Nearly 200 students from all around the country responded to the i-Confess challenge of making a one-minute YouTube video encouraging viewers to partake in the sacrament of reconciliation.
They competed for the grand prize of $50,000 to be shared equally by the winner and his or her school. The contest was sponsored by the Diocese of Brooklyn in collaboration with the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
With nearly 25,000 views and over 700 “likes,” Melinda Collins won the contest with her video, Get Clean. Second place and a $10,000 educational scholarship went to Caled and Molly Herboth for their video, Be Reconciled to God. Virginia Jacobson and Douglas Kraeger won third place and $1,000 for their video, Backpack of Sins.
Collins, who starred in her winning entry, is a senior at John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego, California. The school will use its share of the prize money as a scholarship for George Simon, who was the cinematographer and co-editor of Get Clean.
Simon was forced to leave school one year before earning his bachelor’s degree due to financial difficulties.
“I would never have been able to finish,” he said. “When I had to leave John Paul University I was heartbroken.”
During the year he was off from school, Collins contacted him about the idea for the video. Eager for a creative outlet and motivated by the possible prize, Simon was excited about the project. However, Collins was overwhelmed with school and extracurricular activities.
The two filmed the entire project when a class cancellation gave Collins a three-hour window of time. Despite her busy schedule, she made her way to Simon’s apartment to film only after she attended Mass.
“I try to go to daily Mass,” she said. “Especially when I am working on something, I need to go to Mass.”
Having asked God for help, Collins faced the task of filming without a script or a clear plan for the video.
Simon said the project presented man y challenges that forced the two to find innovative solutions. Not having professional camera equipment, he spent much of the time filming on top of his makeshift tripod that consisted of a roll of plastic bags on top of a cooler.
Despite their creativity, Collins said many of the problems they encountered required extra help. She said many of the aspects of the film resulted out of necessity, instead of choice.
“The timing and the circumstances of this project are all extraordinarily providential,” she said.
The students said the popularity of the project was beyond their control because they did not start promoting the video until four days before the cutoff date.
The popularity of the video was a great reward in itself, Collins said, because it allowed her to spread the message of God’s forgiveness. As a student, she said she feels restricted in how much she can spread God’s message.
With this project she brought the topic of confession up for discussion in a worldwide forum. Her video has over a hundred comments, many of which thank her for the inspirational message in the video.
“The reason I think it was successful is because it was very true,” she said. “The reason I wanted to make this film is because I experienced it. This is what confession is to me.”
The video, scored to a song by Rachel Fannan, can be viewed on i-confess.com.
Because of contacts made through the video competition, Collins and Simon have been asked to do a documentary on pilgrims from Brooklyn and Queens who will walk the Way of St. James in Spain in August.
They also will provide footage of the diocesan delegation to World Youth Day in Madrid for broadcast on Currents, The NET’s daily news show.