LaGuardia Community College was part of a PSA competition held by some bank called Federal Reserve Bank about financial awareness. People at work urged us to have the students enter the contest and try their skills and luck to win some cool prizes like an iPad, Tribeca Film Festival tickets, paid-internships, tours of the bank and, the best prize, have the winning PSA screen at movie theatres in the area. Those were some cool prizes for students, but many of them thought it was just some bank that wants free advertising stuff for a commercial.
But when opportunity comes, people should take it, even with the smallest competition. So I urged a few students to compete. Shaun agreed to do this with my help. And we came up with this:
Yeah, it was a quick shoot. I used my Canon T2i for this, but it doesn’t look like it since I made it dark and gritty like a comedy club. I just used one location, one angle, 3 actors (Jahnu, Karim & Ken) and 1 minute of free style stand-up each about being in debt, all edited down to a 30 second PSA. It took us only an hour to film and edit.
After finalizing everything, I handed the final product. Then I actually read the criteria on what should be in the PSA (which I should’ve done in the first place), it needed a problem and a solution. In the PSA, we just made fun of people being in debt. So yeah, Shaun and I didn’t think we’ll win anything at that point.
The day finally came when they were having the event at the bank where there was a reception and they will be announcing the winners. Shaun and I didn’t want to go because there was no way in hell our video will make the top 3. But I was going to get paid being there since it’s business, so I decided to go and dragged Shaun along.
When I found the place, there were many cops around, and the building itself was huge. I had to go through security to go to the reception hall, and go through a metal detector. The place itself looks fancy. I was thinking to myself that this bank might be as big as Chase or Capital One.
In the reception hall, they had free food and drinks, the have regular stuff like crackers and cheese with fruits and finger foods like Shrimp, Chicken Masala and crab cake. I was surprised that it was this fancy.
I went on to check the program as I ate. I noticed that the Manhattan Borough President was going to be doing the opening remarks, and the judges are well-known top advertising execs and film festival coordinators. I started to think this is bigger than I thought it would be.
Then when the head coordinator of this event mentioned that The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has more gold than Fort Knox, then it hit me. This bank was in Die Hard 3!!! And yeah, it is way bigger then Chase and Capital One since most of New York’s money is there. Knowing this, Shaun and I should’ve carefully worked on our PSA a little bit better.
They judged it American Idol style. They showed the film, the judges rated it from 0-20, and a few comment from them. The judges were pretty harsh. Even the ones with great production value had negative comments since they judged everything by content, production and execution. Mind you that most of the entrants were student filmmakers, and they were judging it as if they were like professionals. But I do respect their honesty.
Shaun and I waited and waited for our PSA to come on, and we were ready to be ridiculed. We saw some good ones, like the one’s that the students in City College made. They had high production value, they shot it with a 7D camera, and I really liked the concept. Then there’s another group of LaGuardia students who were shooting with the Canon 5D camera. Wow, they make my Canon T2i seem like a little kid.
Our PSA was shown last. I observed the audience as it played, no one was laughing. Even though it was a comedy club setting, I think I only heard one girl laugh. My heart dropped, and I was expecting the judges to give us a grade lower than 5. But to my surprise, the judges gave it a 17-18-18-16 score. Shaun and I celebrated with that score because it was higher than most of the entrants, even the ones by the City College students. It was really unexpected. The main reason it got a high score, as the judges said, they loved the concept. The tip they gave us is that every line should be funny, not just one.
With that score, we were placed 2nd place. Right above the 7D users who got 3rd place and right below the 5D users who grabbed 1st place. Sometimes you just gotta take the opportunities in front of you and just believe because you’ll never know what’s in store for you.