by JOE LIGGIO, Asst. Editor
It all began with a class assignment.
In the fall of his junior year at Manhattan, Cameron Cullen was tasked with creating one YouTube video per week to fulfill a requirement for his COMM 350: Field and Post Production course. He started off with an interview with his roommate, and uploaded a four minute video to his channel.
That video was the first ever “Cam’s Corner,” and much has changed in the year and a half since.
Now just a few weeks away from graduation, Cullen has two seasons of Cam’s Corner under his belt, a legitimate web series which has undergone high quality studio production, revived a club on campus, and has transcended the classroom to garner a cult following at Manhattan.
So how did it happen?
“You [could] get the same grade for literally recording yourself walking down to Jasper, or to your classroom or something, [and] uploading it to YouTube,” said Cullen, discussing the criteria for his COMM 350 requirement. “But for me, just being someone who’s passionate about making content, I found an outlet through [it]… I kept having these deadlines, and that’s kinda how the ball got rolling.”
His interest in videography began at a young age. Cullen’s father, himself a cameraman, first instilled the hobby in him, and he began making and uploading videos to YouTube in his early teens. That passion stuck with Cullen, as evidenced by the degree in Communications with a concentration in Broadcast Journalism he will be receiving later this month.
“You have three stages,” said Cullen, of what it takes to make an episode of Cam’s Corner. “Pre-production, the actual production of it, and post, and for someone like me, I have my hand in all of that obviously.”
The show’s format throughout the first season was centered around a simple guest interview conducted in Cullen’s dorm room, interspersed with jazz saxophone, laugh tracks, Travis Scott soundbites and colorful editing, which became more avant-garde with each subsequent episode. In between Cam’s Corner uploads were other videos made for his COMM 350 class.
Cullen attributes much of the show’s style to an “out-of-body” experience which befell him on October 15th, 2016, documented in his video “10-15-16.”
“I had this revelation that day, that I just felt a newfound meaning for recording stuff, like I’m able to click a button and capture this moment, and then later I can go back and edit it whatever way I want it, and for some reason that stuck with me,” said Cullen.
After COMM 350 ended, Cullen felt compelled to keep producing videos throughout the spring semester, creating three more episodes of Cam’s Corner to close out the show’s first season in May, and a few short segments called Cam’s Call and Cam’s Calendar, several of which were uploaded over the summer.
But it hasn’t just been a one-man show.
Senior Christian Bennett initially appeared as a guest on the second episode of Cam’s Corner before eventually taking on roles as co-writer and eventual actor, portraying investigative “Expert Field Expert” Kry$ Ventura throughout season two.
“Cameron, when he was first doing his assignment for his homework, he had shown me the episode with him and [his roommate]. I thought it was cool, so eventually he had gotten me on to do an interview for his homework assignment segment” said Bennett. “And then it was after that, that I had been keeping up with watching his show, and taking a look at it, and then I helped co-write the last episode of the first season of Cam’s Corner. And then after that, I got on board as a come-on for some of the segments, and I would also be a full time co-writer for it.”
As the two moved into their senior year, and the show into its second season, the program continued to evolve at the same time Manhattan’s MCTV club came into being. Mutually supporting each other, Cullen’s program received support from club members as filming moved from his dorm room to the Sumner Redstone Television Production Center in Leo Engineering Building. Episodes were lengthened as Cam’s Call (now investigated by Ventura), along with Cam’s Calendar and a new RA After Hours segment were incorporated into the show.
“We talked about stuff that got under our skin, day to day stuff, and fleshed that out into material. And because of the homework assignments that I was doing my junior year, I already had these segments going,” said Cullen.
The show is one of several currently produced by the MCTV, and members like senior Chris Pagano have gotten some good experience working in the studio through Cullen’s show.
“This is my first semester doing [MCTV], and after a couple meetings he asked me if I wanted to help,” said Pagano. “I’ve got some editing experience, directing experience, a lot of camerawork experience, so kinda well rounded.”
Senior Gabriella Girgis, president of MCTV, has been working with Cullen since the club started earlier this year. Since then she has directed all of the Cam’s Corner episodes shot in the studio.
“It’s fun, it’s really good experience, Cam’s very professional,” said Girgis. “There have been a few members that joined because of him.”
Senior Kerri Murdy senior, in charge of social media for MCTV, felt similarly.
“I think it’s a fun and different program that we don’t normally do, and it’s one of our main shows, so it’s fun to actually be a part of something and see the end product.”
Bennett notes that the show has become much more robust over the past year
Well certainly from a technical standpoint it gotten more sophisticated, it was initially shot in Cam’s room, and edited on iMovie, and since then it’s moved on to more sophisticated software,” said Bennett. “There’s a studio behind it, there’s somewhat of a personnel behind it now, and I think segment wise it’s just sort of broadened and expanded beyond just an interview sort of thing, [and] become kind of like a feature show, you know? There’s multiple little movements to it.”
Cullen feels similarly.
“It’s no longer so much about the guest, that’s where it started […] and because my senior year I was kinda able to bring all my different shows that I had together in some kind of form to help bring back the TV club in a way that creates for more sophisticated episode segments, somebody can actually sit down for 10 minutes, watch and enjoy, and not have to turn off or get distracted by it because they’re engaged with the content. That’s what really drives me.”
For Cullen, the series has become more than just a show, and he now considers it almost as a manifestation of himself.
“I think the show encapsulates my experience through college, on the outside it’s a funny, entertaining talk show, but on the inside really my evolution as a person too. I’m talking about serious topics that get under [my skin], I’m dealing with experiences that I’ve had that can translate to some visual narrative. I’m almost operating at some, like, heightened, satirical dark world,” said Cullen. “The fact that I’ve put these deadlines on, these videos have almost come out of me, you know? I don’t have a budget, I’m doing this because I can.”
Cullen points out that those who do not watch the show with a discerning eye may be missing out on some significant undertones and motifs which have permeated the series throughout most of its run. He plans on culminating these underlying themes at the end of the season finale, due to come out this upcoming weekend.
“If you watch [the videos] chronologically, that “10-15-16” experience unleashed this kind of extreme negative force, this other dimensional character called Mr. Mansand, who I really don’t have a concept with but I was playing with. […] Next thing you know, that last episode of the first season of Cam’s corner, the worlds merge. That’s when Christian co-wrote, that’s when he came in, because it went from this interview with Dorian, from this more meta-heightened experience with Mr. Mansand where I realize that this guy was almost manipulating my episodes, he’s been in everything. How does he manifest himself right? […] This guy is my show, he’s the controller of it in this world that I made, and hopefully the viewers are able to see, once the video comes out, […] what I’m talking about.”
Post graduation, Bennett plans to spend some time in Trinidad and Tobago and apply for jobs, while Cullen will work at his parents beach house on Long Island over the summer before pursuing a Master in Fine Arts.
“I’m kinda gearing up for a next step, because I feel like i’m not done with learning, I feel like I have a lot to do.” said Cullen.
All in all, Cam’s Corner leaves behind an impressive legacy at Manhattan
“I want closure, so people can say holy crap, this Jasper was able to create a running show that started in a dorm room as a homework assignment and translated into some 10 minute, 15 minute production, […] that cam’s corner was able to bring back a tv club on campus and help people out.” said Cullen.
“I just wanna inspire the youth, as weird as it sounds.”