University of Central Florida Students Take on Halloween Horror Nights

University of Central Florida Students Take on Halloween Horror Nights

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Halloween Horror Nights is scary enough, but the thought of turning dozens of college students loose with cameras during the event? Now that’s REALLY frightening. And fantastic.

It all started with coffee and a simple premise – celebrate HHN’s 25th anniversary with some first-person experiences. We (Universal Orlando and the Nicholson School of Communication) hatched the idea at a café just outside of the parks.

Universal’s idea was simple:  “Your media students, with cameras, showing everyone on YouTube what it’s like to go through the haunted houses – that could be great!”

I have to admit, though – at first the thought of turning the students loose with cameras was scarier than those roaming chainsaw guys in the scare zones. And just as exciting. So, we got started- 25 students and their friends over three nights invading the park  and, to their delight, getting the VIP treatment.  The whole idea was for them to be mobile and to NOT distract from the experience, so they brought in their own cameras – phone, GoPros, DSLR’s, media players: you name it, they brought it. These kids were serious!

We saw students with GoPros strapped to their heads, iPhone stabilizers, even a few small handheld lights to get those REALLY scary reactions during in the scare zones between haunted houses. And the best part? EVERYONE was getting in on the scares! I can’t tell you how much video we COULDN’T use because Bride of Frankenstein got right up in the photographer’s face or a column of fire made them jump out of their shoes!

Halloween Horror Nights 25 Bride of FrankensteinBut then the REAL work began, and that’s also when the FUN began. Nicholson students had a week to turn their projects around, and they dove into it with even MORE energy than going to the park. And the best part for me as an educator? Students from different disciplines were all helping each other.

Keep in mind – we have Journalism students, PR students, and straight up big studio RTV students all taking part in this, so not everyone has the same skill set. But when it came time to put these together, they all helped each other. They shared ideas about shots, about editing, and their favorite moments (including the “How scary? It’s pee your pants scary!” line!) from each night. RTV students might have more editing know-how, but the PR students helped them find the great story line. And the Journalism students helped keep everyone’s ideas in order so they didn’t forget about telling their OWN stories.

GazeboSo, what do we take away from this? Well, the Nicholson students certainly get a night they won’t soon forget, and Universal gets some real first person accounts of what it’s like to be young, having fun, and willing to be scared. And me? I was reminded of just how lucky I am to work with these ‘kids.’

We took a chance letting them run through the park, and they rewarded us big time. They knew how lucky they were to get this chance, and they put their heart and souls into it to create the best product they could.

So, thanks, Universal Orlando – you gave some students a shot, and they took it. I hope you enjoy watching their work. I know I do.

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