‘Freq Out,’ ‘Felony Franks’ honored

By Lisa Schulz

The producers of the Chicago and Midwest Emmy Awards, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, presented the Student Achievement Award to students in the Television and Journalism departments on Nov. 6. Five alumni also won an award for Outstanding Achievement.

“Freq Out,” an hour-long live comedy sketch made for the Television Department’s channel, Frequency TV, won first place in the “Long Format: Fiction and Non-fiction” category. The show, filmed at the Media Production Center, 1600 S. State St., was planned and created by three executive producers, as well as seniors Paige Klone, Lynne Stanko and Kyle Cogan, but was the work of several classes in the department.

“Felony Franks,” a news documentary focused on a restaurant that only hires ex-offenders, was written and edited by MFA alumna Wendy Wohlfeill and created for an independent study in the broadcast journalism program’s “Metro Minutes Class,” it took home first place in the “News: General Assignment” category.

The idea for “Freq Out” originated in fall 2010 but remained on hold until February 2011.

“We realized that [the deadline] was coming quick and we had a lot of ambitious ideas, so we better get on them,” said Cogan, who is also the creative director. “I would scale back on [so many ideas] to keep our sanity. But in hindsight, I wouldn’t do anything differently as far as the ideas [go] and making it the best as we possibly can.”

Each sketch of the performance, which was streamed live online, had a live studio audience of 300 and was connected through a “qPad,” a parody of the iPad, which guided the show through its highlights of various social media networks. The objective was to invite the audienceinto the separate, virtual world of the qPad, so that it’s hard to differentiate reality, Cogan said.

Klone said “Freq Out” was designed with short, fast-paced skits to hold the viewer’s attention, the way they would on a Facebook smartphone application. The sketch was considered carefully to ensure originality and to be different from “Saturday Night Live,” in particular.

“I think that’s why we won it, [act-ually],because we took a risk,” Klone said. “We stepped away from the format that everyone’s used to, and we went deep into something that no one has really explored as a long-sketch comedy show.”

Imagine the time put into each flicker of action that radiates from a television screen. In a mermaid scene from an award-winning Columbia production, for example, a mere five seconds of floating bubbles took 16 hours to render.

Another original, time consuming project landed print-focused Wohlfeill an award for her first video production.

The “Felony Franks”’ victory surprised her, since it was her first time editing video.

Wohlfeill attributed the award to the video’s nomination from Jennifer Halperin, internship and special projects coordinator, and Lillian Williams, associate

journalism professor.

“I went into it anticipating that it would probably [be] some of the hardest interviews I’ve done,” Wohlfeill said. “It actually proved to be the opposite. I felt that I had the most honest, forthcoming interviews I’ve ever had, which is really surprising.”

Reporting on the unique restaurant has offered a chance to show those with a criminal past in a different light, she said. Encouraging ex-offenders to open up and admit their past in the interviews was most challenging. Even though some employees refused to share their criminal past, Wohfeill said an emotional element remained in the telling of the business.

Prior to Wohlfeill’s project, which was filmed by Columbia alum Brent Day, the restaurant wasn’t allowed to display its name on the front of the building because aldermen didn’t think it was in good taste, she said.

After much controversy, the restaurant won its right to have the sign. Wohlfeill said whether or not her project contributed to the change, it pleased her to see the story come full circle.

The video also won third place in the Mark of Excellence Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

“It was a good example of journalism at its best,” Wohlfeill said. “It was a happy ending. In journalism, we don’t always see happy endings.”