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Sask Scene project puts INCA students to work
The Indian Communication Arts program at the First Nations University of Canada is making a business out of teaching its students, in more ways than one.
Over the summer, 10 students from the department took part in the Sask Scene project, traveling across the province, visiting festivals, interviewing young people about what they think of Saskatchewan, and using cameras to document the whole thing.
The results of their work can be found online at www.saskscene.com.
While on the surface this might sound like a typical project for students in a media communications program to take on, what makes this project different is that the student's weren't answering to an instructor and working to get a good mark, they were answering to a paying client, who expected a quality product, produced on time and on budget.
The team of students was contracted to complete the project by the Saskatchewan department of Industry and Resources, as part of the provincial government's Our Future's Wide Open marketing campaign.
It was that campaign that provided the inspiration for the Sask Scene project, explained Shannon Avison, director of the Indian Communication Arts program (INCA).
"We started thinking about marketing Saskatchewan to its own people, and particularly to its own youth. Because that's kind of the big group that we work with, are mostly young people. And so we approached the Saskatchewan department of Industry and Resources with a proposal to use our facility in the Indian Communication Arts department, which includes digital video cameras and non-linear video editing suites and sound equipment and lighting and so on, to make use of that equipment. And at the same time to hire students from all levels of our program to go out and talk to youth in Saskatchewan about what it means to be a youth in Saskatchewan. They used the slogan 'Why they want to live, work and play in Saskatchewan,' to encourage people to think about why they would stay in Saskatchewan," she said.
"So we went through all the regular negotiations and so on, and the project was approved. And it was approved very quickly. I was actually surprised at how quickly it was approved. I think they were really keen right away, the idea of youth talking to youth was really important. The fact that we were a First Nations institution wasn't really important to start with at all. It was just that we had capacity and sort of a real keen interest in doing this project," Avison said.
"This was a professional gig. We had a contract with a government department. There was no latitude because we were students. We took it on as a production company, and we had deadlines ... this wasn't like a student make-up project. This was a real contract, and if we didn't carry out our end of the contract, then we wouldn't be paid," she said.
Tom Jordens, an INCA graduate, was hired as the project's senior producer, and the rest of the team was made up of current INCA students.
"INCA students tend to double major, because at this point, INCA's a certificate. So we had INCA students who are also film students, and they tended to be more senior and they did a lot of the editing. But people really crossed over. People would shoot and script and edit, and then do the running around and do the office management as well," Avison said.
While the Web site features interviews filmed at 33 events from across the province, Jordens estimated the Sask Scene team visited closer to 50 events.
"We probably interviewed about 200 people on camera. And almost to the person, they were all positive about the province, about their homes, what they saw their futures as, that type of thing. Our target audience was kind of the 16 to 30 year old crowd, and probably the majority of them were in their early twenties. And like I said, they all had positive futures, they all want to stay in Saskatchewan." Jordens said.
"It was quite an eye-opener because going into it, you know, I expected to talk o people who liked the province, but I didn't expect to talk to that many people. And I expected to hear a few more complaints or gripes. And in the events I went to, I never heard anyone complaining."
This isn't the first time INCA has taken on a real-world project.
In the past students have done a series of lectures for another of the university's departments, and have worked on training projects, magazine writing and television production. But Sask Scene was by far the largest project the department has taken on to date.
"We really are into practical, make money, pay the students for the work that they do kind of projects," Avison said. "We'd love to do some more."
Another project INCA would like to take on is more or less a continuation of the Sask Scene project, this time concentrating on winter festivals across Saskatchewan. In the meantime, the Sask Scene Web site has provided INCA with a valuable tool for marketing their services-a concrete, online example of the services the department and its students can provide.
"What we want to do is market the department as a production centre that a media organization or a Crown corporation can come to us ... they can come and see what we can do, the quality of the work that we can do," Avison said. "And then we can market the students, and then develop more projects like this. And we hope to continue."
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