A television production team with experience in Emmy award-winning reality shows, such as Survivor and undercover bosswas on campus for a week-long shoot that wrapped up Friday, April 8.
Instead of filming dramatic challenges on a remote tropical island, the crew focused their cameras on 10 Illinois State University students who shared their experiences as Redbirds for a 30-minute episode of The college tourslated to premiere on Amazon Prime Video this fall.
Alex Boylan, an Emmy-nominated producer who won CBS’s second season Fantastic raceis The college tour‘s host and executive producer. He developed the show after seeing his niece’s college decision limited to a handful of schools she could afford to visit. Seeking to expand options for prospective students and families, Boylan thought, “Higher education needs its own television series.
“Each episode of The college tour tells the story of an institution, and the best part about it is that we tell that in a very authentic way through the lens of real, current students,” Boylan said. “There’s no better way to learn about the vibe and culture of a place than from real students and their real stories.”
Episodes are available for free on Amazon Prime Video without a subscription and can also be viewed on The college tourand through several other streaming platforms.
“The State of Illinois has a unique and compelling story to tell, and The college tour provides an opportunity to tell this story to a wide audience,” said Director of Admissions Jeff Mavros. “It’s a special place, and there are no better brand ambassadors than our students themselves. Putting them front and center to share their experiences with the world is a no-brainer. I am excited to see the final product as I know it will inspire pride in our campus community members and the extended Redbird family around the world.
Acting Senior Major Joshua Thomas said he felt ‘ecstatic’ when he was selected from a group of more than 70 students who submitted audition tapes to be included in the state episode from Illinois. Thomas worked with The college tourduring pre-production to develop an approximately 2-minute script focusing on her experience making friends and being involved on campus through opportunities with the School of Theater and Dance and WZND, the managed radio station by students.
“I hope students watching my segment will be inspired in some way,” Thomas said. “When I started at ISU, I didn’t necessarily know what I wanted to do other than be an acting major. But when I attended the ISU Festival and saw all the events on the campus and all the organizations, I was able to find my way. So hopefully they’ll see that and be like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ll find my way once I get to college.’ »
Even though Thomas has experience portraying a character and memorizing lines for theater productions, including his current role in Mary Stuart (Oswald), he said, appearing on camera — as himself — presented a new challenge. Thomas said he was amazed by the setup of his segment, which was filmed backstage at the Braden Auditorium.
“It was pretty mind-blowing because I went there and they had someone in my place, getting ready and doing the lighting; and then they were like, ‘OK, you’re going in there now.’ So I was a little nervous, but it was fun,” Thomas said. “I really enjoyed meeting the team and networking with them.”
Amelia Korveziroska, a second-year engineering physics student, prepared a lot but felt the pressure when she arrived to shoot her segment in front of the science lab building. The crew informed Korveziroska that they had 30 minutes to tape her scripted portion before impending rain hit campus.
“We did everything right when the rain started,” Korveziroska said. “So it was definitely tight.”
Korveziroska focused her storyline on unique opportunities for undergraduate research in the state of Illinois, particularly in the Applied Nanomaterials Research Laboratory of Assistant Professor of Physics Dr. Mahua Biswas. In her first two years at Illinois State, Korveziroska has already co-authored a scientific journal article, presented at an international conference, and is heading to Harvard this summer on a Research Experiences for Fellowship. Undergraduates (REU).
While Korveziroska would like to work for NASA in a few years, her experience on The college tour made her consider future opportunities to inspire young women – through television – to pursue education and careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
“I felt like I was becoming the role model I wanted to see in my life,” Korveziroska said. “I’m an advocate for women in STEM, and viewers don’t just see one type of scientist. It’s amazing, and I care deeply about having had the opportunity to do that.
Boylan, who has traveled to over 50 schools during The college tour over the past two years, said visiting college campuses across the country to share student stories — like those of Thomas and Korveziroska — is “invigorating.”
In Normal, Boylan said he and the crew felt the “friendliness” and “spirit” of the Illinois state community. “I feel it personally, and our whole team is thrilled about it,” Boylan said. “This campus is really special. The friendliness and the spirit since we set foot on this campus are unparalleled.
The Illinois State episode of The college tour— the first episode of the sixth season — is slated for a fall release on Amazon Prime Video. The show will feature the following students: Sarah Aguilar ’20, a first-year graduate student in the Honors School Psychology program; Amelia Korveziroska, second-year engineering physics student; Katie Leslie, second-year nursing student; Danny Less, a communications major; Michael Lyman, graduate in leisure management; Abi Mitsven, a young journalism student; Brittney Oakley, second-year accounting student; Michael Severino, second-year high school math student; Jaychelle Smith, Film and Theater Studies student; and, Joshua Thomas, a senior acting major.