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Reimagining The Civic Commons: Summit Lake

Client: Akron Civic Commons/Reimagining The Civic Commons / Industry: Non-Profit / Completed: August 2019 / Location: Akron, OH

Objectives/Requirements Discovery/Concepting Coordination/Prep Shoots Creation Results



  • Capture the revitalization work being done at Summit Lake in Akron, OH and how it is rebuilding trust in the community
  • Tell the story through the eyes of the Summit Lake residents 
  • Demonstrate how Summit Lake residents were included in the project 
  • Showcase project as a best practice case for how collaboration across organizations and with residents can make public space projects more successful


  • Work closely with Akron Civic Commons and Reimagining The Civic Commons to understand their mission and objectives with the project 
  • Talk directly to Summit Lake residents and other key figures involved in the project
  • Highlight the completed work and actively show residents using the space


When we were first approached about doing the Reimagining The Civic Commons: Summit Lake Video, we knew it was a story we wanted to help tell. Our offices are not far from Summit Lake and members from our team had been seeing firsthand the work that was being done.

The discovery phase of this project was extensive, because our team wanted to be sure we were not only ready to capture footage of the space, but were ready to accurately and authentically tell the story of Summit Lake. Initial kick-off calls were scheduled with stakeholders, including representatives from our partners, Akron Civic Commons and Reimagining the Civic Commons, that gave us a good foundation for the piece. From there, we started collecting information and reading articles about the Summit Lake project and took bike rides down the Towpath to scout the location and talk to area residents and stakeholders. 

These trips to the area were important because it helped our creative team become very familiar with Summit Lake and understand the story that needed to be told in a thoughtful and informative way.


Since the core of this piece was interviews, our team got to work talking with all the interviewees and people who would be on-camera right away. There were many people who would be on-camera, including residents, Akron city representatives and partners from Akron Civic Commons. The goal was to only have one day of interviews, so the project team worked with the interviewees to coordinate schedules and arrange filming times that worked for everyone. 

As with other outdoor shoots, our production team was careful to select backgrounds and interview locations that would still be usable even if the weather was less than ideal, even when shot from multiple camera angles. 

Questions for the interviewees were written and a document with prep questions to think about was sent ahead of time to allow for all participants to be comfortable and confident when they were being filmed. Questions were geared not necessarily towards the physical work that had been done, which could speak for itself in the visuals, but about the collaboration, the community and the inclusivity of the project as a whole.


There were two main filming days – a day of interviews and a day of b-roll and drone shots. While our team had some scheduling control over the interview day, the b-roll day was scheduled to take place on May 11th, 2019, the same day as the Ohio & Erie Canal Summit Lake Trail Kick-Off event happening at the Summit Lake Community Center. 

Interview Shoot Day

The interview day started out a little grey and rainy. Our team set up overhead silks and other sheltering elements around the interview areas to keep all on-camera talent dry and keep the wind and traffic noises to a minimum, all while still getting the perfect interview shots. It was important that our team kept an eye on the outdoor variables of the shoot, but was also mindful of everyone’s time and maintained a concise and efficient shoot schedule. 

We used our RED Scarlet-W and a Canon 70-200mm lens to capture the interviews. This allowed us to crate a a shallow depth of field that made the interviewees feel almost merged with the scenic backdrop areas around them. During filming, a few key responses were filmed from an alternate camera angle or from on the shoulder to give it a more authentic style.

B-Roll Day

The b-roll day took place on the same day as the Ohio & Erie Canal Summit Lake Trail Kick-Off event. Not only was the weather perfect, but the event plus the sunshine meant that there were a lot of people around and a lot of activity to be captured. It was crucial that the b-roll all felt very real and organic, so our team moved around crowds with our RED camera and the Ronin-2 which allowed them to be a part of the action while still getting the smooth, engaging, high-resolution footage we needed. 

The team captured activities all over Summit Lake with cinematic shots of everything from bike riding to walking to grilling to canoeing. This footage, combined with the interviews and the aerial shots that were obtained, provided the perfect collection of content needed to piece together the Summit Lake revitalization story. 


On the same day, the team took our DJI Inspire 2 out early in the morning to capture the picture-perfect, scenic aerial shots needed to complete the b-roll for the video. These stunning shots were important to capture the full scope of the work being done and demonstrate the overall beauty of the area.


We knew that the interviews were going to be the driving force behind the Summit Lake story. Luckily, with all the work that had been done pre-shoot, the team was able to get right to work crafting the story arc of the video. Using a cold open to talk about some of the misconceptions and struggles that the area had experienced in previous years, we were then able to transition into an uplifting and hopeful second act that focused on the changes being made. 

During the interviews, the story was focused on the collaboration that occurred between Civic Commons and the residents. The residents of Summit Lake were clear about what they wanted to see and were appreciative of a group that partnered with them, listened, and co-created, instead of just making decisions. As the video comes to a close, it is clear on this beautiful day, full of vibrancy and community, that the project was a success and the space is something that everyone, both the residents and the Civic Commons team, can be very proud of.  

Color Correction

We wanted to be sure that all this beautiful footage looked its best in the final piece. Since the footage was captured on several cameras, over several days, in different conditions – it was important that the team spent time color correcting the images to make it all feel cohesive. During outdoor shoots especially, the lighting and color of shots can differ from moment to moment, based on factors like sunlight and cloud cover so some of the final selected shots required retouching to match each other.

Collaboration with Partners during the Edit

During the edit of this video, we relied on the Akron Civic Commons team to make sure the story was being told with respect to the project and the residents of Summit Lake. Their knowledge of the project and the process helped tell the story in a special, yet genuine way. They were able to help us identify residents in the b-roll footage and even helped collaborate to capture the right feel of the piece through specific song selections. The whole team’s effort and passion is clear in the success of the final piece.


The final video was a stunning and informative depiction of the Reimagining the Civic Commons: Summit Lake project. It was a piece everyone was incredibly proud of and was happy to share. “I think it really truly was a team effort and I just feel proud of that,” said Dan Rice, President & Chief Executive Officer of the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition and Akron Civic Commons board member. “I would just say overall it far exceeded my expectations.”

“I would also say that it definitely told a story. It was interesting,” added Bronlynn Thurman, Program Officer at GAR Foundation and fellow Akron Civic Commons board member. “It shows that we were all thinking the same thing, regardless of if you were a community leader or the representative of the organization.”

“I think one thing that we were hoping for in the video that I think it accomplished was capturing and telling the more emotional side of the story and not just the analytical or the process story. It had people talking from their own point of view, but very much sharing a message of why this work is important. I think that was really important from the national perspective,” said Bridget Marquis, Director of the Reimagining the Civic Commons National Learning Network. “When we started this video, we saw this as a pilot and I think it definitely has encouraged us to think about how we can use video moving forward in the initiative.”

The video was premiered at a Summit Lake community meeting for residents before it went live online. But since it has launched, it has been viewed on social media, both local and national websites and has been shown at several live events, including the Ohio Parks & Recreation Association 2020 OPRA Conference & Trade Show, Knight Media Forum and Future Cities Canada Summit. 

Online Presence: 

  • Facebook: 30K+ views, 900+ reactions, 150+ shares
  • Twitter: 13K+ views
  • Vimeo: 1K+ views

Featured Articles on Medium:

The piece was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category of Community/Public Service (PSA) – Single Spot or Campaign at the 2020 Lower Great Lakes Regional Emmy Awards.

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