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How A Legacy Documentary Can Revolutionize Your Higher Ed Institution

Aug 10, 2023

In the world of higher education, the battle for the hearts and minds of prospective students, donors, and alumni never ends. But what if there was a storytelling medium that could bypass the feeling of being "sold to," instead of creating deep emotional connections and leaving a lasting impression? Enter the power of a legacy documentary – an immersive, authentic, and compelling way to tell your institution's unique story.


Recently, we had the privilege of creating a 35-minute short documentary that showcased the indelible legacy of a college basketball coach at Rochester University. The film highlights his immense impact on his players, students, and the surrounding community, embodying the mission of the university in a powerful and emotional narrative.

Why Legacy Documentaries?

Unlike traditional marketing pieces, a legacy documentary doesn't feel like an advertisement – because it isn't. It's a narrative-driven story, deeply rooted in the people that make up the fabric of your institution. It forgoes the hard sell in favor of authenticity, emotion, and connection, turning viewers into invested participants in the narrative.

These films can effectively speak to diverse audiences, from prospective students to alumni, faculty, and donors. They not only showcase the transformative power of your institution but also weave a narrative that reinforces the values, culture, and impact that set your university apart.

The Power of Emotional Connection

Stories have the power to move us. They make us feel, empathize, and connect on a deep level – a psychological effect that can be harnessed to significant effect by higher ed institutions.


By creating an emotional connection through a legacy documentary, your university not only shares its mission and values but also engenders a sense of belonging and pride. The viewers are not just watching a film; they are experiencing the essence of your institution. They see the lives that have been changed, the futures that have been shaped, and the community that has been built.

Engaging the Alumni Community

A key target for legacy documentaries is the alumni community. Alumni represent a significant potential resource for universities, but engaging them meaningfully can be challenging.

A legacy documentary provides a powerful tool for alumni engagement. It invokes nostalgia, fosters a renewed sense of connection, and showcases the ongoing impact of the institution. It can also be a potent call-to-action, encouraging alumni to support the continued growth and success of their alma mater.

By sponsoring a legacy documentary, alumni associations not only contribute to the creation of a valuable marketing tool but also play a part in preserving and promoting the legacy of their institution. It's a unique opportunity to give back and ensure future generations can benefit from the same transformative experiences they had.

A Rollout to Remember

The power of a legacy documentary is not just in the storytelling, but also in how it is shared with the world. To maximize the impact of our recent documentary, Rochester University went above and beyond a simple online premiere. They created an event—a cinematic experience that transformed the documentary's debut into a celebration of their community's shared history and aspirations.

Rochester University used a local theater (which use was donated by the theater owner!) and staged a red-carpet event for the premiere. Attendees, including alumni, current students, faculty, and community members, were greeted with the school’s mascot and a super fun step-and-repeat backdrop upon arrival, enhancing the sense of occasion and excitement.

 Grant McClure, Zak Howell, and Ryan Koral from Enroll Films & Tell Studios posing at the Red Carpet Event for the initial screening of "Coach"

The screening was followed by a live Q&A panel featuring key individuals from the film. This allowed the attendees to engage deeper with the stories and insights presented in the documentary and created a more personal and interactive experience.

But perhaps the most strategic element of this rollout was the clear call-to-action shared with attendees. Leveraging the emotional momentum created by the documentary, attendees were encouraged to consider partnering with the university on their next significant athletic project. The film wasn't just a story from the past; it became a bridge to the university's future, positioning the attendees as potential active participants in that journey.

This immersive, community-focused rollout strategy amplified the power of the legacy documentary. It was more than just a viewing; it was a memorable experience that further deepened the emotional connection between the viewers and the university, making them more likely to engage and contribute in the future.

This strategy illustrates how thinking outside the box when it comes to sharing your legacy documentary can significantly enhance its impact. By transforming a simple premiere into a fully-fledged event, your institution can create an even deeper connection with your community while laying the groundwork for future initiatives and collaborations.

Beyond the Story: Inviting Engagement and Inspiring Change

In the realm of higher education, institutions have a tremendous opportunity to leverage the rich, multifaceted stories of their communities. By creating and sharing emotive, compelling narratives — especially those that weave the profound impacts of key figures — universities can foster deeper connections with current students, prospective students, alumni, and their wider communities. These stories don't just market an institution; they articulate its soul, mission, and transformative influence on individual lives.

The legacy documentary we produced for Rochester University is a prime example of this. It doesn't feel like a sales pitch because it isn't one. It's a genuine exploration of a beloved coach's impact, an encapsulation of the university's spirit and mission. It's a tool that invites viewers to connect with the institution, to see its values and impact in action, and to imagine how they or their children might fit into that ongoing narrative.

When we share these stories — when we illuminate the human faces and experiences behind institutional logos — we're not just promoting a school. We're inviting people to become part of a living, evolving legacy. And that's an invitation many will find hard to refuse.

For universities and colleges considering a project like this, we invite you to think beyond the conventional. Explore the powerful narratives within your institution. Celebrate the legacies that have shaped your community. Share these stories far and wide. Not only could this approach set your institution apart, but it also might inspire the next chapter in your school's own unique story.

☎️ Ready to talk about your own Legacy Documentary? Let's chat!
🎥 Want to watch COACH? Watch it here