In a perfect world, a producer would want at least three months to plan for a 30-second national commercial spot.
Husker alumna Amanda Christi — handed a rough script, bare-bones storyboard and narrow budget — volunteered to take on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s “In Our Grit, Our Glory” institutional spot three weeks before shooting began.
“I had seen the script, proposed some changes and agreed to handle all of the post-production work,” said Christi, cinematographer for academic services and enrollment management. “I also put my name out there to direct because — even though the timeline was a real challenge — it has been my goal since day one to direct a national commercial for Nebraska.”
Journey to admissions
Once a double major in business and film studies, Christi found her passion after getting accepted into the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts’ film and new media program. Her undergraduate experience included working as a camera operator on the set of “Vipers in the Grass,” the first film created through the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film. Christi also earned internships with NET and Outpost12 Studios.
She moved to Texas after graduation, but returned to Lincoln to take a full-time gig with Outpost12. Then, three years ago, she applied for and became the first cinematographer for the marketing side of Nebraska’s admissions team.
“I was doing some small, cool stuff with Outpost at the time,” Christi said. “But, the university was doing some really high-production work through the admissions website. That made me incredibly interested to see where I could take them with video.”
In her first video for Nebraska, Christi proposed adopting a Wes Anderson style, using wide shots and sepia tones as an individual talked about the university’s honors program. While initially taken aback by the idea, the admissions marketing team approved the concept.
She’s continued to push creative boundaries in all her work for Nebraska.
“We really are given the creative freedom to come up with ideas and run with them,” Christi said. “The level of trust is one of the best parts about working here at Nebraska.”
Some of her favorite admissions work has been “No One Saw Coming,” a 2015 video that featured multiple cuts aimed at recruiting in different markets; the “Lincoln Lives” series, a narrative that promotes Lincoln; and — of course — “In Our Grit, Our Glory.”
Making the cut
Knowing the quality and creativity of Christi’s work, Nebraska’s Amber Williams, assistant director for enrollment management, and Deb Fiddelke, chief communication and marketing officer, backed the cinematographer’s request to help lead production of the new institutional spot.
“That was a really good feeling to have those two really strong, university leaders who are also women, give me an opportunity to direct,” Christi said. “They took a chance keeping the production in house and, I hope they feel that it has paid off.”
Christi and Andrew Swenson, director of enrollment marketing, were selected to produce the spot. Teaming up with university communication, the admissions duo led all parts of the production, from finalizing the script and site location to running cameras and editing the video.
After roaring through three weeks of prep, the team shot the commercial in four days at multiple campus locations.
“As director, I had a clear vision of what I wanted the spot to be and what it took to get it there, but I was surrounded by literally dozens of people who worked extremely hard to make my vision a reality,” Christi said. “This production was completed 100 percent by and for Nebraskans and we could not have made it without each and every person on the production team.”
When post-production was completed, Christi had created both the planned 30-second spot and a longer, 50-second version.
The first time the video was shown to campus was to more than 600 faculty and staff during the “In Our Grit, Our Glory” launch in the Nebraska Union. When it played, Christi stood in the back of the room.
“I stood there waiting for reactions,” Christi said. “For me, it’s fun to watch how people respond and use that information moving forward in my work.
“Then the chancellor played the video twice. Which was pretty neat.”
While proud of the spot, Christi has since moved forward. She is now applying lessons learned from the “In Our Grit, Our Glory” project into her work, continuing to develop cutting-edge videos as Nebraska Admissions pursues enrollees for the Class of 2023 and beyond.
“My job offers some incredibly unique experiences telling Nebraska stories,” Christi said. “And, I get to work alongside some amazingly creative people. I can’t wait to see where the next project takes us.”