Gray Robertson ’16 takes us through both his inception of the idea for the Woodberry Forest School Production Network as well as the long and difficult path that he followed in order to get it off the ground
“You are watching…AND listening LIVE from Johnson Stadium…” I will never forget the day that I uttered these words. They signaled a new beginning—the future—at Woodberry.
For the last year, I have been working alongside Dr. Byron Hulsey, Mr. Joe Coleman, and Coach Clint Alexander, as well as a collection of staff members and students, to launch the Woodberry Forest School Production Network, or WFSPN. WFSPN was initially pitched as the Woodberry Forest Sports Production Network; however, after some conversations with Dr. Hulsey, I realized the potential gold mine of opportunity that the network could provide to entire school.
As the 2014-2015 school year wound down, I realized the importance of following through with this project. I appointed Jimmy King ’16 as my headman for all off-camera situations (since I am technologically inept) and, together, we appointed Richmond Adams ’16, Mac Hereford ’16, and Win Sompayrac ’16 to our WFSPN Board of Directors.
Heading into the summer, we devised a plan: launch the network in the fall trimester with a few broadcasts before diving in headfirst in the winter and spring. Ms. Catherine Wharton and Mr. Dodie Chavez in the Development Office were more than helpful with ideas and ways to contact alumni about donations for WFSPN, and they encouraged me to make some calls during the summer to get the network launched. Through those next three months of summer, our team worked hard to make sure that everything was ready.
Leading into the 2015-2016 school year, we decided to set our launch date for October 31st—the day of the Woodberry vs. St. Christopher’s Varsity football game. This date felt like the best option for a number of reasons: a) the game was at home, so we knew that WFSPN would have the broadcasting rights; b) the game was a major rivalry and would certainly draw a wide viewing (this prediction turned out to be true—our broadcast of the contest has landed over 800 views so far); c) the game was late enough in the fall to the point where we felt there was ample time to advertise and get everything together.
Once we all got back to school, the real work began. We put our funding to good use and purchased equipment through livestream.com, all the while prepping our studio space in Armfield 306. We began the process of finding interested students and putting our WFSPN brand out to the Woodberry community. I completed a few promotional interviews, stocked up on some custom WFSPN gear, and then prepared for our big day.
On October 31st, Dr. David Smith, Greg Jacobs, and I began our first live broadcast from Johnson Stadium. With Jimmy at the helm of our control center and a few guys manning the cameras, we broadcasted to over 700 people and, to date, have had over 820 viewers. As soon as I signed off and we cut the feed, our entire crew gave a huge cheer. I shook hands and high-fived my partners as we celebrated a successful launch.
The most common question I get about WFSPN is, “What’s going to happen next?” It is true, I do graduate in May, and, while that time is far away, I am very aware of the importance of preparing the of the network. At the end of this year, I will appoint a student successor to take my place at the top of the pile. The rest of the board will elect underclassmen to fill their positions as well. I still plan on being as involved as possible even after I leave Woodberry, and I have faith that the students and our faculty advisor, Mr. Jacobs, can keep WFSPN alive and well. For now, though, I am focused on using our network to broadcast the academic, athletic, and artistic achievements of Woodberry’s students; and you can bet that we will bring the Woodberry community the best quality student broadcasts possible.