Two GSU students nominated for Crystal Pillar Award

Interviewing the forces behind ‘One on One with Sterling Fields’

Trenton Stillwell & Gaston Beltran, Phoenix Staff writers

Photos of Jeremy Manthey and Zhamarr Tompkins in the nomination interview. (Photo by Gaston Beltran)

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences chapter of Chicago founded by Ed Sullivan in 1958 is the institution that holds awards and recognition as“one of the largest and most senior local chapters in the country, with a proud history of innovation and excellence in the field of broadcast television and beyond.” This chapter produces the Chicago and Midwest Regional Emmy Awards. These Awards are presented annually for outstanding achievements in broadcasting. Governors State University students Jeremy Manthey and Zhamarr Tompkins were nominated for their production “One on One with Sterling Fields”

TS: You (along with Zhamarr Tompkins) were nominated for a Crystal Pillar Award. Explain to readers, what are the Crystal Pillar Awards and why are they so important in student media? Jeremy: The Crystal Pillar Awards are through the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS for short). Being nominated and/or winning an award through NATAS is a huge accomplishment because there are so many successful schools that take part in it across the country. It is also something that looks great on a resume. It also looks great for a university. If I did my research correctly, Loyola was nominated for nine Crystal Pillar Awards. That looks great for a school’s reputation. It is something that Governors State University really wants to succeed in, so it is very important in student media here and in other schools.

TS: Your documentary was entitled “One on One with Sterling Fields;” explain a little bit about that documentary and the role you played in its production?

Jeremy: Zhamarr and I always had a dream to take sports production at GSU to another level. A lot of our focus when we were brought into sports was on the games itself, but we felt like there could be more done to elevate sports at GSU. One of our ideas was to see if we could interview some of the athletes. As a freshman, Sterling Fields won the CCAC championship with the Jaguars and was also a part of the team when they lost in the championship game the following year. With those experiences, along with the Jaguars shooting for a third consecutive CCAC Championship appearance, we knew Fields would have a great story to tell. Everything was handled by Zhamarr and I. Everyone at DLMD gave us the green light to be creative in the work that we do. There were a lot of elements of pre-production, production, and post-production that had to be handled. Some of my roles during pre-production were involved with scheduling, along with writing a script for the production. Everything from the introduction, the interview, and the outro was written by me. Zhamarr and I also had to create a set for the show. During the actual production, I was the producer and the host. Since it was only Zhamarr and I on the crew, we had to make sure all of the equipment was working properly, mic up Fields and I, make sure the lighting was correct, make sure our shots were set (etc.). We went through our checklist so that when it came time for the production to start, there would be no interruptions and our interview would flow. I also worked as a co-editor during the post-production process, but I must give a major shout out to Zhamarr. All the amazing graphics that you see during the video were all done by him; the basketball graphic in the introduction, the lower thirds, and the other basketball graphic behind Sterling and me during the actual introduction. That short highlight video of Sterling that plays before the interview starts was beautifully edited and put together by Zhamarr. We both did a lot of work during the entire process of the video, but I could not do it without my director.

TS: Obviously, production played a major role in student-run film, let the readers know what were some successes and challenges you and Zhamarr faced when creating this film?

Jeremy: Honestly, a lot of things went right for us during the planning, the filming, and the editing. I got to thank Coach Tony Bates because he was always willing to help us out in any way possible. He was onboard with the idea of us interviewing one of his players immediately. Sterling was the same. Both were very responsive and helpful. Even after we concluded filming with Sterling, he was more than happy to provide some of the photos that you see in the video that helped bring his story to life. Honestly, I would say the biggest challenge was a personal one in that I have never hosted anything in my life.

TS: These type of nomination lists are sometimes overly filled with nominations from larger universities (i.e., Loyola, Northwestern, Marquette) however, this year Governors State is among those large names, what impact do you see that having on the GSU media program and the university as a whole? What do you want others to see with this kind of nomination?

Jeremy: That was one of the first things I noticed when I received the link that we had been nominated. Like you mentioned, there were schools like Loyola, Northwestern, and Marquette filling the nomination sheet and then suddenly you see “Governors State University.” Those schools are arguably way more well-known but Zhamarr and I were able to construct work that was able to compete with them. I hope that this sets a trend for the future of Governors State University. I hope that this sets a trend for the students that replaced us in the sports department. I worked with some great student interns during that time. We had also entered one of our games in the competition and, unfortunately, that did not get nominated and I wish it did because those interns deserve so much praise for the work that they put into every single game last season. Now that some of them have been promoted into the positions Zhamarr and I once had, I look forward to seeing the work that they put into sports so that they hopefully receive multiple nominations. When you look at the nominations, those schools previously mentioned had multiple nominations. I want these student workers to one-up Zhamarr and I and come up with multiple nominations because I know they can do it. While I am proud of the accomplishment that Zhamarr and I have, I hope that the current students in our place, as well as the future ones, see that it is possible to be from a smaller school and produce high quality work worth recognition. We have a great program here and a lot of talented individuals. It’s only a matter of time before GSU gets transcended to the next level and I am very happy to be the stepping stone for that.

TS: How has this nomination affected you as you have recently graduated from GSU in progression of your future?

Jeremy: I was stoked to be nominated. I thought it was such a cool accomplishment, but I thought that would be it. I never expected to be scheduled for multiple interviews after people began finding out the news. Right now, I think it is still fresh, so it hasn’t had too much of an effect on my future yet, but I know that it is a tremendous addition to my resume.

TS: To someone right now involved in the GSU COMM or Media Studies program, what advice would you give them in terms of progressing forward in their craft as students? (You being now a Crystal Pillar Award Nominee)

Jeremy: Graduating with a major in Communications, taking a bunch of media studies classes, and working within the DLMD environment I can say that you are in great hands. There were so many professors within those programs that truly care about their students and want to see them succeed. I could list a multitude of professors that loved teaching and loved watching their students succeed. Don’t be afraid to pick their brain. There were professors that I knew I could approach and ask questions; whether it be something I wanted clarification on or just a general question and they went out of their way to help me so that I could improve. They will do the same for you. I have a lot of professors to thank for that. Also, to the ones in the media studies program, don’t be afraid to be creative. For me, my fear has always been “is my work good enough?” You can’t have that fear in this field. If it wasn’t good, find out what was wrong about it and improve yourself. Take this time in college to practice and improve your craft; improve on your weaknesses. My weakness coming into college was communication because I am an introvert (funny since my degree was in Communications). The job that I had while filming this project required me to be an extrovert. So, it helped me work on myself and be more vocal. I never came in thinking I would ever win an award. That was something that literally never crossed my mind. I want my nomination to be used as “well this guy did it so why can’t I?”

GB: Hey Zhamarr, just wanted to say first of all congratulations to you and Jeremy on your achievement in being recognized as Crystal Pillar Award nominees! This has to be an exciting time for both of you. On behalf of the Phoenix, we also want to congratulate you both on your creative endeavors!

Zhamarr: Thank you, Gaston. I really appreciate this.

GB: We all really appreciate you taking the time out of your schedule for the Phoenix. So, Zhamarr, what are the Crystal Pillar Awards? And how do you think this piece caught the attention of the judges? What did it take to produce/direct a piece good enough to receive attention and nomination? When did you and Jeremy produce this piece?

Zhamarr: As I’ve been told, the Crystal Pillar is a high recognition for college students. We’ve been planning and working towards this competition since the day we got hired. We were never eligible in years past because the productions had to be completely student-produced and there was always a staff member as the producer. This past year they handed me and Jeremy the keys and got out of the way.          I think that we earned this nomination by putting together a quality piece of work. The graphic in the background looks very nice and the host (Jeremy) does a great job of controlling and leading the conversation. We actually submitted two pieces, the second was a condensed version of a game where Justin Siorek surpassed 1,000 points. That one was great, and I wish they chose that one instead because the interns who worked under me and Jeremy would have been credited on that submission. I think they leaned toward the piece that they did because of their personal opinions. Both were quality work. We built the set out of whatever we could find in our department and it came out pretty good. Before being named producer and director Jeremy and I served as interns the year before, so we targeted Sterling because we noticed how he controls the game off the bench. Jeremy wrote the questions and I made the graphics. Jeremy decided to step in as the host because he knew the questions like he wrote them (because he did). When I saw him on the set talking to an empty chair practicing his questions alone, I knew it was the right decision. At that point directing the segment was easy. Jeremy found a bunch of highlights of Sterling from the year before, and I chopped them up to make a reel. We had Riel come in and do the into/outro and then me and Jeremy put it all together in time for the season opener. We produced this piece right before the men’s basketball season got started last year. We were really excited to be in the driver seats for the broadcast and we wanted to kick the basketball season off with a bang. Here is the interview in case you wanted to see it

GB: I did get a chance to watch the interview and gotta say I love every minute of this production value-from the interview with Jeremy and Sterling to the graphics and pictures used, to the set, all tools you used to help tell a great story. That’s amazing Zhamarr! I’m very proud of you and Jeremy as artists to have stepped into roles of leadership and in striving towards that level of professionalism that it takes to receive a nomination for the Crystal Pillar Award. And I’m sure what makes it more relieving and worth it was how your team was able to use what was available to you to make that work without having any kind of staff assistance. You and Jeremy must be proud of that! When is the announcement for the winners? Where will the award ceremony take place? Is there somewhere we will be able to watch? Do have a link to your other work? You mentioned you submitted another piece. What do you think makes this nomination so important to you and your aspiration to enter the industry?

Zhamarr: There will be a virtual ceremony mid-November. There’s no date set yet, so I’ve been keeping an eye on the website for all updates.     As mentioned before, the second piece we entered was a condensed version of a game where Justin Siorek surpassed 1,000 points scored as a Jaguar. As always, Jeremy wrote the script for our broadcasters and I made the graphics that were used for this specific broadcast. We had an amazing team of interns that did everything on the day of the game from setting up and tearing down, camera work and audio, and even the extremely complicated replay unit. Like I said before, I wish this would have been the nomination because everyone on my crew worked so hard this year and they are all winners in my eyes but I wish they could’ve been credited for this nomination because they deserve this recognition. Here is the condensed version      And in the event you have two and a half hours to spare, Here’s the full game    And here is my personal video reel    This nomination is so important to me and Jeremy both because it is a confirmation. When we both started as producer and director, we were nervous about a lot of stuff like how well we could lead, how could we push the sports broadcast further, and did they make the right choice when they chose us. I quit my job of 11 years to take the position of director and I wasn’t sure how far I was going to go with media production, but I wanted to bet on myself. I know Jeremy has sacrificed as well. Over the year as director and producer there have been countless times where I was up at 3am working on a graphic for the show and I would text Jeremy to ask his opinion on something thinking he would text me back in the morning but he would text me back immediately because he was up working on the script. We wanted to come in and do a good job, but we also wanted to push the program forward. We took our memories as interns and used that to give opportunities to our interns that we didn’t get. We just wanted to do the best that we could and be the best leaders as possible. We wanted to change what was expected from a GSU Sports Broadcast and we wanted to feel like the DLMD made the right choice when they chose us. Most of all we wanted to know if we could hold our own in a fast-paced high intensity production setting and this nomination is confirmation that we can.

GB: That’s amazing Zhamarr. And there are times that artists have had to prove to not just themselves but with their teams how dedicated they are to their craft whether that was having a late night or two editing footage for the right kind of story to be told. And we definitely can’t wait to hear for them to announce the winners and keeping you and Jeremy’s nomination in mind! So then since this was a “confirmation” for you what other kinds of projects are you hoping to do that will help you keep up with your own artistic vision and work? What’s the program that allowed you the tools and capability to succeed in your vision? How would you credit GSU as giving you the opportunity to express your artistic vision? We at the Phoenix and the student body wish your team the best success and can’t wait to see what new projects there are in the works!

Zhamarr: I want to be sort of a swiss army knife when it comes to media so moving forward, I plan on stepping in front of the camera more. This fall at GSU I plan on jumping into the broadcast booth to do some play by play during the basketball season. I still work in the DLMD, so I get a chance to be a part of plenty other productions here. As far as working outside of GSU, I’ve started a YouTube channel with a few friends from GSU and we film our own skits and short films that we will start releasing pretty soon. We created the channel because we all love to create and the project’s we do allow us all to explore our talents as writers, directors, and even actors. I’m really falling in love with acting and I’m very excited to see where it goes. As far as the program, we use Avid media composer in DLMD to edit videos including the interview for Sterling. I personally used Adobe Premiere to make Sterling’s highlight reel and Adobe Photoshop to make any additional graphics. I love what GSU has done for me. There are so many great people and great opportunities here. In the DLMD there are so many great Professors like Mark Kundla, Debbie James and Uriah Berryhill who not only give me a chance to be great, but they push me towards it. I wasn’t even going to sign up for the internship that would eventually allow me to be the sports director until Uriah convinced me to do it. Other professors like Yevette Brown are great people to ask for advice. She actually has a prestigious award of her own and she has shown over and over again how much confidence she has in me. I couldn’t even explain how it feels to get the vote of confidence from a person like her. In the DLMD there are people like Amanda Martinez, Jon Tullos and Heather Penn who are not even professors, yet they teach me so much. Most of the time I could bump into Heather in the hallway and just a simple conversation we’d have in passing would inspire me to do more than I ever thought I could. Even professors outside of the department like Novia Pagone have managed to see the best in me and put me in position to be a better me. Being here has given me a chance to grow. My time as an intern taught me how to follow and my time as the director has shown me that I can lead. When I started here at GSU in the fall of 2018, I couldn’t even figure out how to turn on a camcorder by myself. Now here I am two short years later nominated for a student Emmy alongside the best producer I could ask for. I’ve been to other colleges and I’ve never felt the support that I feel from the GSU community. I can’t thank this school enough for what it’s done for me.

GB: That’s so awesome Zhamarr! I’m very happy with your enthusiasm and responses. I believe in the end that when a student gets to a place in their lives similar to your position, they can take a step back and look at that bigger picture that is the rest of their lives filled with the prospects and successes of their chosen careers. This is a great reflection of Governors State University’s mission that pushes all scholars who come through this institution so “succeed in a global society.” The university also pushes our leaders in teaching to do their best to equip the student/learner with the skills to apply creativity to a global society. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions about your recent nomination. And gathering from all your inspiring and amazing feedback, I have no doubt that you will succeed in creating spectacular and incredible pieces of work.