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ODU Students Produce Documentary About 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition' Project in Virginia Beach

Earlier this year, the popular ABC television show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" breezed into Hampton Roads, moving a family of eight into a house built especially for them in Virginia Beach.

Behind the glitz and the celebrities and the tears of joy seen by millions of viewers was a ton of hard work by hundreds of local contract construction workers and volunteers. They were given some exposure on the network TV show, but their effort demanded more. So a team of Old Dominion University students, hired by the project's general contractor, has produced a 26-minute, behind-the-scenes documentary chronicling the work involved in rebuilding the home for the Hill-Burdette family. View video on ODU's YouTube Channel

"This should be entitled, 'All the Stuff They Should Have Shown on Television,'" said Lawanda Edwards, a senior from Norfolk, who is majoring in digital filmmaking in ODU's communication and theatre arts department.

Brett Lewis, a senior digital filmmaking major from Hampton, was approached by a neighbor, who informed him that Duane Cotton, the contractor for the "Extreme Makeover" build, wanted someone to make a video as a memento for the workers involved in the project.

Lewis enlisted classmates Edwards and Kristine Ortenzio, a senior communication major from Virginia Beach. The three students were a perpetual presence at the build site, arriving early in the morning, staying late into the evening.

"They were so happy we were able to document it all," Lewis said. "It was a real learning experience, too, seeing the tricks the crew used when they make television."

The condensed week of shooting for the television show (the crew had less than a week) meant that the ODU students needed to be on site as much as possible. "The week of shooting was very involved. Then editing was very involved," Ortenzio said.

In addition, Lewis was actually hired for the week as a production assistant by Hollywood-based Lock and Key Productions, the company that produced the broadcast.

The three aspiring filmmakers ended up with 24 hours of footage, which they turned into the 26-minute documentary, along with some short promotional videos. They received no financial compensation for their efforts. But thanks to quick work by Stephen Pullen, associate professor of communication and theatre arts, Lewis, Edwards and Ortenzio were able to get their project approved as an independent study so they could earn course credit.

Edwards said Pullen also provided invaluable guidance throughout the process. "Had it not been for Professor Pullen, we would have had a much harder time getting this done," she said. Ortenzio added: "He kind of guided us through everything."

Pullen was equally impressed by the achievement of his three "exceptional" students.

"They took the initiative to construct this project from the ground up, if you'll pardon the pun. They developed the relationships with the folks at ABC and 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,' got the permissions to shoot, made friends with the cast and crew, and ended up with a very exciting behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of a national TV show," he said.

"They paid great attention to every detail of the production. I'm very proud of the work they've done and hope more ODU film students will take this kind of initiative with independent projects."

Pullen said he's confident the trio will go on to great success in the film and television industries after leaving ODU.

Lewis said the team got a taste of the profession when they screened their documentary at the University Theatre this summer for an audience of workers from the project, and friends and family.

"We were very nervous, but it was tremendously satisfying to see that they liked what we had done, that they appreciated seeing their hard work on the screen," he said.

This article was posted on: September 14, 2011

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