EMF students win $8,500 in auto theft PSA competition

By: Marcus Dieterle, Assistant News Editor

Towson University Electronic Media and Film students won a total of $8,500 for projects submitted to an anti-car theft public service announcement competition.

The competition is hosted by the Maryland State Police, the Maryland/DC Vehicle Anti-Car Theft Committee and the Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council.

According to Adam Schwartz, a lecturer in Towson’s EMF department, the competition has been around for eight years. Schwartz oversaw this year’s projects and the directed study course for the video students.

Elena Russo, deputy director of media communications for the Maryland State Police, said Towson has competed in the competition since its inception.

This year, TU was joined by competitors from the College of Southern Maryland. In past years, students from Bowie State University and Prince George’s Community College have also competed, according to Russo.

Brooks Barry, the grand prize winner in the video category, used the car thief in his video to communicate statistics related to vehicle theft, ending the video with the punchline “I know the facts, do you?”

Barry said the longest parts of the process were coming up with an idea, writing the script and scheduling the project; after that, the actual video shoot only took about two days.

Other than the specific 30-second time frame, periodic deadlines and a requirement that any music must be copyright-free to be broadcast on air, the competitors were given full creative license over their projects.

Before winning, Barry didn’t know how much money the competition sponsors were going to award.

“[The presenter] was handing me the check and told me, ‘that’s $2,000,’ and my jaw dropped,” Barry said.

Barry said he saved some of the money for school and bought a new computer to work on more videos.

While he has never been the victim of car theft – nor does he condone it – he said he stole a friend’s car once as a prank.

“I did steal my friend’s Cadillac once and took it for a joy ride,” he said, laughing. “That was amazing. So… lock your doors.”

Senior EMF major Sam Teasley, along with group members Jared Brazil, Casey Smith and Tyler Barnes, were part of one of the winning audio groups. Teasley’s group and the other winning audio group – comprised of Michael Caddigan, Nigel Truesdale, Katherine Ruggiero and Kayla Mehok – shared the grand prize for the audio category, with each group receiving $1,500.

Years ago, Teasley said he earned a degree in Biology and Chemistry at Towson, but didn’t feel fulfilled in his chosen field after entering the workforce. That’s when he returned to TU to chase his passion for media and pursue his EMF degree. While Teasley said this is the first time he has received money for his creative work, he hopes this will be part of a continuing trend.
The Maryland/DC Vehicle Anti-Car Theft Committee, of which Russo is a member, judges the projects based on creativity, content, theme and quality.

“I think what stood out the most this year was the incredible acting of some of the talent, not just in the video but also in the audio pieces,” Russo said.

Russo, who is also an adjunct professor at Towson, said she and the sponsoring organizations hope students will be able to use the pieces that they produced for the competition as part of their demo reel as they enter the production industries.

This year’s grand prize winning projects from Towson will be broadcasted on WBAL; projects from the College of Southern Maryland will be broadcasted at Department of Motor Vehicles’ locations. Runners up will be used on the Maryland State Police’s YouTube channel and Facebook page, according to Russo.

Schwartz said experiences like this competition are great for honing students’ skills, and it allows them the opportunity to see/hear their work aired for actual audiences.

He also highlighted the importance of working on professional assignments, meeting deadlines and adhering to clients’ specifications for projects.

“Winning money is a wonderful short-term prize, but their radio spots and television spots are going to air on local television [and radio] and there’s nothing better for a résumé than already having done professional work that has aired,” Schwartz said. “I’m just so happy for them that they get a chance to have that.”

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