From promotional marketing to hallmark events, the multimedia producer videotapes happenings at GW.
By Tatyana Hopkins
While students, staff and faculty at the George Washington University explore the past and chart new futures through academics, research, community service, athletics and internships, Matt Hodgkins works to capture and incorporate their individual stories into a bigger narrative about where the university is headed.
Mr. Hodgkins is a multimedia producer with the Division of External Relations’ Marketing and Creative Services team. The department’s visual designers and project managers support university schools and offices in the creation of visual communications that promote university initiatives such as advertising campaigns, brochures, publications and web design.
As a multimedia producer, Mr. Hodgkins is responsible for supporting the video needs of university partners. In addition to working with Media Relations to prepare b-roll footage—supporting shots and scenes used in a main video story—for local and national news outlets, the videography team also captures video and creates animations that can be shared on university-wide platforms. The team is responsible for creating content that aligns with the strategic goals of the university primarily for the External Relations Division. A big part of the job is capturing on video university-wide hallmark events.
“Basically, it’s all the motion picture needs at the university,” he said. “That could include shooting footage, editing footage, a combination of the two or working with designers in making something like an animation completely from scratch.”
Mr. Hodgkins joined GW in May 2016.
He said although his technical know-how enables him to shoot and edit video, his specialization is visual storytelling. He said his job is to create an effective visual identity for the university by working with its departments and programs to determine the best way to communicate their goals through video and showcase their stories.
“It’s great the better a video looks, but it’s all about the story,” he said. “One of the biggest things that we are trying to convey is that you’re welcome here at GW.”
Mr. Hodgkins said telling the best stories about GW requires a balance between highlighting “big bookmark events” and “the everyday stuff” such as student life beyond the classroom.
For example, in making the latest Senior Class Gift Challenge video, Mr. Hodgkins got to spend a day with President Thomas J. LeBlanc.
The video depicts the president reacting to repeatedly getting the same game card to pledge funding for new student spaces while playing “GW-opoly,” a university spin on the board game Monopoly.
“It was fun to run with the script but then have him go off the script and introduce his own sense of humor into it,” Mr. Hodgkins said.
He said his love for visual storytelling began as a hobby when he was younger.
A Connecticut native, Mr. Hodgkins got his first camera, a manual film model, in the fifth grade before his first trip to Washington, D.C., and eventually got a digital camera with video function.
He found himself inspired by rap music videos like 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and commercials like Apple’s “Open Your Heart to Everyone,” where a young girl encourages a shocked crowd to sing Christmas carols with Frankenstein.
“It started as fun little things around the house,” he said.
Although he said he enjoyed photography and film, he did not initially think he would make a career out of it. In fact, while considering a career in teaching and then later marketing at the University of Connecticut, he never took a video class.
Instead, he learned the trade through YouTube, clubs on his college campus and internships.
“It would seem like a disadvantage [to not study it in school], but I'm glad I got to study much more of the other side of marketing, communications and strategy to really better understand what everyone's looking for,” he said. “Through college, I started to see that it could be a career option. It wasn’t something you had to just move to California or New York City for.”
Now that Mr. Hodgkins has developed his homegrown passion into a career, he said it is natural to sometimes take his work home with him.
Motivated by the time lapse fashion of the “House of Cards” introduction, which he enjoys watching at home, he produced a 2016 video welcoming the GW community back to campus in the same fashion. He then began his own year-and-a-half long time-lapse project titled “Seasons of D.C.,” which captures various scenes in the city at “ideal weather conditions” during different times of the year.
He also recently began to self-study animation so he can play a larger role in his department’s animation services.
Mr. Hodgkins said while working at GW, he is constantly looking for creative ways to capture the university’s many different types of people and disciplines.
“One thing I love about GW is the diversity, and I mean diversity in many different ways like through the types of people coming in to the different skills people come here to develop,” he said. “I think it’s amazing to see a school at this level really truly take all these different types of disciplines seriously.”
He said from wood working to the university’s greenhouse and butterfly labs to the New Venture Competition, students and faculty are always “pushing forward with research to give new stories to tell,” and he is looking to develop new skillsets to tell them all.
But the latest project he said the department is gearing up for is the university’s bicentennial videos.
“It’s a big milestone for the university, and it’s going to be huge,” he said. “There will be a very high quality of storytelling, and the visuals will be top notch.”