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Art documentary leads to prestigious honor for West

April 29, 2015
By cnp
Posted in Communication Studies

To say that Ryan West's first attempt at a "process interview" documentary was a success might be a bit of an understatement.

The junior Radio-Television-Video (RTV) major from Springdale, Ark., recently won a Pillar Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) for his 2014 short documentary, "Oh, My," which chronicled the art work of 2014 graduate Abby Kern.

Considered the equivalent of a college Emmy Award, it is the first time an Ozarks student has captured the prestigious Pillar Award from NATAS. West will receive the honor during an awards ceremony in October.

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Ryan West recently became the first student at Ozarks to win a Pillar Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

"I was pretty surprised to find that I actually won," said West. "I was confident when I submitted the piece, but I honestly didn’t think that I would win, especially considering some of the other programs that the work would be up against. As the first at Ozarks to win something from NATAS, it’s a huge honor for me to bring some additional recognition to the University, and hopefully we’ll continue to build on this momentum with some more Pillars and eventually maybe some other national accolades for the program."

West, who served as the documentary’s director, cinematographer and editor, said the idea for the video originated when Kern asked him to document the development of her artwork for her senior exhibit.

"Thankfully, she mentioned this far enough in advance where the concept of a short documentary kind of naturally came to fruition in my head, and I just kind of decided to follow through on it," West said. "One of the things that I had recently learned in the Backpack Journalism class, taught by Susan Edens, was the idea of the ‘process interview,’ where the subject of the interview is in the act of doing or making something, and talks the viewer through the process. Being sparked by that method of story-telling, I wanted to combine that idea of a process piece with some creative cinematography showing the whole process coming to fruition."

West said it didn’t take long for him to become emotionally attached to the project.

"During the process, I found Abby’s art absolutely fascinating, as much of her work is not only technically phenomenal, but also imbued with some very astute social commentary," He said. "To me, the idea of taking the visual art and allowing the artist to audibly and visually take the audience through not only the process, but also the ideas behind the art, is another level of expression and elaboration that can reach even more people. None of this would have been possible without Abby sparking my interest in the topic. Her art more than speaks for itself in terms of quality and content. Just to me, having not really thought about art in quite such depth before, was an incredible learning process, and I’m grateful that I even just got to make the piece in the first place."

Ozarks, West said, has helped him develop and fine tune not only his technical skills but also his creative abilities.

"I think much of what I’ve learned here has helped me in terms of realizing the need to diversify and round out my skills, as opposed to specializing too deep in any one aspect of the creative process," West said. "For me, the ability to create, and developing the confidence and ability to follow through as I’ve learned has been probably my most meaningful takeaway from Ozarks at this point. I’ve learned the finer aspects of story-telling in the many classes and I’ve been able to elevate my cinematography and editing to a level that I’m confident in. In addition, the hands-on experience that I’ve received in the Radio-Television-Video program is second to none. I feel that, with my experience, both in and out of class work, I am ready for the professional world."

"Oh My!" a documentary by Ozarks student Ryan West.