Gleb Paramonov was approaching a sweat at his laptop keyboard as he rapidly maneuvered his mouse on the table and his fingers flitted over the keyboard. He was hard at work making edits to a video that he and his fellow Youth TV Bridge anchor-teammates had been producing for the last 7 hours. This was the final stretch of the Student Television Network 2017 Crazy 8s contest, the last hour to finalize the video, export it on a flash drive, and race through a mob of people to submit it.

Surrounding Paramonov were empty coffee cups, more laptops, snacks, and his teammates. All were members of YTVB’s first season anchor team, frantically discussing possible edits and alternative cuts. In addition to making a short film, these students were making history by being the first-ever team composed of international members to compete – and seize a small victory – in Crazy 8s. Working around a language barrier and with lots of adrenaline, the students produced an exemplary video that received 1st Honorable Mention in the Crazy 8s Broadcast News Magazine category.

The topic for the competition had been announced at 7:30 that morning, in a palm tree-ringed courtyard still hidden from the Southern California sun. Student production teams had clamored and crushed to get their envelopes with the topic and contest instructions earlier in the morning, but then the dust began to settle and teams were careening off to begin their shoots. The gravity of the impending deadline was beginning to sink in as the students read the topic: “Social Justice.” The clock was ticking.

As the YTVB team sat down to brainstorm, other teams were crisscrossing through the courtyard, starting to record their first shots and interviews. At one point during the discussion, a familiar face approached the YTVB team. Daniel Pursell, dressed in the navy color scheme of Cypress Bay High School, was looking to interview Nikita Kulikov, one of YTVB’s anchors. Pursell was not choosing at random – he and Kulikov had worked together on several episodes of the YTVB. Under other circumstances, Pursell would be among his colleagues on the YTVB team, but had committed himself to his high school’s video production team for the duration of STN. Rather than working as collaborators, the YTVB team members would have to be competitors for the day.

As Pursell and his Cypress Bay teammates wrapped up their interview with Kulikov, the YTVB team solidified their shooting plans, pulled out their cameras, and joined the madness taking place around them. The hotel complex where Crazy 8s was taking place had become a hive of frenetic activity. The halls were thronging with production teams toting camera equipment and anxious high school students poring over laptops and production notes. Hotel lounges had become sprawling basecamps of students, workstations, and stacks of snacks. The main lobby reverberated with the buzz of broadcast segments being recorded and the coordinating shouts of production teams, while a dizzying array of lights and camera gear whirled on and off the escalators, in and out of the front revolving door. 

As the production teams spilled out onto the plaza outside of the hotel, the action began to take place under the Anaheim sun. The YTVB team strolled out onto the sunbaked plaza and started filming. They proceeded as other students did - snag other students, team mentors, and random passersby for interviews. Other teams were quick to jump on the opportunity to invite the foreign high school students for interviews. Though all were competing against each other, the atmosphere was one of jubilation, a genuine expression of the students’ passion for video production. Ultimately, all the students had one common foe: the clock.

As the minutes wound down towards the end of the 8-hour time limit, the commotion in the lobby and throughout the hotel grew feverish. The shooting and recording phase of the contest had ended, and the student teams were sprinting for the finish line with the editing. Clusters of laptops dominated tables and lounges, the pale screens illuminating furrowed brows and concentrated squints. At various stages in their creative processes, cheers and groans were erupting throughout the lobby. There were only 50 minutes left to render the film, transfer it to a flash drive, and run it up to the third floor.

The YTVB team was frantically cutting together the last edits. Because they were working with multiple languages, the team had been saddled with an additional challenge, but was almost ready to export the project to Lee Giat’s flash drive. As they were scanning the final edit of the video, they noticed some captioning errors, and scrambled to finish. Only 35 minutes left!

After the breakneck edits, and with the file finally exported to the flash drive, the YTVB team labelled it, tossed it in their competition envelope, and ran up the escalator. Dozens of other teams were streaming to the same room that they were all rushing towards. The mission to deposit their submission had become a real scramble as high school students broke into sprints across the series of halls and chambers. In the last room, as the envelopes were finally, formally submitted, shrieks of joy and relief rang out over the otherwise anxious flurry of students. While some students leapt and did somersaults after they had crossed the finish line, a few teams did not make it before the bell struck and were in despair and disbelief.

 

With their video successfully submitted, the YTVB team found a moment to relax in a quieter corner of the hotel. It has been an arduous battle against the clock, but the pace never slows down at STN. Lee Giat, one of YTVB’s hosts and key producers, had graduated from high school the previous year, and had returned to STN as a volunteer. With the on-time submission, his creative obligations as a film maker were out of the way, and he could return to his post as a volunteer to ensure that the rest of the convention ran smoothly. The Russian members of the YTVB team had a little more leeway, but sure enough, they had to begin preparing for the grand opening ceremony of the convention in just a few hours.

At the closing of the convention on Day 4, the winners of the Crazy 8s competition were announced. The YTVB team received the first Honorable Mention prize for their production. Check it out below, in a surprise special episode of the Youth TV Bridge!  Given the nearly forty submissions, their placing in the top five was an astonishing achievement that left them all delirious and delighted. The Russians would soon return to their hometown of Yaroslavl and become local mini-sensations.  Word has it that they have yet to fully touch down. 

This story originally appeared on The US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange (SEE)