Evan Hamilton had seen the popular YouTube videos of spring fests in Athens – typically full of the “prettiest girls” and “cool dudes” and glorifying the experience of a street full of drunk college students. He felt something was missing.
This year, with his Canon XL1 tape camcorder dating back to the early 2000s, he set out to produce an honest portrayal of the notorious street festivals, including all of the dirt, trash and mess that comes with them.
“I thought the videos I was seeing of fests looked sort of dishonest compared to the experience that I had,” Hamilton, a junior studying screenwriting production said. “I really wanted to accentuate that.”
Hamilton is one of the many amateur filmmakers that set out to document the alcohol-fueled frenzy that parents fear and students anticipate all year. A quick scroll through YouTube will reveal the attempts through the years to capture what the fests feel like.
Some filmmakers, however, have found that the addition of a camera results in a much different experience on their end.
“Most people get hyped up for it,” Hamilton said. “They feel sort of pressured by the camera to be in the video. For the most part, people are pretty excited to see the camera.”
Michael Warning, a junior studying integrated media, filmed High Fest in 2016 for the production group Locality Media. He said he noticed the excitement people express toward the camera has dwindled during recent fests.
“I think (last) year everyone was really hyped about it,” Warning said. “But now we all know what fest is so they’re kind of done with it. People don’t react the same as they did before.”
While people would often attempt to perform for the camera, which would sometimes “result in a cool shot,” Warning said most of the time “people would just step in front of the camera and scream.”
Because carrying a camera around also carries a wave of attention, filmers have found that sometimes the effort can just be too much.
“It’s fun the first few times, but after a while you’re like ‘I’ve been doing this for several weeks in a row — I just want to sit down and drink,’ ” Warning said.
Although the process of filming is normally filled with scenes of debauchery and carelessness, what comes after is a rush to parse, edit and post the footage to compete with other media groups. Sam Zona, a junior studying integrated media, filmed at High Fest in 2015 for Nectar Productions with two other students.
After recording an estimated four hours of total footage between the group, they sat down the next day for nearly six hours to stitch together their clips.
“We didn’t really know what we were doing,” Zona said. “We were freshmen and we were new to it.”
However, their work paid off, as the post was picked up by groups like Total Frat Move and was shared on social media. The video now has more than 40,000 views as a result.
“We were really racing to be the first ones to get it out,” he said. “That ended up helping us out because ours kind of blew up.”
The presence of a camera tends to affect the mentality of the people on both sides of the lens, not just the partygoers. Hamilton noticed having his large camera, which was more noticeable than the typical GoPro or DSLR, made him more comfortable when he would normally be apprehensive. He was even invited into a house where the homeowners touted the fact that they had eggs inside, as they proceeded to talk for over ten minutes about their love for the breakfast staple.
“I get kind of quiet and awkward at parties, even when I’m drunk,” Hamilton said. “So having the camera completely changed how I was going through it.”
It’s no secret that OU has a reputation as a party school, and these videos tend to be a reflection of that fact.
“If it does (perpetuate stereotypes) then I am completely guilty because I glorify the shit out of it,” Hamilton said. “But I’m honest about it. I try to capture that it’s dirty.”
Zona, who hasn’t filmed a fest since his experience freshman year, said capturing “kids being ignorant” is the whole point.
“I think people already know that it happens obviously,” Zona said. “You can go anywhere on social media and see it, like the kid that fell out of the 50-foot tree this weekend.”