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University Professor Geoffrey Hill, at the Marsh Chapel Poetry Reading, Friday, April 18, 5:30 p.m.

Week of 11 April 2003· Vol. VI, No. 28

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And the winner is . . .
BU Productions wins Telly Award for undergrad recruitment video

By Tim Stoddard

Chris Palmer (left), Nancy Marrs, and Phil Zekos of BU Productions recently won a bronze Telly Award for “Accept the Challenge,” a recruitment video for prospective BU undergraduates. The statuette, which is manufactured by the same company that makes the Emmys and Oscars, will arrive at BU in May. Photo by Vernon Doucette


Chris Palmer (left), Nancy Marrs, and Phil Zekos of BU Productions recently won a bronze Telly Award for “Accept the Challenge,” a recruitment video for prospective BU undergraduates. The statuette, which is manufactured by the same company that makes the Emmys and Oscars, will arrive at BU in May. Photo by Vernon Doucette


A television and video equivalent of an Oscar, the Telly Award, will soon be gracing the offices of Nancy Marrs, Philip Zekos, and Chris Palmer at Boston University Productions. The threesome recently found out that the 15-minute recruitment video they produced for the Undergradute Office of Admissions won a Telly for outstanding nonnetwork and cable TV programming, commercials, and videos.

The piece, entitled “Accept the Challenge,” gives prospective undergraduates and their parents the freshest look at Boston University in six years. The final cut was the culmination of 12 months of filming and editing by the BU Productions team, which is part of the University’s Media Group. “You live and breathe a project like this,” says Marrs, who was executive producer on the video, “especially as you get down to the last two months when the editing is really intense. It’s such a team effort — we really put our hearts and souls into it.”

Last fall, the Admissions Office presented the video at 75 recruitment programs for high school juniors and seniors around the United States and abroad. “We absolutely love this piece, and we’re not surprised that students and families have responded very favorably to it,” says Kelly Walter, director of admissions. “We have received standing ovations at the conclusions of our events. So we know that the video is striking a chord with these students.”

The Admissions Office and BU Productions have collaborated on several recruitment videos over the past 12 years. In spring 2001, Walter and Marrs began planning the new piece as part of a larger effort to revamp all of BU’s recruitment materials. While the previous video, “Consider the Possibilities,” was outstanding in its own right, Walter says, it was beginning to look dated after six years because it failed to show off many of the new facilities around campus.

The first glimpse that many prospective students now have of BU is from a helicopter cruising over the Charles River Campus on a glorious fall day. The aerial footage is augmented by other campus shots — flowering cherry trees in Marsh Plaza, snowy riverscapes, and swarms of students in transit along Comm Ave. But the scene-setting quickly segues into the main thrust of the video, which is presenting the superior academics at BU.
“ We are really trying to target high-ability high school juniors and seniors with this video,” says Walter. The profile of the typical BU applicant has changed significantly since the last video was produced in 1997, she says, and as a result, the admissions process has become more selective. “Ten years ago, we would admit abut 75 percent of our applicant pool, but now we admit 38 percent. So we’re competing with the best institutions in the country for this limited pool of very talented students.”

The academic rigor of Boston University is presented from the perspective of 10 poised and articulate undergraduates from diverse academic, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds. Several talk about thriving in an academic environment that promotes faculty-student interactions. Others describe the rewards of doing independent research, such as the Work for Distinction and Undergraduate Research Opportunity Programs.

“ Our videos in the past have focused on pretty traditional academics,” says Walter. “We would show what happens in the classroom and then concentrate on student life.” But the new video presents a brave new BU, with classrooms and laboratories outfitted with state-of-the-art-technology. In one scene, a professor and student explore a three-dimensional model of a human heart projected on the Scientific Computing and Visualization Group’s deep-vision display wall.

The video and the other recruitment materials seem to be successfully attracting the high-ability students that the Admissions Office has been looking for. The number of undergraduate applications increased by 9 percent this year, Walter says, and “it was the strongest applicant pool in the history of the University.”

Zekos and Palmer were the primary cameramen for all campus footage collected over the course of the 2001–02 academic year. They also spent long hours digitizing the footage and editing the program. Palmer designed two special effects montages that present BU’s vast number of sports and activities in a short amount of time. There are even computer generated fly-throughs of the soon-to-be-opened John Hancock Student Village.

“ It’s a beautiful representation of this University,” says Marrs, “and it’s an honest representation, too. Clearly, the students we interviewed were selected for a reason: we thought that they would do well on camera and represent BU well. But they’re telling their own stories based on their own experiences.”

As a silent film, the footage would be handsome in its own right. But with the benefit of an original score composed by a Somerville company, the piece really sings. “When it finally came together and the score was in, that’s when it really got exciting, because the music added this emotional element to the program,” Marrs says. “The first time I heard it, a tear came to my eye, which is exactly what you want. Granted, I’m very invested in it, but if you can get that kind of emotional reaction from a viewer, that is what’s the most gratifying.”

Boston University Productions is a full-service video production group offering professional services for the design and production of promotional, documentary, educational, corporate, commercial, and multimedia programs. For more information about these services, visit http://www.bu.edu/media/boston.html.


11 April 2003
Boston University
Office of University Relations