FRAME Media Strategies
For our Great University Campaign launch event in September 2022, we unveiled what the campaign would do for the University of Southern Maine. To this end, we wanted a video and event that would perfectly encapsulate why we were doing it—something that focused on the diverse range of students at USM and the remarkable grit and determination that they all have in common. The video would center on the lives of five students—Nadine Bravo, Abigail Harris, Asa Meyer-Waldo, Joshua Mutshaila, and Rona Scott—who are all striving to be great in their own ways. But we also wanted the kind of grit, hustle, and creativity behind the camera as well.
It was a natural choice, then, to work with USM alumni. Dave Loughran ’03 and Jim Cole ’02 (pictured left), along with Aaron Duffey, are partners at FRAME Media Strategies, a Portland company that creates “branded content, political media, and independent feature films with a distinctive point of view.” As such, they were swamped with making political ads during 2022’s election cycle yet still found time to make the “Great Takes Grit” video for their alma mater. They also took time to field some questions about the video, answered as a group and presented here.
Can you describe your thought process when this idea was presented to you?
The USM Foundation wanted something that felt big and outside the box. With several people on our team having graduated from USM, we wanted to tell a story through the lens of the students. The traditional approach would have been to identify students with compelling stories and interview them.
Instead, we decided to create a narrative arc without using voiceover. We thought we could build the video around the emotion of the student’s experience rather than through the traditional approach of having people speak to the camera.
It’s always exciting to have a documentary style but there is also a lot of risk that it will just not be very interesting. A lot of the magic comes from organic or “found” scenarios that we came up with on the spot. You just can’t plan EVERY shot of a video like this.
The University and students were amazing to work with. They opened up their homes, classrooms, construction sites, and recruited their families and friends to film early in the morning, late at night, and in multiple locations. This was instrumental in creating something that feels pretty big.
The USM Foundation gave us a tremendous amount of latitude to shoot what we felt would work best. That’s also exciting. We were able to shoot what we wanted and that helped us feel very close to and proud of the end product. The Foundation (and its Vice President Corey Hascall) also had a lot of great ideas to contribute, so it was a very satisfying, collaborative process.
To your mind, what was it about these five students in particular that made them such compelling figures for this narrative?
The experiences of these students are imminently relatable regardless of your background.
It’s cliché, but everyone has a story to tell. That’s just a fact.
Most people are living lives that are far more interesting than they realize. Often the details of our day feel like a grind. When you zoom out those details are anything but mundane. They combine to tell the story of the lives we are living.
So much of what we try to do in our work is to capture what people do in their daily lives in a way that’s interesting to watch. There is something satisfying about watching people do what they are passionate about.
The USM Foundation really did the work in finding students that tell the whole USM story, or at least as close as you can get in 4 minutes. There are so many lives represented in the video and the common point of connection is USM, and the commitment each student needs to have to get to graduation.
So, put simply, the USM Foundation’s casting was spot on. That’s half the battle! Then, we just followed the participants through their day and found beats that felt meaningful or are shared moments in a day between the participants. Sometimes that is as simple as turning on a light so they could keep working into the night.
In pre-production we did plan some moments in advance, but a lot of what you see in the video are scenes that we “discovered” on set, while talking with the students about their lives, their routines, their struggles and their triumphs.
How did your own experience at USM inform this video?
Dave Loughran ’03: USM is filled with a lot of badass people who know how to work hard. That was true when I was there 20 years ago, it is true today, and it will be true 20 years from now. People who graduated from USM love USM. Yet most of us don’t realize what USM means to us until long after we graduate. That’s almost a universal sentiment we hear when we talk to alumni.
Jim Cole ’02: One of the things that left an impression on me from my time at USM was the diversity of the students I met. I was an Art major, learning alongside students with many different backgrounds, experiences, ages, and areas of interest. It made the educational experience feel that much richer. When my own interests started to shift away from painting, and toward making movies, the Art Department faculty were totally supportive and found a way to incorporate that new interest into my major.
So when this video was being developed, I felt an immediate interest in the idea of highlighting the range of students’ backgrounds and interests. The approach of shaping the story based on what our participants told us about their lives and their varying USM journeys made me feel like I was back in school, getting to know a new, interesting, diverse group of classmates all over again.