SPO teams with Cuyahoga County Crime Stoppers to produce new PSA
November 16, 2017
You don’t have to be a superhero to fight crime. But it does help to have a script, filming equipment and actors who can play superheroes.
Armed with those essential components, students from Cuyahoga Community College’s Student Production Office spent the weekend of Nov. 4-5 shooting a public service announcement for Cuyahoga County Crime Stoppers. For two days, the SPO crew turned Lakewood Park and nearby streets into their set, guiding a cast of actors through the filming process scene by scene.
Two days of work might already seem like a large time investment for a 30-second PSA, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. SPO students were involved in every aspect of the production – scriptwriting, casting, scouting of filming locations, lighting, sound and wardrobe among them.
By the time the shoot wrapped, the student crew had spent hundreds of hours over the span of several months to take a 30-second spot from vision to reality. They even had help from a Hollywood actor.
The superhero concept
Gilberto Rivera is a two-year member of the SPO who has served as producer and art director on video projects for Cleveland Eats and Tri-C JazzFest. When Cuyahoga County Crime Stoppers approached the SPO about producing a PSA spot, Rivera and fellow SPO student Will Clark wrote a handful of script treatments involving different concepts. Then Rivera had an idea:
“I thought about a superhero theme,” he said. “It played into the idea of taking the power away from the criminals and giving it to the people. We came up with a script where a thief breaks into a car and all the bystanders are actually superheroes in disguise.”
Rivera’s vision for the project and experience in film production caught the attention of James Madio, originally brought aboard as the project’s director.
A veteran actor, Madio has had film roles in Hook and The Basketball Diaries, as well as television roles in USA High, Doogie Howser, M.D., Law & Order and CSI: Miami, among others. He is best known for portraying real-life U.S. Army officer Frank Perconte in the 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers.
“After talking to Gil, I felt his vision for the project and his knowledge in this particular area trumped mine,” Madio said. “So I asked him to be my co-director.”
Madio moved to the Cleveland area several years ago so that his wife, a Northeast Ohio native, could be closer to family. He brings Hollywood experience to the project, but even with his extensive resume, he promotes a team-first approach.
“The biggest thing I can bring is an understanding of the chain of command on a set and how things should look when they’re done properly,” Madio said. “But the students also give me something — they give me energy. It’s such a blast to be around all of these young, talented filmmakers.”
A group effort
The SPO students involved in the project have appreciated the hands-on experience. There are many jobs in filmmaking, and each student has been allowed the opportunity to explore the field, deciding which jobs are the best match for their interests and talents.
“I’ve been into filmmaking a long time, and never thought it was a career option until I came to Tri-C,” said Olivia Villasenor, a second-year student who served as the first assistant director for the Crime Stoppers PSA. “Working in the Student Production Office has given me so many opportunities to explore and build my skill set.”
“Nobody can do this by themselves, and here at the SPO, we have great people working together,” Clark said. “Teamwork is essential in all of this.”
For Rivera, the amount of work that has gone into the project serves as a reminder that filmmaking is a craft. Even a short PSA must have a plot, a setting and some character development.
“Every film—even a 30-second PSA—tells a story, and being a part of this from start to finish reinforces that,” Rivera said. “Film is a powerful form of storytelling, but it takes a lot of work to bring that story to life.”
The PSA will be available on YouTube and via Cuyahoga County Crime Stoppers’ social media channels. A release date has not yet been determined.