Looking for a way to produce four professional, high-quality public service announcements (PSA) without the high cost usually charged by industry professionals, the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks turned to California State University, Dominguez Hills’ Digital Media Arts (DMA) Department and got a great price—free.
The city pitched the PSA project to seniors in the DMA 346 Client-Based Production Workshop, the third and final course in a three-semester sequence required for the DMA Television Arts degree option. This course is one reason the DMA program has proven popular among local industry, non-profits and city agencies, as well as groups on campus that—along with no cost—are familiar with the quality of the work its students produce.
Word spreads real fast when you can have a professional PSA made for free. We have community organizations and campus groups come to our class and make a pitch. Leslie Richter, a representative for the City of Los Angeles, came to the class and said ‘We’d like to make PSAs that show that the city has a lot of parks and places where one can exercise outside,’” said DMA professor and department chair George Vinovich. “This class is the first time our students produce a project in which a client tells them, ‘These are our needs, and this is how it needs to be made.”
The four PSAs produced for the city were, “A Healthy Lifestyle is Just a Click Away,” by students Kimberly Esslinger and Danayia Steadham; “Your Park is Your Gym,” Charli Harris and Anthony Davila; “Never Too Old,” Marcus Scott and Matthew Gallimore: and “Our City is Our Gym,” Jonathan Romero and Ronald White.
Harris (’15, B.A., digital media arts) co-produced and was assistant director of photography for “Your Park is Your Gym.” During her time in the DMA program and through working on this project, she learned a lot about the variety of locations available to film in the region, and how to work with several types of clients.
“It was easy to work with them [City of Los Angeles]. We listened to what her [Richter’s] ideas were, and she listened to ours. It was a team effort that made it easy for everyone to add input,” said Harris, a Rialto resident. “I really learned some good communication skills working with our client. “What’s great is I can get reference letters from clients like these, which will help me a lot in my career.”
As a graded course assignment, a critical component of the project is the requirement that the students “please the client and achieve the client’s goals,” according to Vinovich.
“They need to fulfill the client’s needs. The students screen the pieces for the clients, then they make the changes the client asks for. When the client is happy, the students present their project to me for class credit,” said Vinovich. “I give them a grade based on how professional it looks and sounds. Of course the clients are happy just to get it for free, but I push the students hard to make sure it’s a professional-looking product that would impress other professionals working in this field.”
Vinovich believes that the diversity of the work and instruction available to DMA students has positioned the program perfectly for L.A.’s rebounding film and television industries.
“Along with a PSA and client-based project, the program requires our students to produce a professional looking music video, and a documentary similar to an episode of 60 Minutes or 20/20,” said Vinovich. “They must also produce a short movie that is 10 to 12 minutes long with professional actors, and an instructional video.”
Over the past several years, students in the DMA program have produced instructional videos for such clients as Shell Oil, orientation videos for the Orange County Juvenile Detention Center, and U.S. Vets, which helps homeless military veterans, and several campus videos for groups such as Student Affairs, Student Housing, Student Psychological Services, and the Black Student Union.
“In the program, you’re not limited to the number of client-based projects you can take on. I was fortunate enough to have a group of producers, and we took on about four,” said Marcus Scott, a Pasadena resident who graduated in spring 2014 with an emphasis in television arts. “We worked with the YMCA, KTLA 5, a Taste of Soul, L.A. Parks and Recreation, and the CSUDH [College] of Education. I got the chance do some more entertainment-based work as well. These projects were great for me because I got to see all of the different aspects of video.”
Scott has launched the film production company, Burning Jungle Gorillas (BJG), with a few former DMA classmates. BJG is currently developing music videos and similar projects for its clients.
“It’s great when you hear people’s reaction to your video [the PSA]. Ours was about senior citizens, so we had them texting, talking back and forth—we set out to make it a little funny, and I think it came across kind of cute,” said Scott. “One wonderful lady who worked with us fed us spaghetti and meatballs after we finished working with her.”
The four PSAs will “likely” be shown on the City of Los Angeles’ television cable channel, and the city will attempt to get it aired on local stations, according to Vinovich. Esslinger and Steadham saw their PSA run on the jumbotron during halftime at a Los Angeles Clippers game.
“CSUDH DMA students have so far created four very impressive public service announcements for the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks,” said Richter. “The PSAs were creative, fresh, and professional. They delivered a perfect call-to-action—‘find your healthy’ at your local park, senior center, or at any of our park venues within the city.”
When they graduate from CSUDH, the students leave with all their projects on a demo reel, which demonstrates the range and scope of the work they have done, and “really opens doors for them,” according to Vinovich.
“After all of our hard work we did on the PSA, for it to be played and watched on TV, or wherever else it places, will really be great and make me proud,” said Harris, who has started her own photography business and would like to expand into videography. “It will make me feel confident—that I’m actually in the right field.”