In July 2018, Fresno State hosted CSU Summer Arts, an international summer arts program of master classes and a festival of the arts.
Students from around the world had the opportunity to hone their craft in media, photography, music, theatre and dance during intensive two-week programs. With the teaching and support of world-renowned professionals, the students were able to create artistic projects that were later presented at the Student Showcase at the end of Summer Arts.
The kNOw Youth Media was honored to send youth reporter Gabrielle Rivas to attend the journalism program, as well as bring other students to observe lectures from the faculty of the visual storytelling class, which was coordinated by Fresno State media, communications and journalism professor, Faith Sidlow.
Throughout the course, students were able to learn video storytelling skills needed to create compelling news and feature videos from nationally acclaimed, award-winning journalists. The media professionals that supported the students during this course were Bob Dotson, Joe Little, Joshua Maranhas, Matthew Mrozinski, Les Rose, Greg Vandegrift, Candace Egan and Faith Sidlow.
Jenny Toste, a media professional for over 15 years, took the class to be reinspired.
“To be learning from these masters is kind of like lightning striking in a bottle,” Toste said. “We have people who are at the top of their fields. We have a national correspondent telling us about storytelling. A master writer, a master shooter, a master editor. We’re learning from the best in two weeks. I have 15 years experience in media, and I’m still learning new things.”
In the two weeks, students learned the fine points of developing story characters, conducting active interviews, working with natural sound and sequence shooting and editing. The students took what they learned in the class and utilized their new skills to create a compelling visual story by the end of the program.
Toste did her story on the Taco Truck Throwdown, but instead of simply covering the event, she was able to dig deeper into her character’s story. While still covering the Taco Truck Throwdown, her story became more about a daughter continuing her parent’s tradition of feeding the community.
“When you talk about Taco Truck Throwdown, it’s like whatever,” Toste said. “But when you talk full circle with the father who had passed, it’s those goosebump moments that you’re looking for and we got that. That’s the story taken to the next level. All the tips that I learned, I was able to incorporate it into the shoot and help take that story to next level.”
As a journalist with mostly print experience, youth reporter Gabrielle Rivas enrolled in the class when she realized she could take her passion for storytelling and use different mediums to reach new audiences.
“I didn’t know editing styles, how to shoot, how to set up a microphone or how to tell a story visually,” Rivas said about her video storytelling experience before the class.
By taking the class, Rivas was able to learn the necessary skills to be able to tell a story visually, and like Toste, she also learned the importance digging deeper and taking the story to the next level.
“Everyone has a story and sometimes we forget a story is better coming from the voice of the person we interview,” Rivas said. “As journalists and storytellers, our role is to be quiet at times and allow others to share their experience. We can state what happened, but it’s difficult to capture emotion.”
Rivas said she has a stronger sense of story creation after taking the class.
“I pay attention to not just what is said, but the sounds and the emotional aspects of a story. I see storytelling now to paint a picture for the audience in a way they can relate to and understand people they otherwise wouldn’t know about.”
While the class was more about storytelling in the news sense, other students who were not in the news industry were still able to benefit from class.
Jessica Elisa Lopez is a student from Mexico studying to become an animator.
“It’s different because I’m studying animation and this course is more about journalism,” Lopez said. “But it still relates in some way because some of things we’re talking about like video, audio and recording, editing — we can apply these skills to animation and creating short films.”
All 16 students were able to present their finished products at the Student Showcase at the end of the two week program.
Sidlow said Summer Arts was a fantastic experience and working with some the nation’s top visual journalists was a joy.
“Several of our students had never created a news package before,” Sidlow continued. “It was exciting watching them develop the skills necessary for compelling storytelling.”
Toste believes everybody who wants to do video storytelling should take the class because you will be learning gems every second. “We are so lucky to have CSU Summer Arts here in Fresno,” she said.
And while the class has passed, you will have another chance next summer as CSU Summer Arts will be back at Fresno State for the next three years.