in for a long time, and do it their way. Don’t be afraid to try,” he says.
“I’m trying to get young filmmakers to create the future of film.”
Documentaries focus in on hard-to-break-into industriesStudent Sheehan Desjardins’ documentary Rough Draft stands out not only for the depth of the story, which features a young Calgary hockey player anticipating the outcome of the upcoming Bantam hockey draft (considered a pivotal first step towards a career in the NHL), but also for that fact that she gained access to Canuck footage and interviewed three Vancouver hockey players who were not chosen during their first crack at drafts in their home provinces. Forwards Derek Dorsett and Alex Burrows and defenseman Chris Tanev speak of the rejection they all experienced in their hockey career, and how that affected their outlook of the sport. Also featured in the film are Canuck Head Coach Willie Desjardins and Assistant Coach Doug Lidster.
“This is a story about hockey, but it’s also about much more than that,” says Desjardins. “It’s a story about defying the odds. It’s about proving people wrong. It’s about getting back up and not giving up.”
Lucas Roberts’ documentary Bullet (Biting the) followed Calgary comedian Derek Adams on his quest for laughs throughout one evening entrenched in the city’s comedy scene.
“I’ve always been fascinated with these niche communities,” Roberts says, adding he found the direct correlation between success and failure (a joke is funny or it’s not) in comedy as symbolic of the type of nerve it takes to even attempt to make a name for yourself in the industry.
Both documentaries are about dreams and the effort it takes to attain the level of success you are looking for. And both students say that Mount Royal’s Broadcasting program has provided them with the foundation they need to do the same in the competitive trades of broadcasting and filmmaking.
“There’s the obvious, direct skills that you learn, like how to run the equipment and the software. For sure a big part of it is learning to use the technology and these big cameras and equipment, but I feel like what I’m walking away with more than anything is the knowledge of how to build a narrative and tell a story,” says Roberts.
“As a broadcasting student at Mount Royal University we have the opportunity to bring stories to life. We get to find the story, learn the story, and at the end of the day, tell the story,” says Desjardins.
“The key is finding something compelling to tell, and then using the techniques we teach you at Mount Royal to pull that story together so that people will be able to understand it, and be informed and entertained,” says Castiglione.
New Broadcast Media Studies degree corresponds with the changing industryFall 2016 will see the first students of Mount Royal’s BCMM - BMS program begin their journey towards a future in an industry that has changed more in the past 20 years than perhaps any other field out there. The only degree of its kind available in Western Canada, the BCMM – BMS will allow students the opportunity to be marketable at high levels.
“Giving them that degree gives them a little more background, more understanding of issues,” says Castiglione.
“It allows them to mature as journalists, gives them more practice here, more feedback here, and they have access to some really, really top-notch journalists who decided that they wanted to share their gifts and skills with students because they love our business.
“I think the degree program will absolutely equip them to just have more knowledge, more experience, with people who have actually done it. “
What the future holdsMount Royal students are readily equipped to manage what may seem to be a future in an uncertain field.
“I try to get the students’ heads around the idea that there are other ways to tell stories other than the evening news, which is an area where audiences are declining,” says Castiglione.
“I encourage them that it will happen for them, that it's in the segue between medias, and that they get to be part of the people who create that evolution.”
Stories are as important as they ever were, it’s just that they are being told differently now.
Desjardins will be attending Ryerson University in the fall for their Journalism Degree. In the meantime she will be embarking on a summer internship at CTV in Calgary.
“My dream job would be to be a foreign correspondent. And I don’t know it that’s because I’m naïve and 20 years old and don’t really think things through, but the reason I would love to do war correspondence is because I think those are the best stories, the top of the top stories, the stories that I think people won’t tell unless you ask them.
“Someone has to tell those stories, and if I got to be that person, and tell them right, I think that would be the most amazing thing in the whole world.”
Roberts has scored a full-time position with Calgary radio stations KOOL 101.5 and WILD 95.3, although he doesn’t see himself navigating completely away from the filmmaking world.
“I’ve been asking myself the question, ‘What do I want to do vs. what can I do?’” he says. “I want to be telling stories that I want to tell, making the most of it and having fun with it.”
When he is not in the classroom, Castiglione runs his own production company called Cielo Pictures Inc. He has produced numerous award-winning documentaries and television news specials through Cielo, working for humanitarian organizations, networks, small and large companies and investor relations groups, following his own advice of finding a good story to tell and then telling it well. Having travelled to all four corners of the globe, often Castiglione just chases what he finds interesting at the moment, with the footage he captures becoming part of his remarkable repository of film.
April 21, 2016 — Michelle Bodnar