By Alexa Gerber
“What if you didn’t have freedom of speech?” challenged MSUM film student Naoya Uchida. Apparently, a man in a black suit would appear to take care of the dissenters.
At least, that’s what happens in Uchida’s PSA. The short video recently took the top prize at the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation’s Freedom of Speech PSA Competition. Participants were tasked with creating a 30-second TV or radio spot answering the question, “What does freedom of speech mean to me?” Uchida’s spot won him a $3,000 scholarship.
The project was assigned to Uchida and the other students of Professor Martin Grindeland’s class Video Production for Ad, News and PR, through the School of Communication and Journalism last spring.
“First, I researched freedom of speech, because I didn’t know about it before professor Grindeland assigned the project,” said Uchida, an international student from Kanagawa, Japan. Though the finished project ended up being humorous, that wasn’t what he was originally planning.
“Actually, my first idea was very serious and kind of criticizing the weak ends of freedom of speech,” he said. “But I talked to Professor Grindeland and made changes, then it ended up being what I finally made.”
After looking at the previous winning videos, Uchida noticed a trend — they were all very serious, and ended up looking pretty similar.
“It is always difficult to predict what judges will like in a national contest,” Grindeland said. “Naoya’s Freedom of Speech PSA had an interesting strategy. He was trying to be both serious and a little humorous. Obviously, the judges must have appreciated that combination.”
Uchida has been studying film production at MSUM since his freshman year, and also has a minor in photojournalism.
“I’ve had many difficulties through my college life and the projects that I have done, but all of them are very valuable lessons for me and I really appreciate that,” Uchida said.
“He is a hard worker with very high standards,” Grindeland said. “All of his projects in the class were very strong. Clearly, he has a gift to tell stories with a camera and a microphone.”
Outside of the classroom, Uchida often works on the Campus News program and is passionate about photography and documenting other cultures, something he gained from traveling around the world. Perhaps his greatest passion, though, is filmmaking — and he believes freedom of speech is a key part of it.
“There are many opinions about freedom of speech today, but personally, I believe if there was no freedom of speech, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now, such as filmmaking,” he said. “My favorite part of filmmaking is putting my message in my films and telling my audience the message through them. Therefore I need to have freedom of speech.”