‘Tis the Season for Video Excellence
Six 2023 Circle of Excellence Awards went to end-of-year video holiday messages, including the Dragon School’s “A Present from the Past.” Find out more about this Grand Gold Award-winning film here and scroll to watch the other five award-winning videos.
"A Present from the Past"
Sharing school traditions through a student-created film
In 2022, the Dragon School took on a new challenge with its annual holiday communications: a film (see above). The resulting two-minute-long A Dragon Tale tells the story of shared tradition between a grandpa (alumnus Peter Bowles) and his granddaughter (Sofia, who currently attends the Oxford, England, school).
In the film, Bowles climbs a ladder to an attic where he finds a bag of marbles and other memorabilia from his school days at Dragon, which he then shares with Sofia.
“It was about connection, communication, and family traditions, and how they’ve been and continue to be built through stories told,” says Sheena Lawrence, Head of Community Communications.
Marbles hold a special place in the heart of Dragon alumni, explains Lawrence.
“A certain cohort really relates to playing marbles on the [school’s] playground. So many of our Dragons go on to be entrepreneurs and say they learned how to do business playing marbles in the sandpit,” she says.
It was also a way to connect all generations of Dragons through the nostalgia of “play.” While the older generations reminisce about marbles, current students’ favorite game is “eggy,” which involves throwing a tennis ball against the walls of the playground—something Lawrence is certain they will look back on with fondness.
The film was created during the school’s Saturday extracurricular program, QUEST. Students brainstormed concepts, tested camera angles, sketched costumes, and learned from filmmaker Tom Lucas of Burst Design about the basic concepts of filmmaking, from lighting to locations.
“We tried to put [the children] as much at the heart of the production as possible. … We wanted them to feel ownership of it and feel proud of what was achieved,” says Lawrence.
Dragon’s music department also got involved, with Director of Music William Morris composing “Grandpa’s Theme” to score the film. Fellow music teachers were brought in to play additional instruments and the melody of the school song, “Carmen Draconiense,” was incorporated to inspire nostalgia for alumni and familiarity with current students who still sing it today.
The film also invited viewers to purchase a bag of Dragon Marbles to support the school’s transformational bursary program, which brought in lots of new donors, says Lawrence.
“It felt like such a huge achievement to have had so many members of the school community involved, especially the children. We proved that they absolutely can [make a film]. They just need a bit of guidance. I enjoyed seeing the generations together on the playground [during filming]. Our alumni have an incredible connection with our school to this day—it’s quite unbelievable,” says Lawrence.
Dragon won a 2023 Grand Gold Circle of Excellence Award for the film’s achievement. Its community is looking forward to the 2023 holiday film, which will feature shadow puppetry.
Check out the other five Circle of Excellence Award-winning holiday films here:
Presidential Aerial Drone Footage
Iowa State University
Iowa State University, U.S., won a gold COE Award for its president’s 2022 holiday message, which featured ISU students decorating an iconic campus building and the ISU student vocal group singing “Bells of Iowa State.” This was all captured through first-person-view drone footage that helped illustrate “an actively engaged campus community.” COE volunteer judges said it “certainly left an impression with its powerful impact and impressive accomplishment.”
The Light in our Celebrations
Connecticut College, U.S., wanted to “underscore the importance of light in our celebrations” through its 2022 holiday film, which won a gold COE Award. It features Connecticut College English Professor and Poet in Residence Kate Rushin’s poem, “This Time of Year,” which reads in part: “this time of year we think of friends, family, and candlelight.” COE volunteer judges said, “the use of a faculty member's poem added a personal touch that really resonated with audiences.”
Snow Day Community
The College of William & Mary
William & Mary’s yearly holiday video earned a silver COE Award for its 2022 animated story of students enjoying a snowy day on campus. The Viriginia, U.S., university wanted the video to “support our messaging around community and belonging.” COE volunteer judges said it conveyed “a meaningful message with subtle humor that makes it engaging.”
Painting to Campus Connection
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook University, New York, U.S., brought together its community by capturing more than 150 students, faculty, staff, and administrators working side by side to paint a mural in its silver COE Award-winning 2022 holiday message. COE volunteer judges said, “it kept viewers engaged until the very end.” The mural itself was painted in Stony Brook’s colors of red, black, and white near a tunnel that connects the university’s East and West campuses to represent the concept that “by working together, our community can do anything.”
From UC Davis’s Table
University of California, Davis
University of California, Davis, U.S., celebrated the holidays through a video postcard from its chancellor that volunteer COE judges said held “mass appeal” and “is both creative and impactful, with superb videography and editing.” The bronze COE Award-winning video featured students, staff, faculty, and leadership preparing and sharing food dishes of personal significance to them, their families, and culture. The potluck is “a nod to the university’s agricultural roots” as the first state agriculture school.
About the author(s)
Hannah Ratzer is Editorial Specialist at CASE.
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