Author: Cole Lanier

C&IS Faculty and Student Team Produces Nationally Recognized Music Video

Led by Nick Corrao, a team of University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) students produced a music video for singer-songwriter Tim Higgins and his song “Blight.”

Corrao, who served as a producer for the video, and Higgins have been friends for years, so when Higgins wanted to create a music video to promote his new album, he approached Corrao. However, Corrao wasn’t sure his schedule would allow for him to fully commit to the production as much as was necessary, so he turned to one of his students, Reagan Wells, a senior journalism and creative media student from Galesburg, Illinois. For Wells, the project was an example of great timing.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to take on, artistically, everything that the project was going to demand,” Corrao said. “I like to get my students involved in whatever I’m doing, whenever possible. Reagan and I had worked together earlier in the summer, and we had a really good working relationship, and I knew that he would be up to the task.”

“It was funny to me, because we went out to eat one night, and I said, ‘I’d like to do a music video,’” said Wells. “He said, ‘Well, I’ve got one for you.’”

The opportunity presented a new challenge to Wells, who had never directed a film before, but wanted to add portfolio experience before graduating.

One Day in Greensboro

“Blight” is an ode to Higgins’ affinity for antiquated things, as well as a lament for the destruction of those same things. The video captures that feeling and was mostly shot in an antebellum mansion owned by a friend of Higgins.

Filmed in various locations around Greensboro, Alabama, south of Tuscaloosa, Wells said he wanted to capture Higgins’ vision for the video more than anything else. While the shooting only took one day, brainstorming began two months before the cameras ever were rolling.

“If it looks cool, it will probably work. This was not just a directing thing, this was coming up with a concept. The sky was the limit, but you just didn’t know where to start,” Wells said. “We had three very talented shooters and an assistant director. We had 40 gigabytes of footage, and it was just like, ‘What do you do with this, where do you start?’”

Like a Rolling Stone

“I wanted to give Reagan the freedom to sort of explore creatively and give feedback on the cut,” Corrao added. “This is what we want to do in the (JCM Media Production) program. We want our students leaving here with work that has received some kind of professional recognition and exposure.”

In November, the video was highlighted in “Rolling Stone” magazine as one of its 10 Best Country and Americana Songs of the Week alongside country and Americana mainstays such as Jerrod Niemann and The Revivalists.

Wells said he could not have made this project work without his team, made up of fellow University of Alabama students: Alex Cherry as an assistant director and Jeb Brackner and Rhianna Israni behind the cameras. He also cited the importance of “trusting all ideas” in the process and knowing how to delegate duties.

“It feels so good to walk away with those videos in hand, and I can say to potential employers, ‘I was here doing work, I wasn’t just sitting in a classroom for four years,’” Wells said. “It’s this thing where I can say, ‘Here’s this, here’s what Reagan can do.’”

The music video for “Blight” can be viewed below.

Retired Marine Lt. Colonel Greg Ballard to Speak at UA on Alternative Energy

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Retired Marine Lt. Colonel and former Mayor of Indianapolis Greg Ballard will be speaking to students at The University of Alabama on February 18.

In conjunction with a special topics class in the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) Department of Communication Studies, COM 295: The Forum, Ballard will be speaking to students about national security and the need to invest in alternative energy. This debate is the subject of his new book, “Less Oil or More Caskets: The National Security Argument for Moving Away from Oil.”

“We are thrilled to have Lt. Colonel Ballard speak to our students,” said Dr. Darrin Griffin, C&IS assistant professor and instructor for COM 295. “In The Forum, we focus on debate and communication, and this is a great opportunity for the students to learn.”

“Today, when we send our young men and women off to war, we pat them on the back and thank them for their service,” said Ballard about his book and presentation. “We throw parades and homecomings upon their successful return. We sadly salute the caskets as they go by. Then we drive down to the neighborhood gas station and fill up – and nobody makes the connection; nobody sees the irony.”

The presentation is open to the public and will begin at 2 p.m. in Doster Hall Room 104. Ballard’s visit is sponsored by the Department of Communication Studies, a part of the College of Communication and Information Sciences. For more information, please contact Dr. Darrin Griffin at djgriffin1@ua.edu.

C&IS Announces New Board of Visitors Executive Committee

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) announces the 2019-2020 Board of Visitors Executive Committee. These three executive members will create vision and provide leadership for the Board.

Debra Nelson, President of Elevate Communications, LLC, will serve as chairwoman. Barry Copeland, President of The Copeland Strategies Group, LLC, and Robin DeMonia, Executive Vice President of Direct Communications, will serve as Vice Chairman and Secretary-Treasurer.

“We are humbled and excited to have such an accomplished and driven group of industry leaders on our executive committee this year,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, Dean of C&IS. “I have known Debra, Barry and Robin for many years and am confident they will serve our College well.”

Debra Nelson is recognized among the leading public relations and diversity and inclusion practitioners in the U.S. She has held executive positions at industries spanning media, higher education, automotive manufacturing, construction, and gaming and hospitality. Today Nelson leads Elevate Communications, LLC, a firm dedicated to delivering professional development and communication services. Her clients include large and small companies located throughout the U.S. Prior to founding Elevate, Nelson was Corporate Director and Head of Communications for Brasfield & Gorrie, a leading construction firm based in Birmingham, Alabama. Her prior executive appointment was Vice President at MGM Resorts International where she steered the diversity initiative to national prominence and helped the company increase revenue and profitability.

Barry Copeland is a retired business executive who spent most of his 42-year career in business in the Birmingham area. Today, he is president of The Copeland Strategies Group LLC, a company he founded in July of 2014 to help non-profit organizations’ boards of directors develop and implement strategic plans and targets. Copeland spent 13 years at the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA), where he was a part of the senior management team that created the BBA in 2009 from a merger of the former Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and the Metropolitan Development Board.

Robin DeMonia is executive vice president of Direct Communications, a public relations firm based in Birmingham. Her previous experience includes 25 years as a journalist in Alabama, including seven years as a state government reporter and 10 years as a member of the editorial board of The Birmingham News.

About the Board of Visitors:

The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences Board of Visitors serves as an advisory group for C&IS. Our Board of Visitors are established communication professionals and industry leaders who work closely with senior administration to effect positive change in the College’s curriculum, experiential learning opportunities and advancement activities.

Directors of MLK Documentary from NBC Screen Film for C&IS Students

How have monumental changes in media affected activism in the digital age? A new documentary, “Hope & Fury: MLK, the Movement and the Media,” tackles this question by looking at the roles the media played and continues to play in the civil rights movement, from the March to Montgomery to demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri.

“Hope & Fury” directors Rachel Dretzin and Phil Bertelsen were present at Gorgas Library on Monday, January 14, for a special screening of part of the film and to answer audience questions. Hosted by The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS), this event was part of a greater, university-wide celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.

“We look at the movement through the lens of the media,” Dretzin said. “We also expand that lens to look at the way the media covers civil rights today.”

The film is narrated by NBC anchor Lester Holt and features interviews with prominent journalists and civil rights figures like Al Sharpton, Tom Brokaw and John Lewis. The screening was the first of 16 events during January at the University celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. King.

“The idea behind the events that we’re having on campus is to engage more students,” said Dr. George Daniels, Assistant Dean of Administration for C&IS. “Sometimes that means learning about what happened in the past, and sometimes it means understanding where we are in the present. Students need to be engaged, front and center.”

100 years ago, newspapers and radio stations were the only news media. 50 years ago, television news became king. Today, news is an instantaneous process, thanks to the rise of social media. Higher-quality smartphone cameras can broadcast around the world in a matter of seconds by millions of amateur photojournalists. As a result, the nature of activism has changed significantly.

As civil rights demonstrations continue nationwide in places like Ferguson, Missouri, social media has become the most popular and immediate outlet for news to break. Facebook Live streams, live-tweeting and other methods of sharing that would have been alien to marchers in Selma in 1965 have brought the modern civil rights movement back to the public eye. However, due to the global audiences of social media, the eye belongs to the entire world.

“All of our students in the College are focused on building messages, learning how to build messages, analyzing messages—all of those are tied up in this documentary,” said Daniels. “It was a really good example of the power of documentary as a form to convey a message about Dr. King.”