During the months of July and August, Community College of Denver (CCD) and The College Tour, an Amazon Prime Video series hosted by Alex Boylan, collaborated to film a handful of exemplary students on both the Auraria and Lowry Campus. This exciting venture brought together a diverse group of talented individuals and showcased the remarkable students of CCD. In this article, we'll provide you with a deeper look into the behind-the-scenes efforts that went into creating CCD's English and Spanish episodes for The College Tour. Many people were involved, and long days were inevitable, but the joy of working with such a creative and talented crew for two weeks and meeting students who inspired us all was priceless.
The journey was nothing short of an adventure, marked by uncertain moments and a dynamic cast of students. Finding students who were available filming and adjusting schedules due to personal matters presented a unique challenge. It was a roller coaster of events and emotions, but we made it work. The long days were not a joke, with the crew, CCD staff, and students sometimes working from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. throughout the production process.
Each day consisted of an agenda slightly different than the day before, bringing new surprises and keeping everyone on their toes. Prior to filming, we scouted locations on and around campus to ensure they resonated with the students' personalities. Many of our CityHawks experienced being in front of a camera for the first time, adding an element of pressure to memorize a script and nail it. Yet, the supportive and patient attitude of The College Tour film crew made all the difference. They were rooting for our students to do their best, and every single one did a phenomenal job.
A highlight of the experience was the opportunity to showcase CCD's proximity to nature by filming on the Clear Creek trail, a short 20-minute drive away. Located downtown, it’s easy to forget how accessible these stunning outdoor locations are. Despite record-high temperatures, the crew hauled heavy equipment up and down trails, and students like Alexis Marquez embraced the challenge with unwavering enthusiasm. Surrounded by lush greenery and the soothing sounds of the nearby river, we even had the chance to spot majestic big-horned mountain goats during the Spanish episode shoot.
There was also quite a bit of hiking happening around the Auraria Campus. The English episode's director, Bryan Smith, kept track of how far we trekked in one day and recorded an impressive six miles around campus. It's incredible how well you think you know the campus until you've explored every nook and cranny.
In addition to the featured students, many of them brought along their own entourages, creating heart-warming moments. U.S. Military Veteran Santasia Jovel brought her two lovely children along, proudly capturing memories with their mom. Lindsie Corl showed up to the set with her younger sister, though they got along more like best friends than sisters, which was endearing. Samantha Tarango brought her significant other, a very nice gentleman, to cheer her on. And then there was Milo Halpern, who appeared on set with an enthusiastic group of friends who added to the lively atmosphere.
In certain scenes, we needed extra humans and had to get creative. How did we find those extra people? The answer is simple: we asked random students on campus if they wanted to be on TV. You might be thinking, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s a college campus. There are people everywhere.” Ha! If only that were the case. Filming during the summer months meant most students and faculty members were away. So here is a shoutout and massive thank you to those folks who stepped in to lend a helping hand!
The College Tour dispatched two distinct production teams for the English and Spanish episodes. Spending a week with each crew for extended hours together meant we quickly became a close-knit group. Bryan Smith, director of the English episode, is the Executive Producer and CEO at 8th Avenue Studios, based in Fort Pierce, Florida. Bryan demonstrated an unusual level of trust in his Director of Photography, Chris Beemer, allowing for a creative partnership that enriched the production. But it, of course, takes more than a director or director of photography to create a stunning production. The English episode crew also included Kevin Garcia as the Second Camera and Dylan Redondo as the Production Assistant. Working alongside them and sharing laughter was truly a pleasure, culminating in a bittersweet farewell as our filming came to an end. In celebration, we gathered on our last day of filming for pizza and camaraderie.
Xavier “Xavi” Medina helmed the Spanish Episode as the director, and his wife, Maria Cotarelo, served as the Production Assistant, breaking barriers in what seems like a male-dominated industry. Based in Miami, the couple had recently finished producing their film, Sunnyland. The Spanish episode crew brought a different energy to campus, with Kevin Garcia returning as Director of Photography and Casey Glazer, fondly nicknamed “Casey Bear,” as the Second Camera. Casey initially appeared shy but gradually opened up during the shoot.
Now let me ask a question: have you ever wondered what it would be like to wear a mascot costume in 97-degree heat, with the sun beating down on you? CCD’s beloved mascot, Swoop, fearlessly soared to the set to dance alongside the Spanish episode host, Lorena Segura, who is also an actress and costume designer.
The entire experience with Amazon’s The College Tour was not only exciting and interesting but also informative, providing a unique opportunity to connect with students in a new and engaging way. Each student had their own exceptional story to share and ambitions to convey. In a word, the two weeks of filming can be described as exhilarating. CCD is immensely proud of its diverse student body, each with unique backgrounds and fields of interest, ready to inspire the world. Both episodes will be available for streaming in Spring 2024, and we sincerely hope you enjoy The College Tour episodes as much as we enjoyed the privilege of working on them.