Freshman Documentation

COMLife Wins National Award

By Allison Thomasseau
BU Today
February 10, 2011

COMlife, the College of Communication’s online reality show, recently won a national Best of Clicker 2010 award, coming in third in the Best Web Non-Fiction category.

Clicker, an online guide to internet television founded in 2009, bestows awards to popular television shows on the web, based on viewer votes.

COMlife was “up against Time’s Ten Questions, The Guardian’s In the Director’s Chair, and David Lynch’s online show Interview Project,” says Micha Sabovik, COM assistant dean, so the award is especially exciting. “We’re very proud to be nominated, and we’re very pleased with the response that we got. The Clicker award puts us on the map—a little map, but it’s still a map.”

COMlife documents the lives of COM freshmen Jason Kashdan and Kate Scott, and is a collaboration between Sabovik and Mark Denega (COM’12) and Paul Kresge (COM’11). The show was originally a promotional tool showing prospective students about a COM student’s life.

“We decided it might be smarter to move away from what we had done previously, mostly stuff in the vein of conventional admissions videos,” Denega says, “and make something different— something more candid and less superficial. High school kids want to know what college is like, and they love reality TV. So, we thought, why not make a reality series about freshmen?”

Scott agreed that a reality show would be a creative and effective way to reach high school students. “I would have definitely watched something like this when I was in high school, and I know how hard the college decision can be,” she says, “so I love that I can give prospective students a little taste of COM.”

The creators interviewed 40 freshmen at last summer’s orientation. They looked for students who would not only feel at ease in front of the camera, but who would be representative of COM.

“I’m a film student, used to being behind the camera, so I thought it would be really interesting to experience the other side,” says Kashdan, “and interesting to have a documentary of my four years here; a documentary of a film student.”

COMlife is unique in that Kashdan and Scott generate all the show’s footage. They film their daily activities with flip cams, and the footage is later spliced with interviews and campus scenes. The episodes are posted on the COM YouTube channel every two to three weeks.

Although the show has been more successful than first anticipated, its need for short, timely web episodes has posed challenges.

“We have little time to turn hours of footage into a 5- to 10-minute webisode. It’s hard, especially when it has to be cohesive,” says Denega. “Another challenge has been trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t—what people are responding to well, what they want to see, and what bores them.”

COMlife has changed over its first season, adding a theme song and adjusting the overall structure
of the videos. The creators hope to follow Scott and Kashdan through their four years, adding two new freshmen each year.

The show has been submitted to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation’s 2011 College Television Awards, a nationwide competition recognizing excellence in student-produced video, digital, and film production. Winners will be announced on April 9.


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