Friday night, students and other amphitheater attendees danced to the sound of amped up music and watched as images of Band of Horses and the Avett Brothers flashed across two enormous screens. What they may not have known is that it was also students who were making sure all of this happened.
The telecommunication and film department provided student volunteers to work both shows during the venue’s opening weekend, the Avett Brothers featuring the Band of Horses on Friday and Patti LaBelle on Saturday.
Rachel Raimist, a professor in the TCF department, said Red Mountain Entertainment originally approached her about using students for live production of the concert.
“In early December, I got an email from a representative from Red Mountain, the booking and promotion company for the amphitheater,” Raimist said. “They were looking for somebody to be the in-house production crew, and they wanted to see if the TCF department was capable or interested.”
In response to this request, Raimist, who has a background in live music and concerts, replied they didn’t have the necessary moving camera equipment, so the city would have to provide that.
“I also told him that with students you have to have the expectation that it won’t be perfect,” she said. “It’s a learning process and the students need feedback. I wanted it to be more like an internship where a mistake becomes a thing that students can learn from.”
Over the past two months, Red Mountain has been working with the TCF department, negotiating various things from the amount and type of equipment to the number of students who would form the team, which ended up including 20 students.
Raimist said Red Mountain and the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater staff were pleased with how it turned out.
The students did this work on a volunteer basis for a learning experience, Raimist said. From what she understands, they will continue performing this service for the city of Tuscaloosa.
“After the two shows they told us to get ready for Sugarland, so it’s my understanding that we can continue this relationship between TCF and the amphitheater as long as it’s fruitful for both parties,” Raimist said. “Ethically I couldn’t charge someone for our labor because these are students in positions that they’ve never had before.”
Ben Goertz, the multi-camera mentor for the student crew and an adjunct professor in the TCF department, said he helped the students with the live video production.
There were many duties performed by students ranging from running items between other students, charging batteries and more, Raimist said. Goertz helped specifically with the technical directing.
“The technical director in a live video production means you’re the person watching all the screens, looking at all the camera angles,” Goertz said. “You have a board with all the buttons in front of you and it’s kind of like Star Wars. You have to sit there and pick out which cameras to cut to. That’s where all the central things are happening. That’s where everything runs to.
“I walked them through all of that and talked to them beforehand and we did a technical run-through,” he said. “The night of the show I showed them a little bit of it and then I passed it over to the students. By the end of it I didn’t have a job, I was just supervising.”
Goertz said he was impressed with how smoothly everything went.
“I think the main thing that is really impressive is that for a lot of these students this was a new experience for them,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to direct and produce a live event that features very prominent artists. These students get to turn around when they graduate and bring this to employers as something they’ve done that went really well.”
Raimist said she agreed with Goertz about the importance of experience.
“It’s an opportunity for students to gain professional experience more than a paycheck,” Raimist said. “It’s like an internship program.”
Mary Catherine Keith, a senior majoring in TCF, said she felt it was a great experience and she hopes that one day the TCF department will have a contract with the city.
“This really is a great promotion for our program,” Keith said. “First the music video (for rapper Waajeed), and now we’re doing videography for the amphitheater. Hopefully this will expand our major and department. The workers at the amphitheater were very impressed with us. They said it was something that could be on MTV and they said they couldn’t believe it was students that were doing the work.”
“It’s my understanding that this is the first time in the country that a student-run show is an in-house production team for a multimillion-dollar venue,” Raimist said. “It’s a special and rare opportunity. I think that TCF is really lucky that the city of Tuscaloosa is willing to give us this chance.”