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Film School: Producing School Promo Videos

St. Louis-area studio Gebbs.TV has created a renewable revenue stream and a powerful body of work producing promo videos for area schools that live on the schools' websites and serve as recruiting films and video mission statements.

Production Process

Production "always starts with interviews," not capturing b-roll. Even if someone doesn't interview well, Hanlon says, "we'll get one nugget or smile or sincere thing, and we'll use it." On most shoots, Hanlon plays producer, director, and interviewer, and relies on main cameraman Jimmy Wilderman to get the shots. Shooting with Canon DSLRs, "we try to stay light and fast. We don't want to show up with a ton of gear and scare people," Hanlon says.

He found right away that producing school promo videos "felt good. I loved being around kids and I felt like I was doing something from the heart, something sincere." Hanlon's next projects were for Fontbonne University in St. Louis, Nashville's Pope John Paul II high school (JP2), and Alton's Marquette Catholic high school, his and Gebben's alma mater.

Pope John Paul II High School from GEBBS on Vimeo.

Hanlon highlights each school's selling points, whether academics, athletics, or culture. "JP2 isn't a big sports powerhouse, but it's an academic powerhouse." Hanlon feels that what works about these videos is their candor. "They are documentary-esque, with real comments, real feeling."


Michael Gebben, a Marquette alum, helped with the Marquette Catholic High School piece, which highlights the school's academic success rate, college preparatory classes, and its culture of inclusion. By design, the videos are meant for the schools' websites, and more specifically for their home pages, "which is so important," Hanlon emphasizes, to display them on the home pages "as a welcome message—this is who we are, this is what we're about."

Building a School Promo Client Base

Ryan Hanlon prides himself on his capabilities as a salesperson, in building relationships, and in getting his work out there and in front of people in order to drum up new business. After producing promo videos for the Alton School District, Todd Haug, the high school's varsity baseball coach called him one day to discuss a new project. Hanlon drove to his house to discuss his ideas. "I always want to do stuff in person," he says.

Haug was "the perfect client" for Hanlon, who likes to involve school faculty in the process as much as possible. "Coach Todd is a super-uber sports guy but is also artistic," says Hanlon. "He had an idea of what he wanted to do and showed me a project a college has done that he liked." Hanlon told him, "We're going to make it even better." 

Alton Redbirds Baseball is profiled in this moving piece that the team features on its web page. Unlike GEBBS' other films posted on Vimeo, Hanlon felt this one would appeal to a wider range of audiences, so he shared it on YouTube, where it's garnered close to 20,000 plays.