|Senior Videographer Wins $10,000 Grant in YouTube’s "Project: Report" Contest
April 30, 2010
|Mark Jeevaratnam '10
1. Document a single day in the life of a compelling person and show how that person is making a positive impact in the community.
2. Report on a compelling topic or subject of any nature, which you believe has not been sufficiently and/or accurately covered by the national media.
Mark Jeevaratnam's video responses to these two prompts made him one of five grand-prize winners in YouTube's recent "Project: Report" contest. His prize was a $10,000 travel grant from the Pulitzer Center to make a film about an international crisis. He plans to travel to Sri Lanka, his father's place of birth, to document the country's ethnic conflict.
Project: Report aimed to attract non-professional, aspiring journalists to tell stories that might not otherwise be told. Entrants had to make it through two rounds of judging by YouTube viewers to become grand-prize winners. View Jeevaratnam's entries.
A self-described "econ major who likes to make films," Jeevaratnam received a Dean Rusk Program Travel Grant, an Abernethy Grant, and a Patterson Award last summer to make a documentary about labor migration and remittances in his mother's home country of the Philippines.
"I never thought that I would fall in love with it like I did," he said. "Video reporting is exhilarating. You just get up and go, and that's sometimes the most gratifying part-You might capture something that you never anticipated. You just have the camera on at the right time in the right place, and you capture some real magic."
To address Project: Report's initial prompt about a compelling person, Jeeveratnam told the story of Vail Commons employee Sharon Hill. "I thought Sharon was the perfect candidate," Jeevaratnam said. "She has an amazing personality and brightens people's days. She knows names, asks how you're doing, and knows if you've been skipping meals because you're busy. And of course, she makes that smiley face with condiments on your sandwich. I wanted everyone to know how valuable she is to our Davidson College community."
His three-minute report about Hill won the YouTube community's approval, advancing him to the second round. That meant he had to find a subject that addressed the prompt about a compelling topic or subject of any nature, that has not been sufficiently and/or accurately covered by the national media.
While brainstorming ideas in Associate Professor of Anthropology Fuji Lozada's office, classmate Katie Epstein '10 told Jeevaratnam about her senior thesis on mountaintop removal, and she connected him with Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology Matt Samson. Samson put Jeevaratnam in contact with Robert Gipe, the leader the Higher Ground Project. He had found his film.
His second-round film, "For Higher Ground," took him to Harlan County, Ky., to explore how a community theater group is combating prescription drug abuse and mountain top removal. "The group provides a way to discuss issues facing the community-issues that are threatening to divide them," said Jeevaratnam. "It includes people who are for coal, people who are against coal, retired miners, nurses, addicts, users... It's brought all these people together to tell their stories."
"Before they wrote the plays, they went out into the community and talked to people. They heard stories about the floods that come every season, stories about the tricks they play on each other down in the mine. It's a hard culture but there's a lot of humor and a lot of endurance built into it."
Jeevaratnam's five-minute report on "For Higher Ground" was also popular with the YouTube audience, and he found out on April 21 that he won a grand prize and $10,000 award.
He graduates in two weeks, and has not yet finalized plans for his Sri Lanka project. But Jeevaratnam hopes to continue telling stories through video. "It's a great way to travel the world, meet people and tell their stories," he concluded.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,800 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.