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August 19, 2013

Purdue Profiles: Bobby Chastain

Bobby Chastain

Bobby Chastain, manager of academic outreach and student learning programs for the Hall of Music Productions, supervises Purdue students Erik Hartman and Allison Werner as they unpack equipment at the Varsity Soccer Complex. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
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Bobby Chastain understands that real-world experience is just as important as an academic degree when it comes to landing a job in the film and video industry.

Chastain is a Hall of Music Productions employee, a PhD candidate in the College of Technology, a Purdue graduate and formerly worked in Los Angeles as a special effects technician. He uses his experience in the industry to help Purdue's film and video studies students learn the industry's ropes before they even graduate.

How is the Hall of Music Productions involved in film and video studies?

The Hall of Music Productions has a partnership with the College of Liberal Arts, and through that partnership I teach classes in Purdue's interdisciplinary Film and Video Studies program. The program offers an undergraduate major or minor, and about more than 120 students are enrolled. I teach several classes each semester, so at some point I teach each student in the program.

In general, I teach students how to work cameras and use video production equipment for live events. I also coordinate, manage and supervise all the film and video studies students who intern for academic credit. The students generally seek out their own internships, so our interns work across the country. For example, we've had students work everywhere from post-production companies in Los Angeles to media production studios in Chicago to local TV stations and the Hall of Music Productions.

What is a specific class you teach?

Along with Cory Palm in Intercollegiate Athletics, I teach a class called Technical Video Production 2. This class involves collaboration between Purdue and the Big Ten Network (BTN). In exchange for access to BTN-owned video production equipment, the students create productions of several Purdue sporting events each semester. Those productions are then streamed on BTN's website.

BTN has this kind of partnership with all Big Ten schools, but Purdue is the only university to have created a class around it. It's a very popular course that can provide valuable experience to our students. Usually around 20 are enrolled in the fall and spring, but this fall, we'll have 23 students in the class. This year also marked the first time we've held this class in the summer.

Why is experiential learning important for film and video studies students?

In the film and video industry, a degree is very important, but you also must have certain abilities and skills to land a job. Film, video and theater work is very deadline-oriented, and employers require new employees to be able to hit the ground running. There just isn't a lot of time to learn brand-new skills when a deadline is coming up.

How successful are Purdue's film and video studies students?

Our film and video studies students have gone on to do some incredible things. For example, some of our former students are working as production assistants in Los Angeles. Some are on tour with musicians as part of film crews, and others are attending graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University and New York University. Going through our program can open up a lot of doors.

Another important thing to note is that our students are often very successful before they ever leave Purdue. For example, our film and video studies students recently worked with Hall of Music Productions employees to produce a video called "Welcome to Ross-Ade Stadium," which was shown before home football games. The students really took ownership of that project -- they fleshed out the script and made it their own.

In July, we found out that the video won a Golden Matrix Award for best in-game feature by the Information Display and Entertainment Association (IDEA), which is the premier international association for professionals in the big screen and sports presentation industry. It's a big deal because very few universities win such an award in a non-university-related category. In fact, our video was up against finalists that represented professional sports teams -- the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Houston Texans were the teams represented.

When I see our students succeed like that -- and when I see them go on to successful careers -- it's like a little piece of me succeeds, too.  It's a just a great feeling that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world.

Writer: Amanda Hamon, 49-61325, ahamon@purdue.edu