BY MICK TIDROW | Ball State Sports Link
Stories have the ability to change or move someone. Producers have the chance to make stories to change or move someone.
Stories are powerful. Each story is different and unique in its own way.
Chase Jackson is unique. His story is unlike any other story. It gives us insight — and it gives us perspective.
From the beginning of the process of starting this feature story early in 2017, Matt Vernier, Kaitlyn Young and I knew this story would be an exciting one to tell.
When the idea for the story was originally brought up, it was Matt and Kaitlyn who were the leads. I was not involved with the story at first, but once I heard about the details, I was intrigued as to how this story could be told.
Matt approached me and asked if I wanted to be a part of the story as a third producer and interviewer, and I could not pass up the opportunity.
Chase just completed his freshman year as swimmer for Ball State. He recorded the best 100 meter backstroke time on the team’s roster.
But it is the journey out of the pool that appeals the most about Chase.
In his life, he has overcome adversity, moved overseas, and this year he met his life-long idol. This is the story of Chase we wanted to tell because of the power it possesses.
The story started by being curious, but we quickly found out the story had many layers — and a social impact, as well.
We wanted to tell each layer of his story because of how different and intriguing it is.
To do this, we mapped out the story of how Chase’s life had unfolded up to that point.
As we worked through the story layering, we learned his idol, Olympic swimmer Cullen Jones, was training in North Carolina at N.C. State for the 2020 Olympic Games.
As we developed Chase’s story, it was clear Jones was the reason Chase was swimming.
It was in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics when a young Chase saw Cullen — a swimmer of the same skin tone — record history. Chase was inspired and knew then it was possible to be a swimmer himself.
“It was shocking as I got older because swimming has grown over the years, but in the African-American community it’s still not something that a lot of people want to do or at least try it out,” Jackson said. “And that’s even after seeing Cullen at the 2008 Olympics or Simone Manuel win last year at the Olympics.”
Working with USA Swimming and Jones, our team wanted to try something different — could we take Chase to N.C. State to meet his idol with our cameras rolling? The answer from Jones was simple — absolutely.
The hardest part of this story for me was the fact I was not able to go to North Carolina due to a travel commitment with Ball State’s softball team. Matt, Kaitlyn, Brad Dailey, and Chris Taylor packed the car with equipment to take Chase and meet his idol.
Looking through the footage and seeing how Chase reacted to meeting Jones was indescribable. That is the definition of bringing a story full circle.
We wanted the story to be about Chase, and all about Chase. The way we could achieve that was by allowing him to have the time with Jones and give him a chance to soak in everything Jones had to say.
And that is the best part.
In the story, Jones gives Chase a major vote of confidence (you can watch the full story below to see what Cullen says).
That was the gold mine, laid out in front of Matt, Kaitlyn and me to figure out how to piece together. With so many layers, we sat down and re-mapped out what the story needed to be and how we could tell it.
With the addition of meeting Cullen, the story added more layers.We laid out the entire project into a timeline in Adobe Premiere, and we continued to revise the story.
We had it reviewed, cut down, reviewed and cut down again before we were comfortable with what we had. The “final” edit took nearly a month to complete.
We could not have done this story without the help of Chase, his family, Cullen Jones and the entire Sports Link staff.
This story was an honor to help tell. Chasing opportunity is also the creed of a storyteller, too.