Come on, Cherkasy: how a professor creates a video project and attracts students to join
How do you start a successful video interview project in a quiet little town where nothing seems to be happening and no one to talk about? What if we say that a professor with student journalists created it? Rubryka tells the story of the "ComeOn_Talk" project in Cherkasy.
The video interview project about successful Cherkasy residents, changing the city and the country for the better, is how the "ComeOn_Talk" project team presents its initiative. They call it ComeOn in short, and everyone in Cherkasy has already heard this name.
"ComeOn_Talk" is a weekly video interview series with famous Cherkasy residents. They are published on the YouTube channel, Instagram, Facebook, and Telegram.
In the frame, we see the hero or heroine of the series and presenter Tetiana Bondarenko, professor, and head of the Department of Journalism, Advertising and PR-technologies of Cherkasy National University named after Bohdan Khmelnytskyi. Tatiana was also the author of the project idea.
Behind the scenes, there are student-journalists from the same department, Alina Kopiiko, and Volodymyr Vovk, as well as all willing students and teachers.
How did the idea come about?
Back in the fall of 2020, Tatiana Bondarenko had the idea to create her own project of video interviews with people, changing the city and the country for the better. From the beginning, she wanted to be the project manager, so she started working with local media.
"Last fall, I met with people who offered me to create an original television project. We had to come up with a name, concept, choose guests. I took on this project as a manager."
However, over time, Tatiana realized that her project goes beyond these limits, so she wanted to move forward. Her idea was a unique independent project, the creation of which can involve students of the department. It was risky to launch such a product in a small town. For Cherkasy, the idea was innovative and it was difficult to predict the reaction of the audience. At the same time, the idea creator realized: students must learn about the realities of the city and enter the media space.
A project created by students
"Our teachers creatively approach the tasks and present teaching materials. We refused to give lectures but offered them to students in electronic form. We often work in the field, conducting surveys, attending events, preparing reports from the scene," says the idea creator, Tatiana Bondarenko.
As the head of the Department of Journalism, Advertising and PR-Technologies, she knows that internships for her students are the main way to acquire the necessary skills for future work. She talks not only about the skills of writing the text but also about the knowledge of the environment and the people with whom the graduates will work. It's crucial to understand the competencies of state authorities, know the city's public utilities, cultural and educational centers, and private enterprises, because, as Tatiana notes, this applies to the daily life of the city.
"Tasks should be interesting to perform. When I started practicing, I realized that many tasks were difficult and detached from life. Now I'm gradually changing them, integrating students into the realities of life. We focus on social media and competent information consumption," Tatiana adds.
Involvement in creating such a project as "ComeOn_Talk" gives students opportunities that they don't get in the classroom.
The first steps
On February 13, 2021, the first "ComeOn_Talk" program was released on the YouTube channel. Now there are almost 40 programs. Since then, even the video format has changed.
The first episodes looked like the hero or heroine's answers to the question recorded on video. There was no presenter in the frame, only the heroes spoke, and questions appeared on the screen.
In the fifth program, the presenter began to voice the question. Tatiana Bondarenko became the presenter, although at first, she was afraid of it.
"It was a stressful moment. I wasn't ready to appear in the frame as a presenter. Yes, the children's dream of becoming an announcer was evident somewhere, but the words of the students were decisive: 'Did you think it was easy for us in class?' So I endured a few programs, step by step, or more specifically, body part by body part, letting go of the defense. At first, I got used to my voice in the video, then to the profile, and then I completely gave up. In the end, I thanked my team for their persistence, because I also felt the difference in comfort for the hero of the interview."
So, when recording a video interview, it's important to remember the comfort of the hero. Understanding that the camera captures not only them, gives them psychological peace and the opportunity to relax more. In this way, the interview is more lively and friendly.
Development and innovation
From the first programs, there was a noticeable movement forward with each new interview. The idea author, Tetiana Bondarenko, is a relentless innovator. With a team of students, they make each program exclusive. To do this, you have to constantly follow the latest things in the video, editing, and design, and it takes a long time.
Although Cherkasy is a small town, the ComeOn team makes a quality product and continues to hold the brand of uniqueness. They say that for the development of a project in a small town you need to always change, be on top of trends.
"Every time something new appears in our program, either the nature of the questions, or the rubric, or montage highlights. We've implemented a format of changing locations and selecting them according to the hero's activities. We've developed a brand visual, preview, etc.
Each program gives us a certain experience that I can now pass on to students. When the program is ready, we see some benefits and leave them in the next video issue. If we notice shortcomings, we try to eliminate them in the future," Tatiana shares her experience.
For project participant Alina Kopiiko, the search for ideas is ongoing. "I really like the phrase that I associate with the search for new ideas: visual experience. It's about the whole volume of images that you saw. Your new idea is your own vision, interpretation of what you've seen or noticed. And with video production, it's when you use the base that you already have, this experience, and show your creativity by adding some of your own elements or changing the shape, colors, presentation, accents," she says.
The "ComeOn_Talk" team also involves colleagues from the department in the project. "We're implementing the project with students and professors. It's open, anyone can join in with their ideas, innovations, and any help," says the presenter.
Alina Kopiiko adds that another source of new ideas is communication within the team: "For example, I'm tasked with shooting in a particular location. Then we think together what we would like to do, someone throws more ideas in. We share ideas and come to a common image, which as a result becomes a manifestation of our creativity."
How to look for heroes in a small town?
One of the stumbling blocks to creating an online video interview project in a small town is finding heroes. It seems that the "province" isn't so rich in people who can become speakers. The "ComeOn_Talk" team proves that it's possible.
"We started talking to politicians who were more willing to communicate and interested in it. Now we're relatively more active in attracting people who've implemented their unique startups, have original ideas about age-old philosophical issues and city development," says Tatiana Bondarenko.
At the stage of launching and beginning the project development, one should look for heroes who are searching for ways to enter the media space of your city. If you live in the city where you want to create a project, you probably know unique people who develop their initiatives. Sources of ideas can also be acquaintances and social media.
"Within six months, we shot and edited about 40 full-fledged videos. We had to deal with social media tools, build relationships with heroes, learn feedback from people. There are more and more tasks, and I understand that we're only on the threshold of new knowledge and practical experience," Tatiana adds.
Preparation for the interview
The format of a video interview is different from, for instance, a text interview. The presenters need to study the guest and prepare questions in advance that will be easily perceived in the conversation. The interview should be like a friendly conversation, not a survey. It's also important to think about the location and technical support at the time of the shooting.
In ComeOn_Talk, the entire team prepares to talk to the guest. "Before the interview, I always talk to the guest to get acquainted. We choose places where they'll feel comfortable, discuss possible thematic accents. I spend at least four hours studying information about the person: browsing social media, reading or watching previous interviews," says host Tatiana Bondarenko.
Team member Alina Kopiiko adds that it's essential for them to be ready for different situations: "A critical moment in creating both promo and video is an adaptation to the situation. For example, if we take a hero who was always super funny and joking, then, of course, we'll use some serious parts of their speech, and mix them with humor, so that it was both informative and entertaining at the same time," says the student.
Filming and editing
Students do filming and editing. "On average, it takes two to four days to edit, depending on the amount of footage, the number of graphic inserts, and the like," says project participant Volodymyr Vovk.
Meanwhile, Volodymyr adds, one should be prepared for unexpected situations. "There were enough problematic situations; a few videos disappeared, although we shot them and uploaded them on the computer. The biggest problem and surprise was the sound interruptions. The new radio loops took a lot of our nerves. For reasons we can only guess, the sound disappeared. For example, the episode with Oleksandr Skichko. We also had to cut a lot in the episode with Andranik Kazarian. We filmed on the roof of the building. Radio interruptions forced us to remove that part almost completely," he said.
During the shooting, the starting idea can also be adapted to the situation. "We have a kind of standard part, a structure, according to which we work during the filming. But there are moments when in the interview, seeing the image, the guests, as if a light bulb lights up, and you're like, 'Let's try to do it this way.' We came to a new format of changeable locations, which are adapted to the hero, as well as shooting the person and the host sitting, standing, and in the tunnel. Each of these elements has an impact on the audience. For example, the motion is almost always non-informative, easy, and effortless. This allows the audience to feel like they're in the company of these two people," Alina Kopiiko shares her experience.
All team members undertake to promote the finished program. They involve social media for this purpose: links are distributed on their pages and active communities of Cherkasy. The heroes of the video also share releases. Thus, "ComeOn_Talk" programs spread quickly in the media space of small Cherkasy.
An innovative project in a small town: is it possible?
On the example of our heroes, you can see that you can create a modern, unique product not only in the capital. Small towns are ready for progressive ideas if there are people ready to start their own projects.
The author of the project idea and presenter Tetiana Bondarenko says that such projects are the way to the future, and this is what attracts her: "Modern life throws such serious challenges that you can not remain indifferent, otherwise you will cease to be. These challenges are various: in education, in the family, in relationships with people. These are challenges of a choice: to hold on to the past, look into the future or get high from life at the moment. The conserved world has never been there for me, I'm not interested in it."