Alma College is rolling out a new 60-second television commercial that uses stop motion photography, upbeat music and humorous visual affects to promote the “Alma Experience” to multiple audiences.

The commercial will air on television throughout the state in coming weeks. In addition, the spot is posted on YouTube, where already it is generating attention on the Internet.

“This commercial is going to be a hit,” said 2010 Alma graduate Vaughn Brines, who worked with in-house professionals and student staff to produce the commercial during his senior year.

More than 20,000 photographs — including shots taken to scout campus locations and test scenes, actors and extras — were taken in preparing the TV spot. The actual commercial incorporates more than 500 still images all packed within a 60-second storyline that illustrates the many transformative opportunities that students have to learn and grow during their four years at Alma.

Brines, who completed a Program of Emphasis major in screenwriting and film production at Alma, was approached by the college’s marketing and communications office to direct an in-house production of a TV commercial for the College. Brines, who interned with a professional Brazilian film company in Sao Paulo in 2007 and again in 2009, worked with a campus planning committee that included representatives from Admissions, Advancement and Marketing.

“We determined that we wanted an original project, something that had not been done before, and something that was professional, not amateurish,” said Brines, a student photographer and video editor during his four years at Alma. “We brainstormed various messages that we wanted to incorporate into the commercial, and we agreed we wanted to reach multiple audiences, including prospective students and families as well as alumni.”

Early in the planning, Brines and the planning committee determined that stop motion photography, not video, would be the means to an original presentation of the Alma Experience.

“With stop motion photography, you have more latitude for presenting concepts of time and space,” said Brines. “You can take more dramatic and creative leaps from scene to scene than you can with video. We had so many scenes to describe the Alma Experience — to try to do it with video would have been nearly impossible. Plus, stop action is novel, artistic and fun to watch.”

Brines worked with marketing and communications office staff to coordinate the shooting of the 19 scenes depicting the fictional Alma Experience of student James Thomson, Lachine senior. Playing a supportive role as James’ fictional girlfriend in the spot is Gabby Abrego, Rochester Hills senior. Both James and Gabby are real Alma students, not professional actors.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better individual to play the main character,” says Brines. “James never questioned what we asked of him. He brought everything — including an enthusiastic commitment to the project, a willingness to take risks and super facial expressions — into every scene.”

The final version is fast moving, often humorous and highly visual. Many scenes include student extras and glimpses of Alma faculty playing cameo roles. Most scenes were shot on-campus, with the exception of the bowling, airport and Scottish countryside scenes. The off-campus scene depicting Scotland was actually shot on a mid-Michigan farm that raises Highland cattle.

Some scenes were more complex and challenging than others. The bowling scene, for example, was shot from the top rung of a nine-foot ladder as James “bowled” down the lane. In the rock-wall scene, Brines shot the climbing photos while clinging on his own rope with one hand.

Helping set the tone for the commercial are music and lyrics by the Freelance Whales, a New York City band that granted musical rights to the college.

The commercial’s “call to action” is an invitation to view additional “Alma Experience” content on the Alma College Website:

The site asks for submissions from Alma alumni to submit their own “Alma Experience” videos.

(c) 2010, WWJ Newsradio 950. All rights reserved.


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