Minnesotans make it happen ‘behind the scenes’ at NCYC

| Kathryn Elliott | November 23, 2011 | 0 Comments
National Catholic Youth Conference Mass

Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis celebrates Mass with other priests at the National Catholic Youth Conference, held Nov. 17-19 in Indianapolis. Photo courtesy of Geralyn Nathe-Evans

As video director for the National Catholic Youth Conference this past weekend in Indianapolis, Brad Jacobsen was responsible for 11 cameras feeding six jumbo screens with 14.5 hours of filming during five separate events.

Roughly 25,000 people attended the Nov. 17-19 conference that was live-streamed to the Vatican and 90 countries — and Jacobsen, a parishioner at St. Ambrose of Woodbury who shoots video for the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, led the production team. He and another Twin Cities resident have been directing the filming aspects of the biannual NCYC since 1995.

In an area filled with a bank of monitors and switchboards, Jacobsen cued an operator to prepare to change what was showing on one of the large screens in Lucas Oil Stadium.

“Standby, preset 20,” he said into his headset.

Jacobsen and his crew follow a detailed script for the conference’s program, including 32 preset camera positions or “looks” for the screen at a given time. Camera four, for example, was always pointed at the choir soloists. But not everything can be planned ahead, he said. It’s the job of his team to anticipate if a speaker on the main stage is about to turn so they can cut to another camera.

During the Mass, honing in on important visual cues such as the processional cross during the opening procession helps bring the action to the whole stadium, Jacobsen said.

Now that he’s worked eight conferences, the high-profile nature of the event isn’t too intimidating for Jacobsen. Does live streaming to the Vatican stress him out?

“Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t,” Jacobsen said.
Even though it’s a far cry from his day job making and editing short videos for the University of St. Thomas, Jacobsen enjoys taking vacation time every two years to reunite with core members of the production team who return to NCYC like he does.

‘Animating’ the crowd

Lauren Effertz, left, a Benilde-St. Margaret's High School senior from Good Shepherd in Golden Valley and Anna Rupp, a Minnetonka High School freshman from St. Therese in Deephaven, served as “animators” by reading, singing and dancing at the National Catholic Youth Conference. Photo courtesy of Colleen Sauter

Youth who came to NCYC experienced music and worship in Lucas Oil Stadium as well as breakout sessions in the Indiana Convention Center.

But 82 youth from 28 dioceses across the country got a special privilege: reading, singing and dancing on stage and on camera as “animators” for the conference.

The young people auditioned by sending a video of themselves performing. Two students from Minnesota made the cut: Lauren Effertz, a Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School senior from Good Shepherd in Golden Valley and Anna Rupp, a Minnetonka High School freshman from St. Therese in Deephaven.

For her audition tape, Effertz chose to read a monologue based on Mary Magdalene’s role in the Stations of the Cross.

“It was about Mary Magdalene looking up at the cross at Jesus dying and realizing he was doing it for her,” Effertz said. “It’s just that emotional response to the fact that he did nothing and he’s giving up everything for me.”

Effertz was selected to perform a dramatization of the angel Gabriel’s announcement of Jesus’ birth to Mary in front of thousands of youth at NCYC. She said the experience was profound, and she’s intent on bringing it back to her friends at school in small but important ways.

“I want to bring that feeling that the Catholic Church is this lively thing that can be compatible with our lives,” she said.

One lesson that Effertz shared with her classmates is the idea of “disconnecting” from electronics, taking out the earbuds or putting away the cell phone, and “connecting” with people around them. It already seems to be taking effect, she said.

Although Effertz was the only animator from Benilde-St. Margaret’s, 11 other students from the school served in the NCYC pit choir providing backup and singing solos for all NCYC main tent events and liturgy. The pit choir’s 25 singers were miked throughout the weekend as music leaders for all present.

Dance choreography

The choreography for the animators’ dances was done by Laura Mahler, a graduate of Benilde-St. Margaret’s and former animator herself who now acts on Channel 45’s sketch comedy show “M@dAbout” and teaches drama to high schoolers.

What made the dancing powerful, Mahler said, was that it augmented aspects of faith that had been presented each day of the conference — with a light-hearted spirit. After a day devoted to the Virgin Mary and the power of saying “yes” to God, the animators performed a dance to the Beatles’ “Let It Be,” which references Mother Mary, for example.

One of the most exciting moments of the conference was when the animators pulled off a flash mob in the Indiana Convention Center’s shopping area to the pop song “Dynamite” by Tao Cruz.  Then throughout the weekend, the dancers taught sections of the choreography to the entire stadium audience until everyone could do it together.

NCYC emcee ValLimar Jansen, a recording artist and worship leader, encouraged the crowd participation that was started by the flash mob to teach the youth that they should be active choir members when they come to Mass.

“Do we sing when we come to the church! Yes we do! Are we standing there or dancing? Dancing!”

The program that took place on the ground in the stadium was largely planned by three women from Minnesota. For more than a decade, Kate Cuddy, Jeanne Bross-Judge and Marilee Mahler have created the plans for each NCYC’s unique music, entertainment, liturgy and keynote speakers.  This year, they were part of a larger planning committee that included a director of youth ministry from Indianapolis.

Marilee helped write the script for the program and rehearse the animators during an intense weekend this past July. She was impressed by how the group of students gelled.

“They came to be such a united group, such good friends because they made them in this context of sharing their faith,” Marilee said.

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