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CCU Atheneum: Department of Philanthropy had some fun with the happy dance. From left, Kim Gomez, Diane Fabiano, Mark Kiskunas and Marjorie Thompson.
Department of Philanthropy had some fun with the happy dance. From left, Kim Gomez, Diane Fabiano, Mark Kiskunas and Marjorie Thompson.

Behind the scenes of CCU's 'Happy' video

by Mona Prufer
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You cannot escape it. The “Happy” song by Pharrell Williams, a worldwide hit for 2014, has spawned millions of videos around the world, videos of smiling, dancing people, even dogs and cats supposedly grooving to the catchy tune. And now, Coastal Carolina University has its own “last ‘Happy’ video,” to distinguish it from all the others.

Deans and a provost dancing in the fountain. A coed in pink jeans with some rhythmic moves. University counsel juggling three balls. Three bikinied, freshman girls splashing in the ocean. Smiles and more dancing everywhere.

By now you have probably viewed the two-and-a-half-minute video of CCU’s “One Last Happy Video at CCU.” But what’s involved in the making of a polished, professional video? What makes “Happy” such a sensation?

“Based on some research I did previously, I think it came along at the right socioeconomic time,” says Terry Pettijohn, chair of the Department of Psychology and Sociology, of the song. “In the spring and summer, people are more carefree and flexible, the song is upbeat and positive – it even has the word ‘happy’ in it – and it just kind of caught on to become this great phenomenon.”

A week in the making, including shooting and editing, the production began with theater professor Robin Russell’s three classes of Acting I students.

“Those were her first days of classes, and she used that as her icebreaker,” says David Russell, media services production manager. “With the teal walls as background, we had the students run in and out of the shot a few times. Believe it or not, not one bit was choreographed. They just got into it.”

Those student dancers, in the classroom, on the bridge, on building steps, laid a good foundation for the video, which was fleshed out with spontaneous bits around campus, says Russell.

“The song by now is a little old, but the cool thing about it is, people get into it pretty quickly,” says Russell, adding that not everyone was a dancer. Brian Marshall, for instance, who was dancing in the fountain with his backside to the camera, is now known as “Fountain King” by the crew. While Marshall is a theater student, his focus is on the technical side, not the performance aspect. (You wouldn’t know it to watch him in the video.)

For a week, Russell and videographer Bryan Stalvey filmed students, faculty and staff dancing all over campus. Obstacles included the extreme heat of August days and some initial reluctance by some to participate.

There was some loud encouragement from both Russells to keep the energy level high and smiles broad, but nearly everyone had fun in the process. “The ones who didn’t, ended up getting cut,” says Stalvey, who had high praise for Erin Paxton, “the girl in the pink jeans” who led off the video and was interspersed throughout. “She was almost the star of it. It was so hot, and that girl danced so much, she was dripping sweat, but she sends off such a positive vibe that your eyes go straight to her.”

Other positive vibes came from: Giovanny Lee, a freshman who did a spontaneous breakdance in front of the post office counter; the human resources staff wearing blue wigs; and the philanthropy crew led by Mark Kiskunas in a white outfit and mock Pharrell hat, flanked by Diane Fabiano, Kim Gomez and Marjorie Thompson in black dresses with teal necklaces, just to name a few.

“Overall, I loved the video and how fun it was, and it made me so proud to be a student at CCU,” writes Bethany Bebik in a Faceook post. “But if I had to choose a favorite, it'd have to be the guy dancing in the fountain! He had some crazy moves.”

The provost and deans dancing in the Blanton Park fountain with their pants legs and skirts rolled up was the favorite scene of many, according to a Facebook question posted by Brent Reser, CCU's social media coordinator. Russell said the group came up with the fountain idea on its own after filming in the provost’s office didn’t work out well.

“Dr. Byington said let’s go get in the fountain, and off they went,” says Russell. “It was great.”

While the video was challenging and fun, the best thing about it is how well it shows off the beauty of the campus and the talents of our community, Russell says, even with all the construction underway.

A commenter on Facebook summed it up well: “The best part was the amazing school spirit everyone showed!” writes Ann Beattie. “Should be part of recruiting package!’


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