Category Archives: Inside COM Classrooms

Producing Prowess – Jobs in Television Production

By Keiko Talley
MS Journalism ’16
BU College of Communication

NFL—if you don’t watch the games, you know what the letters mean: National Football League.  This year at COM, we were graced with the presence of two amazing producers who work with the NFL at an event called Producing Prowess. The two were guest speakers invited by Professor Andrea Kremer who teaches a class on the Art of the Interview.

Hilary Guy from the NFL Network, also a COM alumni, and Jordan Kronick from HBO Real Sports flew in from Los Angeles and New York respectively to give us an inside look as on their jobs as producers on various projects. When Guy started out at COM, she thought she wanted to be an on-camera reporter, but it wasn’t until her internship at the assignment desk at NBC that Guy started to fall in love with the jobs behind the camera. It was then that she decided to become a producer. Guy told students that the best thing a newcomer could do is to ask to learn a new job, or to observe a job they aren’t familiar with. Guy and Kronick both agreed that they remember those who offer to help out in other areas more than their designated jobs. She told students that was how she got to become a producer, showing her interests and making it her job to learn everyone else’s job.


Kronick discussed his newer project Death on Everest where he spent two ski seasons in Nepal to uncover the dangers of climbing Mt. Everest. He explained the process of finding the right characters for his story and discussed how as a documentarian, he has the freedom to take his time on some of his projects.

Guy works at a much faster pace, with quick turn-around on stories and covering breaking news. She later showed some of the interviews she produced with Andrea Kremer and the New England Patriots. She discussed with students the creative production that went into turning boring locker rooms into a magically lit set, and how she used metal cylinders and different lighting to change the scene to add more depth to interviews.

Producing Prowess introduced students to various other job opportunities that are available besides the on-camera talent. As a producer, it is important to keep your crew ready at all times. You almost act as a parent to the camera crew, talent, audio crew, and anyone else contributing to the project. It is important for students to know that there are various jobs available, and even though they won’t be in front of camera, the process could eventually lead them to that placement if their interest still holds. Andrea Kremer insists that learning how to produce and work behind the camera will be of tremendous help for when you’re in front of the camera because it gives you a better idea as to what the crew wants; learning behind the camera jobs will allow you to be one step ahead of the game as on-camera talent.


Picture Credit: Susan Walker

Strategic Brand Solutions

By Ali Parisi
MS Public Relations ’16
BU College of Communication

If you’re still looking to add another class to your fall schedule, CM 726 Strategic Brand Solutions, could be something to consider.  This advertising course takes a current look at marketing communications issues and the impact these issues have on brands and their audiences.

“It used to be called problem solving,” according to Professor John Verret, who has been teaching the course for the past 17 years.  “That’s what it is: looking at problems and then looking at the way brands have solved them and the way brands haven’t solved them, and thinking about what they might do.”  The problems come from a wide range of areas, whether it is a distribution problem, quality problem, or new market problem.  For the most part, the issues are usually about the way consumers react to brands and brand messaging.

These problems are examined in case studies of various brands and organizations.  Prof. Verret chooses mostly current examples, a lot coming from The Wall Street Journal (required reading for the course).  Other case studies are classic examples and still very applicable today.  One such older case study is Where the Suckers Moon: The Life and Death of an Advertising Campaign.  The book looks at Subaru and how advertising nearly killed this brand, which, according to Verret, is one of the greatest brands that has been around forever and isn’t going anytime soon.   “The objective is to learn as much about strategies that work and strategies that don’t work,” says Verret.

After 17 years of teaching this course, a lot has changed.  However, Professor Verret claims that the most important things remain essentially the same.  “Everything has changed about advertising except human nature,” says Verret.

If this course doesn’t already sound interesting, then consider the benefits.  “One of the things people tell us they like about their kids is that they’ve learned a little bit about critical thinking,” adds Verret.  “That’s what I want: critical thinkers.”  Not only do students study concrete examples of the marketing communications industry, but they also develop skills that make them more attractive to employers.

I immediately became interested in this class when I read the course description.  Now I’m registered to take it and excited to see what’s in store this fall!

Creating Video Campaigns

By Michelle Marino
MS Journalism ’15
BU College of Communication

Have you ever wondered what goes into a video advertising campaign? Ever wanted to be behind-the-scenes of the creative process from idea to execution? You can do all of this in CM 518, a class called Creating Video Campaigns. This fall, Randy Hackett, a video content director, creative consultant and adjunct professor at BU,will teach students the craft of creating engaging video content. This includes everything from conceptual techniques, to the story and the use of camera and music.

“Video is such a ubiquitous presence in marketing communications,” Hackett says. “Everyone has to learn about it, not only how to utilize it from a production and practical standpoint but what makes it effective from a narrative, storytelling, and communication standpoint.” Although the class is generally geared towards advertising students, it is available to anyone interested in creative production. According to Hackett, the class would benefit any student in a communications discipline and is an “idea muscle flexing course” for people in all fields of study.

Non-profits, corporations, institutions, ad agencies, PR firms, media outlets, blogs and new business ventures have begun relying increasingly on video content.“Every website has a video now,” Hackett says. “It’s kind of the ‘show me’ generation. People don’t have as much time to read – they want to be entertained and they want their information teed up for them.”

Although the class is not technical and stops at actual film production, it includes everything up to that point: developing storyboards, recommending suppliers, working with sound design, and everything in between. Hackett treats the class like a small agency, choosing real companies that might not have a significant video presence or are in need of a video campaign for a specific scenario. Students work in teams to develop the creative components, which are presented in-house and then in a client presentation.

Hackett’s real world work makes the class more dynamic as well. This year, he directed a shoot with Tae Bo guru Billy Blanks, a national commercial his students were able to observe on-set. Watch the Brother Printers commercial with Billy Blanks here.“


One of the advantages of the program at COM is a lot of professors have actual real life ongoing projects,” Hackett says. “It makes it feel a little bit more alive.” For graduate students interested in taking the class, the pre-requisites for Creating Video Campaigns are: CM 708 (Principles and Practices of Advertising), CM 707 (Writing for Multimedia), and CM 717 (Fundamentals of Creative Development).

Are you in advertising or another field and thinking Creating Video Campaigns might be for you? Have you taken the class? What skills did you learn?


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Narrative Non-Fiction Writing—A Class You Don’t Want to Miss!

By Gina Kim
MS Journalism ’16
BU College of Communication

The end of March means a lot of important things, but most of all, it reminds us that COM students have to pick out courses for the Fall. With just a month to go with our current Spring 2015 courses, it’s quite daunting to realize that we have to start planning out our final semester at COM. In the midst of advising appointments, checking off that list of whether we fulfilled our required courses for our disciplines, and beginning to sketch a broad outline of what our possible graduate theses will be in the fall, we often forget that there are certain courses that may not be required for most students, but will still be important to take nonetheless.

Professor Mark Kramer’s JO 527 Art of Non-Fiction Narrative Writing course is just one of many great writing classes that is welcome to all COM students, whether you’re Print, Broadcast, or even an undergrad student. It’s for anyone wishing to hone in on their already superb writing skills or to learn a completely different craft. It fulfills a student’s desire to understand the intricate mechanics of writing in such a way that cannot be taught by reading published examples alone. It’s something to constantly practice, sharpen, and eventually add on to your mile long list of skill-sets to boast about when you’re thrust into the industry.

Michelle Marino, a final semester Print Journalism graduate student at COM is currently enrolled in JO 527, where she’s been learning how to write for an audience, getting readers involved and practicing how to build upon a single great idea.

“Going into it, I knew it’d be a rigorous class that demanded lots of attention and sleepless nights of re-drafts and rewrites. I’d already taken Feature Writing last fall with Professor Ruppel-Shell, and it changed my life. I decided to take Non-Fiction Narrative as well, because I wanted to tell a more compelling story but in a different way. Narrative is about informing and educating people while still presenting them with hard facts,” she said.

There’s a lot to take away from a course like non-fiction narrative. COM already has a superb list of phenomenal, skill-building courses for students to take, and with a superstar lineup of faculty in all long-form writing courses, Professor Mark Kramer rounds out that list with JO 527.

“First of all, there’s no syllabus,” Michelle said. “Students are to come up with seven ideas that you’d plan to write about for the semester. You then narrow your idea down to the point where you have a viable one to focus on. Kramer than chips away at something until you find the core focus. After being approved, you report a first draft. You get to take a whack at it for the next class if there are things to fix. There’s a long process of going through several drafts but it’s so helpful because it forces you to take your time to produce the absolute best you can.”

Hunting for an informative course where you can have fun and tap into your full writing potential? Look no further. Check out JO 527 and make room for it either this Fall or Spring 2016 semester!


A Laboratory for Visual Storytelling: COM’s New Cinema and Media Production MFA

By Michelle Marino
MS Journalism ’15
BU College of Communication

We hear a lot at COM about the shifting media landscape. Every day, new technological advances are making it possible for us to produce and consume media in ways we never have before. Keeping up with technology is essential, but no matter what industry you’re in, one thing is clear: telling a compelling story is at the core of everything we do. COM’s newly re-launched MFA in Cinema and Media Production, spawned out of this philosophy, provides an advanced degree for students interested in taking film beyond its fundamentals and honing their storytelling skills.

“What we have come to realize is students now are much more technically sophisticated,” says Jan Egleson, Associate Professor of the Practice in Film & Television. “In the old days, film school’s function was to teach people arcane technology. Students today are much more adept at using equipment but they still have the difficulty of telling stories. That’s where we’ve been pushing the program.” Though the new MFA does also involve technical skills, they mainly function as support tools for the film’s overall objective. “The focus is storytelling and the skills of fiction film-making,” Egleson says. “You’re working with actors, breaking down scenes, and structuring a story to convey it visually.”


Prospective candidates for the program, which launches in Fall 2015, are required to come in with a baseline of both technical and storytelling skills. Whether they’ve learned it on their own or through an undergraduate film program, they must demonstrate they’ve already mastered the basics to apply to the films they’ll work on during the course of their MFA. When accepted, students already know their designated film making role, whether it be director, producer, or cinematographer. This fall, three producers, three cinematographers, and six directors will join the crew. Before first semester, students are asked to pitch three film ideas, which are continually honed and vetted until arriving on one film concept that will be the focus for the duration of the program.

As the film landscape continuously changes, so do the types of films students will work on. “We’re platform agnostic,” Egleson says. “If you come in and say I want to make a web series – ten, 10-minute webisodes – you can do that. If you want to make a 30 minute film, that works. As long as you can convince us of the clarity of your vision we don’t care what the platform is. That’s the shift.” If you’re dead set on working towards a full length film, you might work on a section of it or a shorter version, says Egleson, which is how many full length features get their start.

CMPBlogPhoto4The new Cinema and Media Production MFA will continue its adaptive response to the new world after the switchover from conventional film to digital media. “Once that happens, it becomes very apparent to everybody that the focus needs to shift to the ideas behind this stuff. It’s very liberating,” Egleson says. “It means we can now be a laboratory for visual storytelling.”

Are you excited about the new face of the MFA in Cinema Media Production or have you thought about applying? Do you think it will support the changing film making landscape? Learn more here.