Admissions Shorts Place ‘Fun Spin’ on Kenyon Culture
Published: Thursday, March 29, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 01:11
In slow motion, a student pulls a pair of safety goggles out of his lab coat pocket. The song “Hot,” by Sarah Ozelle, plays as the camera zooms in on a steamy chemistry experiment. At the end, words flash on the screen: “You bring the solution. We’ll bring the heat. Kenyon.”
“Lab Dance” is one of six short films posted on thumbsup.kenyon.edu, Kenyon’s new website for admitted students in the Class of 2016. A joint project of the Office of Admissions and the Office of Public Affairs, this “microsite” intends to “capture the wit and humor of Kenyon” and “put a fun spin” on serious messages, according to Director of Admissions Communications Amy Blumenthal.
Neither Blumenthal nor Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman knew how much the film cost to produce. Knowble Media, which produced the shorts, could not be reached in time for this article.
After brainstorming storyline ideas with Blumenthal and her colleagues, Bob Rafferty and Ross Ballinger of Knowble Media shot the videos over a two-day period shortly before spring break. “We had seen some of their work [for Wittenberg University] and we thought they were good,” Blumenthal said. “They seemed to understand Kenyon.”
“They were really fun guys who had a lot of great, creative ideas, and … they gave us a general sense of what they were looking for, and we just played,” Assistant Professor of Drama Kevin Rich said. In Rich’s film, “Size Matters,” which promotes Kenyon’s small class sizes, he and four students squeeze into a closet-sized room in Samuel Mather Hall and begin a discussion — a literal “small class.”
Blumenthal said that because admitted students “have gotten a lot of very serious messages about how good our academics are [and] what our student life is like,” and because “a lot of [Kenyon’s] peer institutions … have very similar messages,” the College was trying to convey its message in a “playful, visual mode.”
For Will Quam ’14, who is featured in the video “Thoreau the Looking Glass,” the concern that prospective students might get overwhelmed with information resonated.
“I remember after I got accepted to Kenyon, I got basically something in the mail from them every day, and after a certain point I stopped reading it,” he said. “… So I think to have kind of a cool website like that, instead of … a constant deluge of text, is a cool thing for the Class of 2016.”
In “Thoreau the Looking Glass,” Quam, in voiceover, reads a modified quote from Thoreau’s Walden: “I went to Kenyon because I wished to live deliberately,” he begins. Although Thoreau’s actual quote is “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,” it would be difficult for someone without deep knowledge of Walden to know where Quam ends and Thoreau begins.
“We thought Thoreau and Walden would be well enough known to high school students … that they would recognize that was an altered quote. … We did not mean to mislead anyone into thinking Thoreau was a student here,” Blumenthal said.
“We’re not trying to mislead anybody,” Quam said, “but I don’t think it would be a bad thing if anyone thought … that Thoreau had a stronger connection with Kenyon then he in reality does.”
“Lab Dance,” which stars Miguel Flatow-Alvarez ’14, stands out from its fellow videos because of its sleek production and seductive soundtrack. After the video was featured on the Collegian’s blog, The Thrill, one commenter even dubbed it “chemistry porno.”
“Chemistry porn, that’s a good one,” Alvarez-Flatow said, laughing. Although he originally misread the video’s title as “Lap Dance,” Flatow-Alvarez said the video was intentionally over-the-top and tongue in cheek. “The soundtrack is pretty ridiculous. … The acting is pretty over the top — I smile and pull my hair, stuff like that,” he said.
Blumenthal confirmed that “Lab Dance” was not to be taken seriously. “We thought that it was funny … and it uses certain cliches of filmmaking to make this point that we have great chemistry at Kenyon. … The storyline … is that this is happening inside a student researcher’s head. This is how he feels when he’s doing research.”
Although the videos were, of course, staged — “I had no idea what we were doing [in the lab], but it looked cool,” Flatow-Alvarez said — the faculty and students involved agreed the shorts are an accurate, if exaggerated, representation of Kenyon.
“We were actually trying to carry on a conversation … and we actually got somewhere,” said Professor of Political Science Fred Baumann about his video, “Got A Minute?,” in which Jeremy Leiser-Mitchell ’13 comes to Baumann’s office hours and ends up accompanying him to various campus locations to continue talking.
The shoot “took about two hours, basically traveling around from place to place,” Baumann said. The filmmakers “wanted something in the [Kenyon Athletic Center]. And I drew the line at being in the pool … but I like the elliptical machines, and so they said that was okay.”