Working with Parsons Paris

  • Yann-Yves O'Hayon-Crosby
In early 2015 Spinning Wheel Productions had the opportunity of collaborating with Parsons Paris The New School to make a promotional video for the institute. Parsons Paris is an establishment that has been a staple for American academia abroad; I was just lucky enough to work with them.
Anne Ditmeyer, a friend and fellow AUP alumni, contacted me about making a video for Parsons. I was thrilled about the idea, and she asked me to send a proposal that would compete with those of other candidates.
Crafting a proposal is a challenge in itself. Luckily, I already had experience doing promotional work for the INSEEC Bachelor School, which gave me a good foundation to start with.
Making a promotional video is mainly about selling an image or building off of a preconceived narrative and maintaining continuity. That is where research about the Parsons’ brand and its competitors was so important.


I started off analyzing what the competition was in France and abroad, and imagining myself in the shoes of a potential student or parent. I asked myself the key questions: Why would I send my child here? Or why would I go here? What makes this place different? What is the advantage? What would I miss out on if I decided to study elsewhere?
Parsons itself had a different set of challenges.
Firstly, it was going through a transition period where it had split away from the Paris College of Art and was independently making a name for itself. It was also becoming a part of The New School, the New York-based University. Parsons needed to show its unique situation as a strength, a selling proposition that would grant something interesting to a potential student. Another challenge faced by the school was the local competition. Paris, as many can imagine, is a city full of art schools because of the plethora of museum, as well as of the rich cultural and artistic history of the city.
After a lot of research about the institution and learning more about what they wanted to achieve, I came up with a proposal to highlight the strengths and heritage of Parsons. The main idea was to show that Parsons Paris was influenced by an American liberal arts curriculum (The New School), while maintaining its Parisian values and customs. This superimposition of looking towards the future and basing itself on its legacy the point that drove the uniqueness of such an institution.
Now that the concept was formulated, the question remained about how this would play out practically. In order to do so, I wanted individuals to speak out, which would grant e feeling f validation from different source, rather than a voiceover or story from one single person’s experience. The sum of experiences and voices would lend a stronger, more cohesive story that would ultimately speak to a more varied target group. This would help engage the audience through first hand accounts from students, faculty and of course the Dean. 
The pitch won. The nail had been hit on the head and the start of refining and planning the idea practically had begun. After several Skype sessions and tons of emails, as well as the composition of a script, the concept had been planned, accepted and ready to go.

The shoot

Equipment-wise I had decided on a camera that I had experience with, was quick and easy to setup, had an EF mount (to fit the other lenses we already owned) and that would respect the budget. The Canon C300 as my first pick, but unfortunately all of them had been rented for the Paris fashion week.
we opted for the route of the little brother, the Canon C100. The camera ltimately fit into the production perfectly. I also had a second camera,  Canon DSLR, as a B cam to shoot a second angle hat I could cut to in post. Gear choice must be accurate, as it serves story and project above all.
The shooting took two very long days, and unfortunately the weather did not grace us. Nonetheless, anks to Anne’s amazing planning abilities we were able to get through those days with all the necessary content.
Post Production
Final Cut Pro X all the way. Many people have had trouble with this particular piece of software since it came out in 2011, but I will not go through all the details here, I’ll save that for another post.
One of the advantages of using FCPX is the multicam synchronization. As a lot of the interviews had two angles I was able to sync them effortlessly, which gav me more time to concentrate on the actual edit.
After the initial rough cut, the edit was sent back to Parson and from then on the back and forth began. Several versions were made, and the edit was tweaked until final delivery.
A year later I got to work with Anne once more, when I returned to Parsons Paris to shoot an event. I met again with some of the faculty, staff and students who I had interviewed the year before, as well as new students. They introduced me as the ‘guy who made the video on the website’, and got a positive reaction each time. Overall, it has been an absolute pleasure to work with such a client and I hope to do so again soon.  
Below is a link to the video I hope you enjoy it!