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By Sarah Boesveld

Last October, a group of fourth-year radio and television arts (RTA) students crammed their cameras and luggage into a rented RV and made an epic journey across the Prairies on the tail of a tour bus.

The result? A high-definition, two-hour DVD, contacts in the music industry and memories of an unforgettable adventure.

Oh, and likely an A+ from their instructor. For their thesis project in television production, Michelle Douglas, Renee Childs, Mike Alfano, Liam Ward, Julia Lorenz and John Facey-Crowther formed CEO Productions and documented the tour of the Juno-nominated rock band Thornley. Enthusiastic and determined, CEO prepared its project months in advance – long before other RTA students had even come up with a topic.

The offer to shoot free video footage caught Thornley’s attention. CEO signed a contract with the band and got down to business making plans for the trip. “It was such a big project; we needed to get ahead of the game,” says Douglas, the video’s director. She adds that since the band’s tour was early in the semester, preparation was key. The team booked flights the same night that the project was approved.

Within weeks, they were on the West Coast, armed with pounds of camera equipment and an equal amount of faith. “Most of us had never been out west before, never mind been out west with such a huge project on our hands,” Douglas says. “We flew across the country with all of our really expensive equipment; it was kind of like we got there and it was do or die — we had one chance to get it right.”

Though the pressure was high, the band was friendly and supportive — a huge help to alleviate the constant stress, says Childs, the video’s producer. She describes every show as a learning experience, noting that team members were still figuring out how to use new equipment the whole time. “There’s no way we could have anticipated what was going to happen when (we were) out west,” Childs says. “Every show was totally different — different crowds, different vibes.”

Regardless of the group’s inexperience, Thornley manager Tim Seeton was impressed with their dedication. “They were professionals that wanted to do something,” Seeton says. “They took their time; they did it right.” He adds that the band developed a fondness for the CEO team over the course of the tour. Ryerson professor Dana Lee, the instructor who marks the group’s project, says that CEO’s good relationship with band members had a positive impact on the final product.

“If the band co-operates with the crew, you get better footage,” Lee says.

Lee also notes that the group reached beyond Ryerson’s resources. Apple Canada sponsored the venture by providing $15,000 worth of equipment, a gesture Childs says was responsible for the high quality of the DVD.

The high-definition, 5.1 surround sound DVD contains concert footage from 11 different shows, including interviews and behind-the-scenes action. The DVD will be released later this year with Thornley’s next album.

After putting more than a few hours and dollars into the project, CEO has a professional resume to showcase its talents. But for now, the group is happy that most of the grunt work is behind them.

“We worked so hard and it’s finally all pieced together,” Childs says. Douglas adds, “It was really overwhelming, but in a good way. It’s going to be a relief (when it’s all over) — I’ll get my social life back, my bank account back, my sanity back!”

CEO Productions is hosting a DVD wrap party tomorrow night with friends, family and the band.

The DVD will be screened along with the works of other fourth-year RTA students on Saturday, April 1 at 5 p.m. in ENG 103.

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