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Master of Disasters

Professor Scott Hodgson uses his expertise to capture the perfect storm By Rachel Goodwin


cott Hodgson has been in disaster mode for most of his professional life. For the past 25 years, Hodgson, the head of the broadcasting and electronic media major, has been making award-winning videos about various types of natural disasters. He started with earthquakes at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

in 1988 when he began making a series of earthquake prevention videos for the State of Illinois, even simulating an earthquake in his own kitchen.

“They called asking if I would be willing to shoot a documentary for them with more showing of behind the scenes of what it took to cover those kinds of events,” Hodgson said. “And so we did.” Much like his other award-winning films, Hodgson wanted to make the documentary informative but also nostalgic and incomparable. His unique approach for shooting had proved quite successful in the past and blew the basic agenda out of the water. Rather than hire a professional crew, Hodgson decided to turn this experience into a teachable moment and instead built his crew from his best students. “I had a chance of doing professional things, kind of consulting outside of the university, and I made a decision and said no,” Hodgson said. “When I do projects I’m going to have student crews and just tie in teaching to my creative activity to provide them opportunities.” Hodgson chose Zach Strauss and Josh Shockley, even though neither had any in-depth training in the field. Still, Hodgson knew they would be great. “When [Josh] was an undergraduate I realized that he had some great potential,” Hodgson said. “He hadn’t had a chance to fully develop, but he was one of those kind of guys that was slowly coming and would be great.” Strauss, on the other hand, had even less experience, but Hodgson knew he would also be an excellent asset to the crew. “He had just had Intro to Video Production and he was a young guy,” Hodgson said. “I knew he had a passion for audio so I called him up. He’d never done field audio before in his life, but he got to the point to where he’s turned out to be the best field audio guy I’ve ever had as a student. He put his heart into it.” Now that his crew was intact, Hodgson met with University of Alabama professor Chandra Clark and began working. The partnership between Hodgson and Clark for this documentary clicked well. “She is a phenomenal producer,” Hodgson said. “My strengths are on directing and editing and post production, so

you put the two of us together and it’s a wonderful team. She can organize anything, and once I get there, I can take over.” Even after all of the field production was finished and all of the wreckage and interviews were filmed, Hodgson and Clark had to stay in contact to complete the project. “Clark and I lived on Skype,” Hodgson said. Not long after the Tuscaloosa and Joplin piece was completed, a different kind of disaster struck the East Coast. Hurricane Sandy was just as destructive, if not more, as the tornadoes in the Midwest. With Hodgson’s expertise in covering these kinds of disasters and his ability to do so memorably, Heather Burkes, executive director of the Broadcast Education Association and National Association of Broadcasters, knew exactly whom to contact. “I was about to start editing that [Tuscaloosa/Joplin documentary] into a long form piece and I was sitting here going, ‘You know, this thing is kind of outdated and is anyone going to care about tornadoes in 2011?’” Hodgson said. “And an hour later I got an email from the NAB saying, ‘How would you like to shoot Sandy?’ because it had happened a day earlier. I’m like, ‘Yea, that would update it!’” >>Continued on page 9

Scott Hodgson gives direction to his crew out in the field. 4

Pulse 2013  

Alumni magazine of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.