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Media, Journalism & Film Department Blog

New documentary explores refugee crisis

Andrew Cline
Dr. Andrew Cline

Dr. Andrew Cline was supposed to be writing a book.

Cline, an associate professor in media, journalism and film said, “I was planning a book about Millennials and Boomers moving back into downtown. But I was sitting with my wife one day, and she said, ‘I noticed you’re not really getting after this project. What’s wrong?’”

Well, he explained, he didn’t really feel like writing another book. What he wanted was to make a movie.

“So my wife said, ‘Then why don’t you make a movie about it?’”

This conversation led to the founding of Carbon Trace Productions and the feature length documentary “Downtown,” which won Best Film in the Urban Sociology category of the 2016 New Urbanism Film Festival.

And it ultimately led to a new project that draws attention to the mental health crisis faced by children caught up in the Syrian civil war.

“Syrian Doctor”

W.D. Blackmon
Dr. W.D. Blackmon

Cline began his career as a news photographer, so he had a background in visual storytelling. Still, he called the transition into documentary filmmaking, “a big leap. Before working on ‘Downtown,’ I’d never put together a news video more than two minutes long,” he said. “Going out to 75 or 90 minutes was a big deal. But, you know, I did it, and we learned a lot. So why not keep going?”

He found an opportunity to keep going through an interdisciplinary collaboration with English department head Dr. W.D. Blackmon, who’d recently co-authored a memoir with Dr. Tarif Bakdash.

“Inside Syria: A Physician’s Memoir” chronicles Bakdash’s life growing up in Syria and his experiences as a pediatric neurologist working with the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) to treat Syrian refugees.

Blackmon and Cline sensed the multimedia potential for this story, and SAMS provided funding for a filming trip to document its work in the refugee camps.

In April 2017, Blackmon, Cline and a team from Carbon Trace (including Shane Franklin and Missouri State alumni Shannon Cay Bowers and Taye Taye, who served as cinematographer) spent a week filming in Jordan. The footage they gathered is the core of a documentary with the working title “Syrian Doctor.”

Documenting ‘human devastation syndrome’

When asked to describe the project, Cline said, “There is a mental health crisis, specifically involving Syrian children who have been displaced by war or born in refugee camps. (SAMS physician) Khaled Hamza has coined a new term for it: ‘human devastation syndrome,’ which is worse than posttraumatic stress disorder. The idea is that you’re rapidly coming to a situation where a large percentage of Syrian children are having their lives completely torn apart by war, and this is exactly the generation that’s going to have to rebuild Syria. So this is what the documentary is about — the mental health crisis of Syrian children, created by the civil war.”

The Carbon Trace Productions team met and filmed many children in Jordan’s refugee camps.

Cline hopes the documentary will inject fresh humanity and compassion into a topic that many may feel is too big to comprehend. “Yes, it deals in big numbers,” he said. “Eleven million Syrian refugees, and more than half are children. It’s a whole different understanding to see them and talk to them. It’s not that they want to go to Europe or America; they want to stay alive. And they really want to go home.”

In pursuit of the complete story

Sharing the complexity of these experiences can be challenging; in part, Cline said, “because journalism is always somewhat incomplete.” And in some sense, his new role as documentarian is an extension of his reporter’s drive to tell more complete stories.

“In any single bit of news coverage, it’s impossible to represent reality in the way that all parties subject to this news understand it. I think journalism is poorly taught when we use that ‘both sides of the story’ metaphor. There are so many sides to a story that thinking of it as having two sides actually harms good journalism, which is why I tell students, ‘Good journalism unfolds over time.'”

Carbon Trace Production team, filming in the Syrian refugee camps of Jordan
The children loved using Carbon Trace’s camera to take photos, like this one of Cline and Franklin.

“Good citizenship,” Cline continued, “also unfolds over time. It requires a good citizen to pay attention — read, watch and listen more deeply, so a documentary like this becomes a piece of that. What I hope people will see in this film is a bit of the story they’re not seeing in the news.”

Learn more

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Show-Me Chefs is going to the College Emmys

Student operating camera

Student-produced series Show-Me Chefs has been nominated for the Television Academy Foundation’s 38th College Television Awards (also known as the “College Emmys.”)

Show-Me Chefs is nominated in the Series-Unscripted category; named producers are Chelsea Eichholz, Daan Jansen and Ryan Gilyard.

Nominees will be honored in an awards ceremony, which will take place in Los Angeles on May 24. A group of students who have contributed to the show will be in attendance.

About the College Emmys

From the Television Academy Foundation:

The College Television Awards is a nationwide competition recognizing excellence in student work and spotlighting an inclusive group of talented storytellers and content creators who aspire to careers in the entertainment industry. All nominees and pre-announced award winners attend a two-day television summit prior to the awards, featuring a hands-on professional development experience and access to many of the industry’s top executives and innovators. They also become Television Academy Foundation alumni and are able to network and benefit from ongoing programs and offerings.

Regional Emmy success

Show-Me Chefs recently brought home two “Regional Emmys” from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Student Awards (NATAS). NATAS recognized Show-Me Chefs in the Long Form-Non-Fiction category, where Chelsea Eichholz, Daan Jansen and Ryan Gilyard were named as producers. It also awarded the promotional video “Show-Me Chefs Works with Local Community” in the Public Service category, where Jade Thomas, Chelsea Eichholz and C. Brian Light were named as producers.

Deb Larson
Dr. Deb Larson

About Show-Me Chefs

Since its first season in 2015, Show-Me Chefs has entertained audiences with televised culinary showdowns between area chefs. It’s quickly become a local tradition — with an emphasis on local.

Show-Me Chefs advisor Deb Larson, associate professor in the department of media, journalism and film, shared, “It sort of came to me as we were developing the show that most Americans are very disconnected from our food sources and producers.”

Larson said, “I want people to know we have all kinds of food being grown right here in southwest Missouri. Even year round you can buy fresh produce at the farmers markets. It’s a celebration of who we are.”

An innovative take on public affairs

While the connection between a cooking show and Missouri State’s Public Affairs Mission may not be readily apparent, Larson sees a lot of overlap through community engagement. “We interface with so much of the Ozarks community to produce this show,” Larson said. “There are a lot of local food producers who are out there making a living or enhancing their income through their love of growing food, and we like helping people learn about and support them.”

Learn more about how Show-Me Chefs provides real-world experience and contributes to our community.

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Awards recognition for The Standard

Staff at The Standard

The Standard was recently recognized with 18 awards from the Missouri College Media Association (MCMA) and four awards from the College Media Business and Advertising Managers (CMBAM).

MCMA awards for The Standard

  • Best Overall Newspaper – The Standard, Second Place
  • Best Sweepstakes – The Standard, Third Place
  • Best Website – The Standard, First Place
  • Best In-Depth News Reporting – Alec McChesney, Honorable Mention
  • Best News Writing – Nicole Roberts, Second Place
  • Best Feature Writing – Sarah Teague, Honorable Mention
  • Best Column – Spencer Martin, Second Place and Honorable Mention
  • Best News Photography – Nina Todea, First Place
  • Best News Photography – Ryan Welch, Second Place
  • Best Feature Photography – Bailey Vassalli, Second Place
  • Best Sports Photography – Megan Burke, Second Place and Third Place
  • Best Sports Photography – Ryan Welch, Honorable Mention
  • Best Editorial/Op-Ed Page – Rebecca Biundo, First Place
  • Best Page 1 Design – Emily Joshu and Rebecca Biundo, Second Place
  • Best Advertising – Zach Lamarre, Third Place
  • 2016-2017 Journalist of the Year – Nicole Roberts

Media, journalism and film senior instructor Jack Dimond, who is the faculty advisor to The Standard, said, “This has been a great year. I’m particularly proud of Nicole Roberts, who has done a fantastic job as editor-in-chief, and photo editor Ryan Welch also deserves a lot of credit for overhauling The Standard’s website, which took first place in its category.”

CMBAM awards for The Standard

  • Best Self-Promotion Print Ad Campaign – “Boomer Bear/Get the Bear Facts,” First Place
  • Best Online Self-Promotion Ad – “Best of MSU VOTE,” First Place
  • Best Self-Promotion Ad – “SOAR Brochure,” Second Place
  • Best Self-Promotion Multimedia Ad Campaign – “Housing Guide/Housing Expo,” Honorable Mention

Dimond said, “Our editorial success would not be possible without the work of Sandy King and her staff of students in the advertising department. Their recognition was also well deserved.”

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Giving voice to Syrian refugee children

Children are the biggest casualty of the Syria war, raging since 2011. Thousands of them have been killed, injured and ripped apart from their families.

To shed light on the humanitarian crisis, a film crew comprising Missouri State University students and alumni is creating a feature-length documentary through Carbon Trace Productions.

Led by Dr. Andrew Cline, associate professor of media, journalism and film at MSU, it will highlight the plight of refugee children and the work pediatric neurologist Dr. Tarif Bakdash, a Syrian-American, is doing to help them through the Syrian American Medical Society’s (SAMS) medical missions.

Cline shares more about the project and his experience from his recent filming trip to Jordan.

Shining a light on the plight of Syrian refugee children

Read full transcript

To help with this project, donate to the documentary film fund with MSU Foundation. To find out more about SAMS and how to support the organization, visit its website.

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Interdisciplinary team filming in Jordan

Dr. W.D. Blackmon, English department head, co-authored Inside Syria — A Phyisician’s Memoir with the book’s subject, Dr. Tarif Bakdash. This collaboration became the foundation for a multimedia, interdisciplinary project that now includes faculty, students and alumni from the department of media, journalism and film.

Blackmon is currently in Jordan with Dr. Andrew Cline, associate professor in media, journalism and film, and a group of alumni — members of the documentary production team Carbon Trace Productions. The team is working in conjunction with the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), filming the work of Dr. Bakdash and others in Jordan’s refugee camps.

The team is gathering footage for a documentary with the working title Syrian Doctor. They’re also recording interviews with SAMS doctors, and Andrew Twibell, assistant professor in media, journalism and film, will direct a group of students in editing the interviews.

Crew reassures friends back home

Given current events, many people have expressed concern about the Syrian Doctor team’s security. Cline assured us that he and the rest of the team feel safe. “We have no extra security concerns because Jordan is a stable U.S. ally,” he said, “and we are more than 200 miles from where the strike occurred.”

Instagram Photo

Follow their experience

Keep up with the Syrian Doctor team while they’re in Jordan by following them on social media:

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Electronic arts senior project takes idea from page to screen

Sean ThiessenLike a lot of emerging filmmakers, Sean Thiessen considered whether college was necessary for his career path.

“For film, you know a lot of people say you don’t really have to, that your experience is more important,” he said. But Sean took a chance that Missouri State’s electronic arts program would provide this practical experience along with a comprehensive film education.

During an early class in screenwriting, he knew he’d made the correct decision.

“I had always loved to write, but whenever I would write something, I would feel kind of directionless,” he said. Studying screenwriting strengthened his understanding of visual storytelling and film structure, which brought new intention and strategy to his work.

Sean said, “Now, I have more skill and understand the theory behind it all. I didn’t have that before, and it’s been really exciting.”

Electronic arts senior project

Sean got the opportunity to apply this knowledge by writing and directing his short film, “Posers,” for his senior project, a unique feature of the electronic arts program.

The electronic arts website explains it this way:

The senior project is the culmination of your studies within the electronic arts program. The process begins at the end of your junior year during ART 300: Fundamentals of Collaboration in the Electronic Arts. In this course, you form relationships with your fellow EA students and begin discussing possible projects for your final year in the program. By the end of the course, each student will have pitched an idea to the class, and after deliberation, students begin self-selecting which projects to get behind.


Sean’s short film, “Posers,” was selected, so after finalizing the script in September, his group went into production.

If it sounds like a lot of responsibility, it was. But Sean felt supported by the mentorship of EA faculty, who served as consultants to the film.

Fellow student Becca Thompson, who has won a number of awards for writing and producing, served as Sean’s producer and assistant director.

And thanks to the structure of the EA senior project, the Posers team consisted of students with advanced skills in the specific areas required for making the film, including animator and editor Desmond Dornak, visual effects artist Jacob Dailey, and composer and director of sound Nicklaus Martin.

Sean felt inspired by the precision and dedication of his collaborators, and they appreciated his vision of the big picture. As Sean said, “film is such a collaborative effort. It takes both types of skills.”

Sean Thiessen on the set of Posers

In addition to successfully producing a film together, the Posers team has built strong relationships. “I’ve made friends that I think I’m going to have for the rest of my life,” Sean said, “and I’m learning how to effectively collaborate.”

This applied learning experience has helped Sean feel prepared for his career. “In the real world, especially in movies, there’s a lot of money on the line, and there’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “Being able to work in that comfortably and having the confidence to make decisions is a big deal. I’m still learning, but this has been a huge step of growth for me.”

About the film

Sean described “Posers” as “a coming-of-age ‘creature feature’ about Derek and his mismatched group of high school friends, who accidentally awaken a shapeshifting monster on Halloween.”

The Posers team has already earned a loyal following on Facebook, and their fundraising video won Second Place in the Promotional Video category of the 2017 Broadcast Education Association Festival of Media Arts.

The film is scheduled to premiere this spring, and Sean is looking forward to entering it in film festivals.

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Student wins ‘Award of Excellence’ for working on cooking show

Lauren Johnson on the Show-Me Chefs set
Lauren Johnson was nervous about getting involved in productions until she got an unexpected call. As a senior media, journalism and film major at Missouri State University, it was her dream to work on a project like Show-Me Chefs.

It not only came true, but she also won an award of excellence for her work.

“Telling stories has always been my passion,” said Johnson, now a graduate student in the producing and screenwriting program. “I’m happy to say that for the last couple of years at Missouri State, I have gotten that opportunity on multiple occasions.”

Johnson was the head editor of the promotional video for Show-Me Chefs, a broadcast/webcast cooking competition television show produced in Springfield, Missouri by MSU’s department of media, journalism and film. The show features culinary talent from the Show-Me State.

She received the award at the Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Media Arts 2017 competition.


At this year’s festival, MSU students won 17 awards for different projects. For more details about the awards, see the media, journalism and film blog.

  • Josh Pfaff- Springfield, Missouri
  • Samantha Rohde- St. Louis, Missouri
  • Andrew Westmaas- Pittsfield, Illinois
  • Joshua Moore- Springfield, Missouri
  • Erin Snider- Kearney, Missouri
  • Sami Kelly- Fordland, Missouri
  • Chelsea Eichholz- Springfield, Missouri
  • Sean Thiessen- Nixa, Missouri
  • Becca Thompson- Collinsville, Illinois
  • Nicklaus Martin- Thayer, Missouri
  • Jacob Dailey- Springfield, Missouri
  • Lauren Johnson- Springfield, Missouri
  • Colin Robertson- Springfield, Missouri
  • Peter John Batemon- Sallisaw, Oklahoma
  • Brian Keppy- Springfield, Missouri
  • Shyla Shank- Oxnard, California

The post Student wins ‘Award of Excellence’ for working on cooking show appeared first on News.

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Show-Me Chefs: ultimate locavores

Since its first season in 2015, Show-Me Chefs has entertained audiences with televised culinary showdowns between area chefs. It’s quickly become a local tradition — with an emphasis on local.

Show-Me Chefs creator Deb Larson, associate professor in the department of media, journalism and film, shared, “It sort of came to me as we were developing the show that most Americans are very disconnected from our food sources and producers.”

Larson said, “I want people to know we have all kinds of food being grown right here in southwest Missouri. Even year round you can buy fresh produce at the farmers markets. It’s a celebration of who we are.”

Real-world job skills

Over the course of three seasons, more than 130 students have worked on Show-Me Chefs, filming 24 contestants who’ve served up more than 250 meals. Their work was recently recognized with a 2017 College Arts Emmy nomination in the Series-Unscripted category.

It’s a very hands-on learning process, and Larson knows when to step in as an educator and when to allow students to solve problems as they arise. “It’s all about them understanding how to be self-didactic. It’s a big crew, and the standards are high. If they don’t know something, they have to figure it out,” she said. “But they also have a team unit to help them troubleshoot issues.”

This course structure is modeled on a process called instructional scaffolding, which emphasizes providing targeted resources and support for students in a customizable learning environment — with the ultimate goal that students gain autonomy in the field.

Student operating camera

Instructional scaffolding has long been employed through internships and learning from team supervisors or mentors. But Larson has formalized the process in student production by dividing a large team into production units, such as camera and lights, art department, and producing and directing. Each unit is led by a graduate student, who provides guidance to the upper- and lower-division students that make up the rest of the team.

The set offers a complex ecosystem in which to learn. “It really makes you appreciate how many people it takes to make a show,” Larson said. “Every single person’s job is important to the whole.”

An innovative take on public affairs

While the connection between a cooking show and Missouri State’s Public Affairs Mission may not be readily apparent, Larson sees a lot of overlap through community engagement. “We interface with so much of the Ozarks community to produce this show,” Larson said. “There are a lot of local food producers who are out there making a living or enhancing their income through their love of growing food, and we like helping people learn about and support them.”

By showcasing these ingredients, Show-Me Chefs hopes to inspire viewers to eat locally, which Larson believes contributes to a balanced lifestyle. She said, “If you eat local and seasonally, you’ll be better off for it.”

Show-Me-Chefs pantry

Giving back

As an additional investment in the community, Show-Me Chefs donates a portion of the proceeds from its annual gala to Missouri-focused nonprofit Care to Learn. According to the Care to Learn website:

For thousands of kids in Missouri, school isn’t just a place for learning. It’s a shelter. A kitchen. A refuge from suffering. For these kids, hygiene needs go unmet. Meals are few. And clothes rarely fit. They come to school distracted by hunger and limited by embarrassment—their education an afterthought to survival.

The Mission of Care to Learn is to provide immediate funding to meet emergent needs in the areas of health, hunger and hygiene so every student can be successful in school. These are the things that stand between children and belonging—basic unmet needs that cause pain and embarrassment.

Larson said donating is important because “we want some of these kids to attend college later. And if they’re made to feel like they can’t learn and can’t succeed, they won’t believe they can do that. So we want to be part of making them feel successful now and in the future.”

Show-Me Chefs Gala
Guests and chefs at the 2016 Show-Me Chefs Gala

Support from the community

These opportunities exist because many aspects of the Missouri State and Springfield communities provide support. Larson is grateful for resources provided by the university, the College of Arts and Letters and the departments of communication and media, journalism and film.

Show-Me Chefs also receives donations from a diverse range of local businesses, including 319 Downtown Event Center, MaMa Jean’s Natural Market, Horrmann Meats, Red Top Oven, New Horizons Hydroponics, Urban Roots, Fellers Food Service and KOZL TV, who provide everything from prize money for the winning chef to pantry items to the aprons contestants wear on the show.

Individuals can learn about opportunities to get involved by following the Show-Me Chefs Facebook page (which also serves up tasty, behind-the-scenes sneak peeks and information about the October 2017 Show-Me Chefs Gala).

Delicious ingredients — very close to home

The Missouri State campus is a source for two Show-Me Chefs ingredients: beef and wine from the Darr College of Agriculture.

Larson praised this cross-campus collaboration. “It’s great working with Darr,” she said. “We want everyone to know that we have these programs. The College of Agriculture raises very good cattle, and the quality of the meat is excellent. We have award-winning wineries, and how cool is that? Sharing them on the show is a natural fit for us.”

And for viewers who get inspired and want to try Missouri State beef and wine? Rhonda Breshears of the Darr College of Agriculture shared that Hy-Vee and Horrmann Meats sell both beef and wine and that the wine is also available at the Brown Derby International Wine Center.

It’s the perfect way to dine like a Show-Me Chefs judge!

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Jaime Bihlmeyer recognized for excellence in online teaching

Jaime Bihlmeyer, professor emeritus, is the recipient of the 2016 Master Online Course Recognition Award (MOCRA) from Missouri State Online.

Students working onlineMOCRA criteria and recognition

Professor Bihlmeyer’s course, MED 470, was evaluated by a scoring rubric and judged to be best in each of the following categories:

  • Course overview and introduction
  • Learning objectives and competencies
  • Course design, organization and instructional materials
  • Student collaboration and engagement
  • Student assessment strategies and measurements
  • Course technology and media value
  • Student support

He will be publicly recognized at the All Faculty Recognition Reception in May.

Take the course

Bihlmeyer is scheduled to teach an online section of MED 470 during the Fall 2017 semester.

Key details

  • Course name: MED 470-899 (Postmodern Trends in Movies)
  • Credit hours: 3
  • CRN number: 44270
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Awards recognition at BEA’s 2017 Festival of Media Arts

Media, journalism and film and electronic arts students were awarded significant honors in the 2017 Festival of Media Arts, sponsored by the Broadcast Education Association.

About the Festival of Media Arts

From the Festival’s website:

The Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Media Arts is a competitive festival open to BEA individual faculty and student members. Last year the Festival received over 1,530 total entries in 15 competitions.

About BEA

BEA is the premiere international academic media organization, driving insights, excellence in media production, and career advancement for educators, students, and professionals… BEA serves as a forum for exposition, analysis and debate of issues of social importance to develop members’ awareness and sensitivity to these issues and to their ramifications, which will ultimately help students develop as more thoughtful practitioners.

Award winners

Narrative Video Category

Award of Excellence

Counting to 1,000
  • Josh Pfaff
  • Samantha Rohde
  • Andrew Westmaas
  • Joshua Moore

Award of Excellence

Backstage (Season 1, Episode 1: “Just Ignore the Cameras”)
  • Erin Snider
  • Samantha Kelly
  • Chelsea Eichholz
  • Lauren Johnson

Promotional Video Category

Second Place

Posers — Indiegogo Fundraising Video
  • Sean Thiessen
  • Becca Thompson
  • Nicklaus Martin
  • Jacob Dailey

Video Spots Category

Award of Excellence

Show-Me Chefs Promo
  • Lauren E. Johnson, editor
  • Colin J. Robertson, composer

Multimedia Sound Design Category

Second Place

Outwatch Cinema Trailer
  • Peter Batemon, sound designer and editor

Feature Scriptwriting Category

Third Place

  • Brian Keppy

Award of Excellence

Meat Me
  • Shyla Shank
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