This year, Houston Grand Opera (HGO) celebrates its 60th anniversary with a season of unforgettable works. To help promote this momentous occasion, HGO tapped the creative talents of the University of Houston’s Jack J. Valenti School of Communication (JJVSoC).
Students from the school’s Media Production program recently produced promotional videos for HGO’s upcoming operas including season openers Verdi’s “Otello” (opening Oct. 24) and Mozart’s “Così fan tutte” (opening Oct. 31). With guidance from Keith Houk, JJVSoC instructional assistant professor, student volunteers created eight videos that can be viewed on HGO’s website and through social media.
While producing HGO’s videos, students worked in a variety of roles including lighting, audio, editing and shooting. They also recorded on-camera interviews with HGO’s creative team including HGO artistic and music director Patrick Summers and assistant artistic director Mena Mark Hanna.
Senior Vicky Hernandez already had an interest in producing marketing and advertising videos, so she jumped at the opportunity to assist. It also helped that she has a passion for the performing arts.
“This was a great learning experience, but it also was an introduction to the world of professional videos,” she said. “We worked with an actual client, so we took what we learned in class to make sure we delivered a quality product.”
Senior Michael Pyndus also contributed his energies to the project. He served as a key grip and ensured that all of the video equipment was on site and functioning. He also helped set up cameras and lights and made sure the audio was recorded properly. After graduating, Pyndus will pursue a career as a producer and screenwriter. This experience, he said, was particularly helpful as it broadened his knowledge of the various roles required on the set.
“As a filmmaker or anyone going into the industry, it’s helpful to have an understanding of how all of the systems work,” he said. “This project was beneficial in that regard, but our professors also teach us a little bit of everything. They lay the foundations of video production out for us, so we are prepared for the profession.”
Both Pyndus and Hernandez were recruited for the HGO project from JJVSoC’s Digital Cinematography class. Aimed at seniors, the course provides media production students with an overview of visual storytelling, scripting, lighting, operating video cameras and editing. While projects produced in this class can be used as resume builders, instructor Houk said there’s no substitute for professional experience undertaken through internships or activities outside of class.
“When students work with clients on a professional product, they stand out,” Houk said. “We try to find opportunities like the HGO project for our students. When students can have a production credit on an HGO promotional video, it looks great to potential employers.
“But, projects like the one with HGO allow us to contribute to the community too. When students apply what they’ve learned in class to one of the city’s top arts organization, they’re able to contribute to Houston’s cultural landscape. Our students gain invaluable experience, but they also provide something for Houstonians.”
Houk is among several veteran video and film professionals who mentor JJVSoC’s media production students. Aimed at undergraduate students, the school’s Media Production concentration provides technical and theoretical skills necessary for careers in filmmaking, television, multimedia communication and broadcast journalism.
To learn more about the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, visit its website.