Uplifter Video & The University at Buffalo.
Behind the YouTube Series TRUE BLUE.
Have you ever seen a doctor sing opera?
Or a lawyer supporting troops with golf equipment?
How about a meteorologist playing the violin?
These are just three of nine amazing and inspiring stories told in the first season of True Blue.
True Blue, a University at Buffalo mini-documentary video series, tells the stories of alumni and what they have been up to since graduation. The series was established to create consistent, engaging, entertaining and inspiring content in order to attract a larger audience to the UB Alumni YouTube Channel.
In August of 2021, the UB Advancement team partnered with Uplifter Video to help kickstart the process of selecting which amazing alumni would be featured. We worked closely with the UB team to select and pre-interview each alumni in order to best prepare to tell their stories.
In late September, pre-production began by reaching out to Matt Parrino, a Buffalo Bills beat reporter for Syracuse.com. This would be the first true test of True Blue. A baseline example to show how the stories and eventually the series would come to life.
Matt Parrino, as would become true for every alumni featured, was honored to share his story.
He opened his heart, history and home to share how UB gave him a second chance at becoming who he is today.
Behind the Scenes of Mark Blaszak capturing Matt Parrino’s podcast, Shout!.
“UB is such an energetic community… there’s so many things you can do. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” said Parrino.
With the help of a mentor at UB's student newspaper The Spectrum, he turned his love for sports into a successful career.
The physical visual of The Spectrum newspaper was used to help his story come to life. Archived articles written by Parrino while a student at UB were combed through and filmed to complement his interview and story arc.
The feature received immediate positive feedback and the viewership results UB was aiming for. It was clear to all involved that this series was going to be extremely special in many ways.
To keep the momentum going and remain on schedule Nhi Kha, owner of Sativa Remedy, shared her story. Born in a refugee camp in Thailand, Nhi helped guide her family in America, and then had to be her father's guide through a terminal cancer diagnosis.
“UB was one of the first stepping stones for me to become an entrepreneur,” said Kha.
Along the way, she found her passion, and a plant with beneficial healing properties.
“At first it was for my loved ones, my mom, my dad, and now it’s grown into a community,” said Kha.
With the second feature complete, a challenging trend began to unfold. How do we squeeze a lifetime of memories and moments into a three minute video? The answer, use UB as the thread, the turning point, the motivation. Each story showed the scale of life without having to extend the overall length to get to the point.
In the third episode, Matt Kahn, co-founder of Big Ditch Brewing Company, helped get the story ‘there’ immediately when he said, “Everything about my life right now all started the day I moved here to go to UB.”
The episode featured a tour through Matt’s past and his brewery to build a story that included a life changing moment, garage beer making, meeting his wife, and finding his home.
It also didn’t hurt to sample some delicious beer, after production wrapped of course!
Just when we thought the formula for success was found, Talia Rodriquez sent us on a whole new path.
After experiencing hardship and poverty from a young age, Rodriguez wanted her story to be different.
The series was already fun to work on, but we soon realized how meaningful these stories would be. “I get to help unite our neighborhood organizations under one common goal, and that’s to make the West Side a better place,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez further showed just how impactful UB Alumni are to the Western New York community through her work with the West Side Promise Neighborhood Program.
Every time an episode was posted, it made it even easier to convince the next alumni to see what they could be a part of.
Many have experienced long days full of hard work, but Dr. Jeffrey Thompson and Carl Lam took it to a whole new level, and brought inspiring perspective.
Dr. Jeffrey Thompson thought he had to pick between a career in medicine or pursuing his musical passion—until he realized he couldn't do one without the other.
“UB taught me how to be a lifelong learner,” Said Dr. Thompson.
Carl Lam had a knack for reporting the weather since elementary school. Along the way he picked up quite a few additional talents, degrees, and career accolades: multiple UB degrees, a current student, an advisor, and so much more.
Lam said, “It’s not neat, it’s pretty messy, but if I’m having fun, then it’s worth it.”
Behind the Scenes, Mark Blaszak with Carl Lam performing at UB’s Slee Hall.
Speaking of pretty messy. Have you heard of Oozefest? Arguably the muddiest annual volleyball game ever. However, to Carl Miller and Craig Caplan it’s not just a volleyball game, it’s a reunion.
Their teams are the two longest-running teams in Oozefest history.
Miller told us it was more than a game, “We get to reminisce about the good old times.”
Having spent the day capturing students and alumni diving for volleyballs in knee deep mud was a significant departure from the previous six stories, but just as memorable and unforgettable.
Oozefest by itself is just a highlight reel of one muddy dive after another, but Oozefest in the True Blue style allowed for a deeper dive.
With mud dripping from his Ghostbusters costume Caplan put it in perspective, “We loved seeing what was changing at UB, in the years after our graduation.”
The Oozefest feature, though muddy on the surface, cleared up a lot about what it means to be True Blue (sorry not sorry for the pun).
Then came two time graduate, and future presidential hopeful Joe Hanna.
Yet another individual declaring how UB helped shape him,
“My three years at UB Law School are really what molded me into the person I am today.”
Joe Hanna admires a letter received from a student who donated golf balls to troops.
And the person he is today is nothing short of remarkable.
He took his passion for golf and turned it into a non-profit supporting military personnel.
“I take great pride in helping others and trying to give back, and so I founded a charity called Bunkers in Baghdad,” said Hanna.
He knew it was special, but never thought it’d grow to donate over 13 million golf balls and 1 million golf clubs to our troops overseas and based across the US.
Matthew Taboni (the third feature that included a person named Matt) was so fresh out of UB as an alumni he hasn’t even left yet.
Between founding UB's food pantry, being active in multiple clubs and organizations, and providing job interview clothing to students in need, he has done a lot in little time.
“UB has really allowed me to do so much more than I ever imagined,” Taboni said.
One of the few moments we were able to get Matt to stay still long enough for a portrait.
That was it, no sweat! Nine episodes, about 9+ individuals in just over 9 months. Stories of everyday people doing extraordinary things. Putting their stamp on the world, and they stayed right here in Buffalo to make it all work.
We are excited about Season 2 and can’t wait to tell the stories of even more alumni doing amazing things.