BVU Trio Represents Alma Mater at Napa Valley Film Festival

Three Beavers in Los Angeles are anxious to see the screening of the "Growing Magic" documentary they helped start as undergraduates at BVU.

Three Buena Vista University alumni who helped produce a documentary as undergraduates will attend a screening of “Growing Magic: The Mickey Mouse Cornfield Story,” in the 2020 Ag & Art Film Festival in the Napa Valley region of California.

Those three are naturals for the Sept. 10-13 festival, given their work history on the project and where they began their careers in digital media: California.

Zach and Chelsey (Goetz) Schmidt are 2016 BVU graduates. Zach works for Hulu, while Chelsey works for Zoo Digital, which does projects for Hulu, Netflix, Disney, and more. Cooper Maahs, a 2019 BVU graduate, is a freelancer based in Los Angeles.

BVU digital media students Cooper Maahs and Spencer Bottorff shoot video in Sheffield, Iowa, while working on "Growing Magic: The Mickey Mouse Cornfield Story."
BVU digital media students Cooper Maahs and Spencer Bottorff shoot video in Sheffield, Iowa, while working on "Growing Magic: The Mickey Mouse Cornfield Story."

“Cooper was one of the ‘Founding Fathers’ of the documentary,” says Jerry Johnson, BVU Assistant Professor of Digital Media. “I remember Cooper being in the middle of a cornfield near Sheffield going up and down the rows with our jib, getting footage.”

Maahs also helped film and record audio during interviews. He shot publicity photos in and around Sheffield and Dougherty, the north-central Iowa towns where the Walt Disney Company promotion transformed a 520-acre of corn into a Mickey Mouse birthday card visible from 30,000 feet. The effort, brainchild of Jack Lindquist, Disney’s vice president for publicity at the time, garnered worldwide media attention and touched off a three-day community celebration in Sheffield that involved residents and an estimated 20,000 visitors who descended upon the area.

Johnson and a host of BVU digital media students spent four years collecting news stories, doing background work, and recording/editing current interviews of the participants for the documentary, which premiered in March 2019 at BVU and then at Chapman University in Orange, Calif.

“The first time we viewed the documentary was in Los Angeles,” Zach Schmidt says. “I was extremely happy with the way it turned out. Naturally, we had some concerns in handing off two to three years of our work to another group of younger BVU students. They did a great job in finishing it.”

“My internship experience, my work on campus, and my work-study position for four years with 2Fix all taught me how to work with others... Those experiences gave me the confidence I needed to head to Los Angeles to find work in the field immediately after I graduated.”

Zach Schmidt

Zach and Chelsey Schmidt played roles in the development of “Growing Magic.” Zach remembers gathering information and working to develop the story. Chelsey was interning at BVU’s Office of Marketing and Communications in the summer of 2015 when Johnson, during a lunch in his office, mentioned the possibility of beginning work on the project.

“We went to visit Judy Pitzenberger, and she laid out the historical artifacts as we talked with her family,” says Chelsey, remembering the Ted and Judy Pitzenberger family, who planted corn and oats on the tract that rose to life that summer.

The work resulted in real-life experience for dozens of BVU digital media majors and, in the Schmidts, a couple of graduates. The Schmidts were residing in Los Angeles in 2018 and assisted Johnson when he ventured west to interview former Disneyland executive Troy Lindquist, son of Jack Lindquist, among others.

Zach and Chelsey Schmidt, BVU digital media alums who helped create the documentary Growing Magic.
2016 BVU alumni Zach and Chelsey (Goetz) Schmidt spent time as undergraduates working on "Growing Magic: The Mickey Mouse Cornfield Story," which they'll watch this month as it is screened in the 2020 Ag & Art Film Festival in the Napa Valley region of California.

Participation in the documentary augmented work and internship experiences students gained during their time at BVU. Both Zach Schmidt and Maahs’ completed a pair of internships in Los Angeles as undergraduates. Chelsey Schmidt interned with a post-production firm in London, England, and spent a semester studying there, too.

“My internship experience, my work on campus, and my work-study position for four years with 2Fix all taught me how to work with others, how to help customers, and how to deal with tension,” Zach Schmidt says. “Those experiences gave me the confidence I needed to head to Los Angeles to find work in the field immediately after I graduated. We love it out here.”

His wife, Chelsey, agreed, as did Maahs. All three were highly involved in digital media efforts on campus as undergraduates, primarily with BVTV productions.

And now, they’ll join forces again in Vacaville, Calif., to represent their alma mater at the Ag & Art Film Festival, which celebrates agriculture and art through storytelling and cinema.

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