Series on UND hockey program netting heaps of buzz
Behind the scenes of University of North Dakota Athletics' acclaimed video series Through These Doors, the mostly student crew that makes it happen still takes a grassroots approach to production. Headquarters for the second season was a storage room with some open plumbing.
"At its finest, I think it was a shower room." said Peter Bottini, a communications major from Sartell, Minn. and one of the student founders of the series.
Producing such a quality show with limited resources requires a proactive mindset. As the show's success continues to grow in its third season, episodes have now expanded to 30 minutes. That length requires more of a professional approach to detail and cohesiveness with little margin for error.
"Planning became a huge part of it because of how intricate we decided to make the episodes," said David Folske, series producer and 2013 UND Communication alumnus from Bowman N.D. "If we planned, things tended to go easier."
While interning at UND Athletics during the fall 2011 semester, Folske and fellow Studio One alumnus Bottini were tapped to produce a show that connected the UND hockey program with fans. UND Hockey Head Coach Dave Hakstol wanted to create an online series based on HBO's 24/7 series.
"We in the hockey community love that show, and we were looking to do a miniature version of that," said Bottini.
Bottini, a former still photographer for the Dakota Student newspaper, is a documentary fanatic with an excellent background in video. Self-taught, he refined his skills and learned essential basics of video at Studio One. Using his own equipment, he and Folske began production on Through These Doors.
"We didn't really know what kind of product we were starting out with," said Bottini. "We were just looking to put something together that we were proud of and just put it out there."
The series began airing on UNDsports.com in the fall of 2011, providing in-depth interviews with players and coaches while showcasing game highlights throughout the season. Shortly after the debut, the show started to generate a buzz.
NYTimes.com spotlighted Through These Doors at the end of the first season. Midco Sports Network has been airing the third season during its Friday night UND lineup, and the show was nominated for a 2013 Upper Midwest Regional Emmy in the Best Sports Program Series category.
UND students Eric Classen, an Air Traffic Control major from Medina, Minn. and Andy Parr, a Grand Forks native majoring in Industrial Technology, were added to the original crew to take leading roles as producers of the show. Both picked up some video editing experience in high school, and Parr picked up an AAS degree in Audio Production and Engineering from the Institute of Production and Recording (IPR) in Minneapolis before he enrolled at UND.
Parr and Classen have also learned from Bottini and Folske, and production has gone smoother with better planning and by integrating their talents.
"Andy is really good at audio, and I'm not," said Classen. "If I need to come up with audio, I know I can count on Andy to do that. We knew we could count on David to do certain graphics and editing."
The diverse skill sets that the crew has picked up working on the show should come in handy after graduation. Their experience also has also made them critical of other shows they view when they aren't working.
"I can't sit down and watch any broadcast or production without thinking about what's going on behind the scenes, especially first season shows." said Parr. "You go back and watch your favorite show in first season, you can tell it's very low budget and it's come a long way."
The Through These Doors crew relish that they were able to do real work in their field of study before graduation.
"I started interning for Studio One during the second half of my sophomore year, and I did not go through a semester of college without an internship after that point," Folske said. "I think it's important for students to try to get experience in their chosen field before they leave."
"Find what your passionate about and take advantage of it," said Bottini. "Get involved somewhere on campus as earlier as you can and take advantage of what you can learn. Getting your foot in, especially on a college campus where everything is connected already, really opens doors."
The Through These Doors team isn't sure if the show will be returning for a fourth season, but the fan base it has developed make another run a possibility.
University & Public Affairs writer