Georgia Southern graduates building the booming Savannah sports market
It wasn’t the original plan. In fact, the opportunity didn’t exist until after they began attending school. Now, they’re helping to build one of the fastest-growing sports markets in the country.
Jackson Hamilton was born and raised near coastal Georgia. His father, a former employee of Georgia Southern University, would bring Hamilton to campus with him when he was growing up. He learned the value of hard work from watching his father, while also becoming a young member of Eagle Nation.
When it was time to enroll and select a major, Hamilton didn’t need to think too hard about it.
His mom holds a master’s degree in musical performance. In a similar vein, Hamilton loved to sing for most of his childhood. Putting on a show was in his blood. When he arrived at Georgia Southern University, he enrolled as a vocal performance major.
However, after two years in the program, he was ready for a change. One area he found himself exploring was multimedia production.
That decision changed his life.
“I didn’t notice it at first when I wanted to do stuff like this,” he said. “For me personally, I just want to do something to inspire other people and to build a community with the people that reach out to others.”
Despite having next to no experience operating a camera, it didn’t take long for a passion to grow within his heart. Within a year, he changed his career path.
“It was basically what you would call a blind leap of faith,” he admitted. “I didn’t know how to run a camera. I didn’t know anything as far as replay, audio and all that other stuff. I had no knowledge or anything of it. But of course, over time, I built up my knowledge on it and was able to grasp it really quickly.”
Georgia Southern’s multimedia landscape isn’t only developed in the classroom. The athletics department’s GATA Productions broadcasts many of Eagle Nation’s sports events. In many cases, the team making the broadcasts happen are students.
After learning the ropes in the classroom and on the field, Hamilton was recruited to take his talents off-campus with the world-famous Savannah Bananas and the recently launched Savannah Ghost Pirates.
The young production team that broadcasts those games are primarily composed of Eagles who got their start working with GATA Productions. Graduating student Jalen Johnson is another Eagle who honed his skills working for Savannah sports teams.
Johnson was born in Pensacola, Florida, but moved to Georgia when he was six years old. While predominantly playing soccer growing up, he left athletics to join the theatrical arts in high school.
His absence from athletics wouldn’t last long.
Like Hamilton, Johnson made a mid-college shift from the stage to sports production. Johnson adapted his years of being a technical director for the stage, and became a director for broadcast.
“Even though they are all very different, you can at least find some ways to connect it,” he stressed. “Especially when I came into sports production, many people didn’t think I knew how to do audio because I was a technical director. I’ve been doing audio since I was in high school theater. It’s all about knowing the venue and what the audience you have is listening for.”
The skills Hamilton and Johnson earned are not isolated to singular positions. By learning the foundations of film and television and acquiring hands-on experiences working for professional sports teams, they also harnessed leadership skills to guide rookies and professionals on game days.
Johnson said being in the fast-paced world of live sports can be stressful, and there are high expectations for broadcasters. One lesson he’s learned during his tenure was the power of empathy and support for the crew.
“It’s important for a person to learn every single aspect of the broadcast team,” Johnson said. “Especially camera operators and how they feel and what they’re actually having to go through. It seems like a lot of technical directors don’t seem to know the struggles of it.”
Not only are the new graduates getting professional-grade experience running sports broadcasts, but it’s also happening in a region experiencing a boom in sports culture.
“Being a part of the beginning of anything is just amazing,” Johnson said. “Especially in the sports world. It’s a once in a lifetime chance to be the first one to work on a sport, the first one to work on a team.”