No green light on graduation videos

Flashing camera bulbs, smiling faces and of course, all of those pointy black hats soaring into the air, are the primary visual staples of any graduation ceremony.

Up until 2001, USF graduates, along with their family and friends, could also expect to see two large projection screens giving spectators a close-up view of the event.

One thing they won’t see, anymore at least, is a vendor selling videotaped copies of the ceremony.

Joe Reinhardt, owner of the Clearwater-based production company Access Media Group, said he offered to record the ceremony at no charge to USF. The only stipulation was that he be allowed to set up a booth in order to sell the copies.

Reinhardt said 10 years ago he did just that — selling an estimated 250 copies — but when he contacted Special Events Coordinator Amanda Thomas about offering services again, he never received a definite answer.

Thomas declined to comment and referred all questions to the media relations office.

Michael Reich, USF media relations director, said vendors aren’t allowed because it would go against the purpose of graduation.

“While we would consider it, it’s important that graduation not be a commercial event,” Reich said,

But, people can purchase still photographs of graduates taken just before they walk across the stage to receive their diploma. And, though it’s not sold at a booth, they can also purchase videotaped copies.

“They can purchase a copy of the video, but that’s not the purpose,” Reich said.

He added that it’s rare for people to request a copy of the ceremony.

Not so, according to Reinhardt, who says the number of copies he sold when he videotaped a USF graduation proves there’s an interest.

“Clearly there are students there who are interested in the service,” Reinhardt said. “What is the objection of me doing it for free?”

Dan Doidge, spokesman for Bonzi Productions, the company currently charged with recording graduation ceremonies, said his primary purpose for filming is so people in the arena can see the graduates on the big screens.

In addition, Doidge said he hasn’t had any problems with USF since he began recording the event in 1998. His contract, however, was terminated in 2001 following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“As far as the relationship with the college, it’s always been a good one,” Doidge said.

Reich reiterated that USF is open to considering offers like Reinhardt’s, but the integrity of the ceremony has to be maintained.

“It would have to be consistent with the mission of the event,” Reich said. “It would be handled on a case by case basis.”

Still, Reinhardt, a former USF graduate, said he doesn’t know why he can’t record the event.

“As a graduate of USF, I would have liked to have had a tape of my graduation,” Reinhardt said. “Bottom line is, 40 years from now, there may be people out there who want to watch their graduation.”