Student’s Political Passion Nets Him a Grand Prize

Posted: February 8, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Dave Andrews

Drew Schimmenti
Drew Schimmenti
Photo Courtesy of Drew Schimmenti

The transition from punk rock to politics was a successful one for Drew Schimmenti, a senior sociology major. Schimmenti, who moved to Virginia four years ago to play in a rock band and eventually enroll at Mason, recently discovered he has a knack for creating political ads.

Last month — when the presidential candidate pool was slightly fuller — Schimmenti and his brother, Neil, created a 30-second ad and entered it in the “My Vote, My Voice” ad contest sponsored by the Sen. John Edwards campaign. Despite stiff competition, the ad was recognized as the Grand Prize Winner.

“This was definitely a cool, once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Schimmenti says. “The campaign called and informed us that we would travel to New York to work on the ad. We worked on the TV version of the commercial and attended the David Letterman Show where John Edwards was a guest.”

The ad is titled “Dear Rural America” and compiles video footage of rural landscapes with various images of Edwards with his supporters. Schimmenti’s own voice narrates as he explains Edwards’ understanding of rural America’s feelings of neglect. It concludes with the slogan, “America Belongs to Us.”

“When we made the ad, we were sure they would only use our concept and create their own similar version,” Schimmenti says. “But we found out that they actually used our ad with minimal changes.”

Schimmenti admits he never had any formal training in video production. However, he regularly contributes to a web site that does similar work. He cites his passion for politics for bringing the ad concept to fruition.

“I think that a lot of people have been disenfranchised by politics and feel like their vote doesn’t matter,” he says. “[But] this is our country, and we do have a say. Senator Edwards did a great job of conveying that message to his supporters.”

Though Edwards dropped out of the presidential race just hours before the ad was scheduled to air, it is still featured on the campaign’s home page. Schimmenti says it wasn’t a devastating disappointment finding out that his ad would not be aired because he was not in it for his own self-promotion.

“It’s always been more about getting involved with the campaign and feeling like if you put yourself out there, some politicians are willing to hear your voice,” he says. “And that’s why I’m still encouraging people to get involved.”

Schimmenti, who is now backing Barack Obama, will graduate this summer and plans to attend graduate school in New York City to continue his sociology studies.

The punk band may have to wait a few more semesters.

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