Click on the editing doors of the Reel to Red Productions Website http://www.reeltored.com, and you’ll find seven animated commercial spots for the university.
Click on the screening room at the reeltored.com website, and you’ll find trailers for the productions that have won awards for Reel to Red Productions. The program has come a long way since it started in 2004.
“It was an internship program in the office of University relations,” said Chelse Benham, director of Reel to Red Productions and TV specialist V for University Relations at the University of Texas-Pan American.
“It was sort of a student production company inside of the office of university relations,” Benham said. “Really it was an internship program that I kind of set up to give students applicable work experience in TV production. But we have expanded way beyond that. In the last seven months we won a Lone Star Emmy from the state of Texas, a Webby People’s Voice Award, and a Telly.”
The tellyawards.com website says that the Telly Awards “honor the very best local, regional, and cable television commercials and programs, as well as the finest video and film productions, and work created for the Web.”
Reel to Red Productions won its Telly this year for seven animated commercial spots collectively titled the “Who Knew” campaign behind the editing doors on the organization’s website.
“That’s the one that won in the professional category. We weren’t (competing) against students,” Benham said. “That’s saying a lot because we had zero budget. We didn’t work with any budget. We weren’t competing with other students, so we’re very pleased with the result.”
James Hernandez, 28, worked on the “Who Knew” campaign that won the Telly award.
“All seven campaigns follow certain characters, and there’s a male and female character,” said Hernandez, a public relations and advertising senior at UTPA. He played the male character in the piece Location, Location, Location, which he developed. .
“It’s actually to bring to light a lot of things that maybe some students or potential students knew nothing about the university,” he said. “Hence, Who Knew?”
In the “Location”, students and potential students were shown what was available near campus, such as Mexico and South Padre Island.
“Of course, we have another commercial that was advertising the affordability of Pan-Am compared to other universities,” he said. “Well, Who Knew it was that affordable? And so on and so on. They all follow the same formula, we just emphasize different benefits.”
Numerous students worked on different components of the Who Knew campaign.
“I did the audio,” said Oscar Garza, 28, who just finished his master’s degree in English. He plans to teach but also do free-lance work on the side for video production and media. He’s very proud of his work on the “Who Knew” campaign.
“My feeling toward all that is just an actual sense of accomplishment, kind of like hard does pay off,” Garza said. “It feels like it’s not work. That’s probably the best way I can describe it is, working on these things, it’s not working at all.”
While the Telly award was for the seven commercial spots, the Webby People’s Voice Award this year was for the entire website, Benham said.
“It was global,” she said. “It is the Oscars of the Internet. It awards the best Internet content sites, websites, blogs, globally. And we were in competition with Germany and California and North Carolina and beat them out for the People’s Voice Award and we just returned from New York City on that. And then of course we’ve won two Lone Star Emmy’s for two productions.”
Viewers who click on the screening room will find trailers for the productions that have won Emmys for the organization. The trailer for Dead Letter won an Emmy in 2007.
“It was a trigger film,” Benham said. “A trigger film is what you call a short film dealing with some heavy issues that triggers dialogue with teenagers, or at-risk youth. It’s used as a way of creating conversation and our film was 20 minutes long.”
To make this film, she and some students went to a detention center in Hidalgo County and spoke with 18- and 19-year-old detainees who were fresh in prison or waiting to go into the prison system. There were five issues in the film: teen pregnancy, going to college, substance abuse, teen relationship violence, and drinking and driving.
“Those were the five issues of the film and then with the testimonials we kind of show you what consequences there are if you really make the wrong decision,” Benham said. “And then we created an animated comic book.”
Reel to Red also won an Emmy in 2009 for a documentary called Heart of Experience. In that film, the team from Reel to Red followed a study abroad group that went to Europe.
“That Heart of Experience won a competition in Germany because social media and education was the conference,” Benham said. “It had won because of the shock that our students encountered with things in Europe, especially the Holocaust. And so that documentary is an hour long, and it won the Lone Star Emmy for that. We are very very busy. We do a lot of things.”
The group’s latest project is the Bucky Challenge game that will soon be released on Apple iTunes.
“It’s a 2D five level sports game,” Benham said. “It’s free. It’ll be able to be played by anybody who downloads it. Bucky’s our mascot here at the university, and so we used him and the buildings and various places on campus as our images and created the animation and game aspect in this software program for the iPhone or iTouch, so that once we publish on iTunes, anybody who wants to can download it and they’re gonna play a game that has our mascot and our university and our signage all over it. We’re very excited about that. ”