By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Land Grants Films is the latest manifestation of the passion that a University of Tennessee (UT) Assistant Professor of Journalism has for serving the community while also providing his students with opportunities to improve their skills.
We first met Nick Geidner nearly two years ago when we were asked by one of his colleagues to write a teknovation.biz article on an initiative called the “Medal of Honor Project (MOH).” The goal of the initiative was to have UT students capture the stories of the aging recipients of the nation’s highest military honor in a series of vignettes that would be part of documentary shown during the “Medal of Honor” national conference held in Knoxville in September 2014.
I recall asking Geidner if he could tie the students’ efforts into our key teknovation.biz themes – technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. He said “absolutely.” Only after the initial interview and subsequent conversations did I learn just how entrepreneurial this Ohio native really is.
“I did not expect the MOH project to grow so big or get so much visibility,” Geidner says. “We have developed a respected brand and wanted to build on it. At the same time, we did not want to use the name for more than it was intended.”
The MOH initiative garnered national, regional and local recognition and, perhaps more important, it inspired a spark among the student body.
“I had a lot of kids interested in telling more and different stories,” Geidner says. So, the entrepreneurially-minded faculty member launched Land Grant Films as part of UT’s School of Journalism and Electronic Media.
“I want to teach my students how to do documentaries, tell real-world stories, and do something for the community,” he adds. The client group is composed of not-for-profit organizations that need to tell their stories and do not have the resources to do so.
Land Grant Films’ inaugural project under its new brand name was a video titled “Teach a Man to Fish.” It was produced for Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Inc., an organization dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings.
More recently, Geidner and his student team worked with the Metro Drug Coalition to produce a 30-minute video titled “Reaching for Recovery: Pregnancy and Addiction in East Tennessee.” The production highlighted a pervasive problem in the region – 577 babies born in Knox County last year with addictions that required each of them to spend an average of two weeks in a hospital.
For Geidner, the manner in which the latest project culminated was a validation of just how successful the MOH initiative was and the respect the team had earned.
“WBIR scheduled a one-hour, prime time special featuring one of its top anchors and incorporating our video without seeing any footage,” he explained. The show, featuring the 30-minute video and a panel discussion, aired on March 10.
It is that sort of impact that Geidner hopes future Land Grant Films’ efforts will have.
“I come from all state universities,” he explains. They are Youngstown State, Ball State, Ohio State and now UT.
“One of my jobs is to give back and engage with the community,” Geidner adds. “I take it seriously. We were given something, and we should give back.”
Those who share his passion for service can help Land Grant Films grow. Geidner has launched a $50,000 fundraising campaign. The donations will be used to purchase additional equipment, building on core hardware that was funded by donors to support the MOH project. Geidner also wants to award student filmmaker grants to help with incidental expenses like travel or purchase of music and offer video boot camps for non-profits.