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  • Writer's pictureMason Edwards!

UTC Graduate Wins Statewide Acclaim for his Videography

By Mason Edwards, Staff Writer for the University Echo

Jerrod Niles holds his gimbal in front of Lupton Hall. Friday, Janurary 14, 2022. Seth Carpenter, Photo Editor

Recent UTC graduate Jerrod Niles won second place at the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters (TAB) Excellence Awards for the Best TV News or Features category.

On Oct. 4, dozens of media personalities from across the state gathered at the Country Music Hall of Fame for the first annual TAB Excellence in Broadcasting Awards. Around 25 tables of station managers, local anchors and promising graduates assembled on the sixth floor in a banquet hall. A window behind the stage overlooked the sun setting behind the Nashville skyline.

Niles’ winning piece, “The Field Below” video and story, features local painter Amanda Brazier’s symbolic, community-oriented work. He filmed the painter as she traveled across the region, collecting soil samples to later mash into paint. At each stop, Niles captured Brazier’s heartfelt interactions with the farmers as she listened to their unique life perspectives towards soil and agriculture.

“After gathering soil at different farms, we also went to different farmer’s markets,” Brazier said in “The Field Below” video. “I demonstrated paint-making to whoever came… because it was an interesting combination of art and agriculture and community building…”

Though Niles’ film was not shown at the event, they did treat Niles and his close supporters to dinner, a music performance by Kix Brooks and an award certificate. Among those sitting next to Niles was Billy Weeks, his former professor and mentor. Weeks continued to advise Niles, pushing him to network even past his graduation.

“He was like ‘No you need to make sure you talk to that person,’” Niles said about Weeks. “He is always looking out for your future, whether that’s in the content you create or in the networking that you put yourself into.”

Weeks teaches Rising Rock, an advanced multimedia journalism class which documents stories around the Chattanooga area. Weeks remarked he would have felt sad on a personal level if he had missed the awards ceremony.

“Jerrod is an incredibly gifted storyteller and his video and still camera work is excellent,” Weeks said. “…the bottom line is he’s gifted and talented, and if he wants his work to be on a bigger stage, he’s capable of doing that.”

Niles submitted his video while enrolled in the class and with Weeks’ help and encouragement.

“His support was vital in getting me to the position I am in now, to where I am working for some production companies [that] I dreamed of working for as a kid,” Niles said. “The biggest thing I want to do is thank the people that support me.”

Niles did not hesitate to mention that his fiancé, Audrey, has supported him for the past 10 years.

“I still to this day have her look over my shoulder,” he said. “The support that she’s given me, helping me be confident in what I do… paired with the love she gives me… I don’t think I would be here without her.”

As much as Niles credits others, he worked tirelessly to achieve his dreams. His award-winning story took months of planning, shooting and editing, and his negotiation for freelance work at TangentVector did not happen overnight, either. He spoke about using the “golden ticket” as a college student, which consisted of offering to do free work solely for experience.

“Every job opening, I would apply for…,” said Niles. “I kept emailing and emailing them, not much came from it, I sent them [direct messages] and things like that.”

Months later, they finally reached back to him for an interview. From emailing and asking 35 racing teams to work for free, to having all his expenses paid to film in Colorado, Niles never stopped pursuing his dream—even transcending the physical world to do so.

“I built a simulator for racing,” he said. “I can sort of scope out where I’ll be in the video game. I will be like: ‘oh it would be a pretty shot to come from this angle.’”

In balancing two jobs—freelancing and UTC staff videographer—Niles hopes to add experience to his award-filled resumé.

“There’s a lot of things I really want to get hands-on experience,” he said. “I need to get more time behind new equipment and learn more phrases and techniques.”

Included in his future plans, he said, is displaying his certificate within the Communication Department at UTC.

Earlier in the year, Niles achieved a top ten finalist position within the national Hearst Multimedia Narrative Storytelling Competition. Caroline Colvin, University Echo assistant features editor, wrote an article detailing the event: “UTC Senior Places Top 10 for National Journalism Award.”

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