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A Very 'Happy' BC Story

03/13/14
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By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: Mar. 13, 2014

It’s not fanciful to say that Boston College’s take on Pharrell Williams’ infectious hit song “Happy” has been an Internet phenomenon since the video was posted on YouTube Feb. 27.

Conceived and created by Office of News & Public Affairs Video Producer Sean Casey ’12, “Boston College Happy” – featuring 140 students, faculty, staff and alumni dancing, clapping or lip-synching to the song in 32 campus locations – had almost 124,000 views during its first week on YouTube (UPDATE: More than 180,000 as of March 27). It has been shared thousands of times over on social media by students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, as well as numerous other universities, organizations and social media watchers across the country and abroad – the list includes NBC News correspondent Luke Russert ’08, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, WBZ News Anchor Paula Ebben ’84, WHDH, the US Consulate in Melbourne, CNN National News Editor Marlena Baldacci, National Jesuit News and TV and movie star Chris O’Donnell ’92. (See the complete Storify here)

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As Casey explains, the inspiration for doing “Happy” was borne of something like desperation: “Being a native Californian, I found that I had been relying on ‘Happy’ to keep my spirits up during a particularly brutal Boston winter. After watching the original music video, I couldn’t help but think that we could definitely make this video with a BC angle. And the timing couldn’t have been more perfect with a cold snap and midterms in full swing.”

The actual filming for “Boston College Happy” took place over six days, in a variety of weather situations (including a snowstorm) and places, among them the Gasson Hall Irish Room, Higgins Stairs, the Flynn Recreation Complex, the Quad, O’Neill Library and Conte Forum – with a hockey game in progress.

Although he needed a big cast, Casey found it relatively easy to recruit people. In some cases, representatives of student groups, such as Boston College Irish Dance, Sexual Chocolate and My Mother’s Fleabag, agreed to join in the fun. And it wasn’t just students: Other cameo appearances include Vice President and Special Assistant to the President William B. Neenan, SJ, University Chancellor J. Donald Monan, SJ, Fr. Michael Davidson and a robed Assistant Professor of History Jeremy Clarke, SJ.

“Even the participation was viral: Once one person was in it, they told their friends to come participate,” says Casey, “who then told their friends, and so on and so on.”

         By the Numbers*:
 
             Views: 158,046

 Est. Minutes Watched: 447,597
 
        Countries viewed: 180

 Largest Audience Outside US:
          Germany, UK, France

 Audience: 62% female, 38% male

             Devices: 31% on
         smartphone or tablet

                    Likes: 2,492

                    Shares: 2,000

  *data collected on 3/13 from YouTube, Facebook and Twitter

Besides some technical aspects, the biggest challenge for Casey was to enable the participants to stay on the beat and mouth the lyrics in synch with the song. Fortunately, mobile technology provided a solution.

“We arranged to play the song on an iPhone that sat in the participant’s pocket, so they were able to rock away to the beat without any difficulty,” Casey explains. “We also had broken down the lyrics of the song in pre-production so that we could be sure that our dancers would say the exact line word for word while they danced.”

Some locations also were tricky, he adds: “The most difficult were definitely Bapst Library and O’Neill Library: We didn’t want to disturb anyone while filming since it was midterm season but the locations are too beautiful to ignore. So we just added headphones to the phone instead of playing the song disruptively – and in O’Neill, we were able to ‘hide’ in the stacks so as not to bother anyone.”

Although “Boston College Happy” is first and foremost meant in good fun, Casey says the video also serves a useful purpose: depicting Boston College as a vibrant, diverse community. “It was imperative that we include every different facet of what it means to be a part of the Boston College family. This included Jesuits, faculty, staff members, alumni and future Eagles as well as students. Honestly, we just saw the tip of the iceberg when it came to all of the varied groups that are available for students to participate in.

“Each and every person in this video showed a very unique and contagious personality that connected the viewer to the spirit of Boston College. This was incredibly important to the success of the video. We also wanted to make sure to show off our beautiful campus so that any viewer could get an immediate sense of what it is like to be walking around BC.”

The overwhelmingly positive response to the video, both within and without BC, confirms that it was a worthwhile project, says Casey, expressing gratitude to everyone involved in the production (as well as to Pharrell Williams himself).

“It was a chance to experience something very human and unique to Boston College and that has resonated with viewers,” he says. “I’ve always said it’s not hard to make videos at Boston College, because in addition to having such a gorgeous campus that looks great even in the doldrums of winter, the people that make up this place are special. They passionately embraced the opportunity to show just how happy they are to be here at this university.”

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