Like his friends and schoolmates who were honored at the National Broadcasting Society’s 50th National Undergraduate Student Electronic Media Competition last month, Travis Hastings ’13 felt proud of his achievement. The Television and Radio major was one of five Rider students to capture first-place awards in the prestigious annual contest, but in Hastings’ case, it meant more than just a shiny plaque. It was personal.
Hastings was recognized for his 60-second public service announcement, Screen for Life, which urged people over 50 to be screened for colorectal cancer – the type of cancer that claimed the life of his father less than two years ago at 57.
“It was really important to me,” said Hastings, whose father, Russell, was diagnosed just five days before Travis left his home in upstate Ulster Park, N.Y., to begin his freshman year at Rider. After battling for two and a half years, Russell saw his condition veer sharply downward, and he succumbed to the disease in January 2012 while Hastings was on a trip in Los Angeles.
“It was very sudden. I had to come home quickly,” he recalled. Just like that, Hastings’ relationship with his father was reduced to memories. But rather than keep those remembrances tucked away, Hastings decided they could help save lives.
“I really wanted to reach out to others so they don’t have to be in the same situation as me and my family,” Hastings explained. His own poignant voiceover in the public service announcement details a trip father and son took to California that saw them drive the Pacific Coast Highway in a blue Mustang convertible from San Diego to San Francisco. The fond recollection comes to a jarring conclusion when Hastings announces they can’t take those trips anymore.
“It’s my best memory of my father, and I end the PSA by saying, ‘Don’t be just a memory to your family. Get screened,’ ” said Hastings, who created the piece for a Writing for Broadcast class at Rider.
The class is just one way the senior has found his voice since enrolling at Rider in 2009. Hastings says he was immediately drawn to the University’s television production facilities and curriculum, which were recommended to him by his high school guidance counselor. Though he was accepted into Syracuse University’s prestigious Newhouse School of Communications, Hastings knew he would have to wait three years before he got any hands-on experience in the program, and he simply could not wait.
“I loved the TV studio when I came for my visit, and I knew I could get my hands on the equipment here the first day of my freshman year,” said Hastings, who added that he used to constantly make short films with a $200 video camera before coming to Rider. Before long, he and his fellow television production students – many involved with the Rider University Network, Or R.U.N. – coalesced into what Hastings calls a “kind of family.”
The immediate experience that drew him to Rider has paid dividends, says Hastings, who is one of just two members of Rider’s NBS chapter to have won a first-place award in the 2012 competition, as well as in this year’s.
“If I didn’t have those two extra years, I wouldn’t be where I am now,” he said.
Where he is puts Hastings in an enviable position. With an eye on breaking into film production and cinematography, he has been accepted into a graduate film program at Chapman University in California. He is also weighing an opportunity to continue working at Part 2 Pictures of Brooklyn when his current internship ends in May. It’s the third productive television production internship he has held, and aside from earning valuable experience, Hastings is also impressed by the strong reputation Rider holds in the business.
“It’s amazing how many companies in New York know Rider for its internship program,” he said.