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Exceeding expectations

Posted 8:58 a.m. Thursday, May 23, 2024

Leah Elliott wins Student Production Award for producing and directing the music video for "Heartdrop" by Kal Schimmers.

UWL's Leah Elliott wins Crystal Pillar Student Production Award from the Upper Midwest Emmy® Foundation

It’s not every day that going above and beyond for a class project leads to becoming an Upper Midwest Emmy® Student Production Award recipient. However, for Leah Elliott, that’s exactly what happened.  

Elliott, a senior at UWL, is pursuing a major in communication studies alongside a minor in digital media studies and design. She enrolled in CST 377: Digital Media Production, taught by Assistant Professor Taylor Cole Miller, in fall semester. As part of the course, one assignment involved crafting a music video. 

Most students take a popular song and shoot original video for it, giving them the opportunity to practice creative photography, but also learn the basics of video editing in Adobe Premiere Pro,” Miller explains. “Leah, however, went out into the community and found an independent music artist, Kal Schimmers, and collaborated with him on an original music video. She went way above and beyond for a project geared mostly toward skill practice.” 

Elliott says using Schimmers’ music made the project more special for her, since producing the video would not only help her gain experience, but also help Schimmers promote his music.

Elliott receiving her award at the Communication Studies Celebration & Alumni Honor Event.

Producing and editing the video Elliott envisioned was possible due to the recently opened Communication and Media Lab (CaML). The CaML offers students access to a variety of equipment essential to creating digital media projects. 

“The CaML is a great resource for students looking to get into any type of production in the digital media world,” Elliott says. “I spent all six hours of editing in the CaML. Much of that time was during my allotted CST 377 class time, however, I was able to come in during open lab hours as well to do extra work on my project as needed. The space encourages creative expression and remains quiet, ensuring minimal distractions during the production processes.” 

After lots of hard work to execute her artistic vision, Elliott had a finished music video for Schimmers’ song, “Heartdrop.” 

“When I first watched Leah's music video, I was beaming with pride about a student who took a small class project and made it into something incredible,” Miller says. “She matched her passion for technology with both creativity and initiative, and I was blown away. I submitted the video to the Upper Midwest Emmys®, and it was picked as one of only two college nominees from a pile of entries.” 

On April 5, Elliott learned that she had won the Crystal Pillar Student Production Award from the Upper Midwest Emmy® Foundation. She was instantly filled with overwhelming happiness and intense pride, she says, as her hard work paid off. 

“It almost felt unreal, and it was one of those moments that I was reminded of how I’m capable of doing great things. If I didn’t step out of my comfort zone, this never would have happened,” Elliott says, “It may sound cliché, but in that moment, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be, and it was as if the universe told me to continue creating.”

Elliott with her professor, Taylor Cole Miller.

Elliott was able to accept her award at the Communication Studies Celebration & Alumni Honor Event from Miller. 

“I was so excited that Leah received this incredible recognition because she deserved it,” Miller says. “I loved being able to award her Crystal Pillar in person.” 

Elliott says, “I received so much love and support from all my classmates, professors, friends, and family, and I couldn’t be more grateful. 

Watch Elliott's music video, “Heartdrop.” 

View all 2024 Student Production Award nominees and recipients here. 


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