Nine students film first-year experience

By BenitaZepeda

When starting at a new school, there are many moments that are universal to every college student, regardless of where they attend. For many, that moment is move-in day at the dorms, attending the first school event for new students, or even  setting foot into that first college class.

This year, nine Columbia freshmen and transfer students will be documenting their first-year experiences through a program called Start Book.

Start Book is still in the very early stages of development. Matthew Green, director of Online Student Communications, said this is a project that is completely left up to the students.

“We think that prospective students and the world at large will understand what Columbia is about better through their eyes,” Green said.

The videos are not viewed by coordinators of the project before the students place them on their YouTube accounts.  They are responsible for shooting their own footage and uploading it to the Internet.  At a later date, there will be a Web site available for other students to view the videos, Green said.

The selection process for finding the nine students took place during orientation. Unknowingly, students were asked a series of questions casually in front of a camera.  Green and the others behind the project selected the students based on their personalities and representation of the Columbia community.

Daniel Zarick, junior interdisciplinary arts major, is the social coordinator for the project.  He said the students were surprised when they were contacted by the college and asked to participate in this new documentary.

However, Zarick stresses that this isn’t a commercial plug for Columbia.

“A student telling their story directly to other students definitely helps tell the story better than any commercial,” he said.  “Columbia makes commercials. We don’t want these students to make commercials.  We want them to tell their own stories.”

The pride of this project is instilled in the raw footage filmed directly with hand-held cameras with almost no video editing, just pressing record and stop.

“Our hope is that we will have the site up at some point during the year,” Zarick said.  “We want to show individual students going through their first year.”

Zarick said the ultimate goal for the project is to tell a larger story and that each student walks away with a coherent story.

“The only vision I have is that each of these students finish with some sort of story,” he said.

Kate Kirk, an arts, entertainment and media management major, Dustin Supencheck, a film and video major and Kingston Warren, a critical studies major are three of the nine students filming for the Start Book program.

All three students are excited about different aspects of the project, and are finding ways the project directly impacts their freshman experience with each video.

“I like how it’s been pushing me to get out into the city,” said Supencheck.  “This is pushing me to expand myself.”

One of the goals for the project is showing how these students will be connecting with professionals in their field. Kirk said she looks forward to gaining experience with her major.

“I’m most excited about when they send us out to do things relative to our major,” Kirk said.  “I just can’t wait for that.”

Even though the project is still in its early stages, these students hope that their first-year experiences can help future students that are coming to Columbia.

“I hope it ends up in someone’s hands that is not so outgoing,” Warren said.  “They can see if they step out of their comfort zones, they can have a real good time.”

There are even talks of compiling clips from footage of all nine students that are filming into a first-year documentary at the end of the year, Zarick said.

“I think there is something that is incredibly informative about something that is so raw and genuine,” Kirk said.  “We’re all so excited. We’re like little kids and I feel like if they show that to people, they  would understand a lot better than something that was super produced and meant to be a certain way.”