Culver on the small screen: commercials, website launching this wkd

Culver residents turning on their televisions this weekend may see some familiar scenes in the form of two commercials debuting on WSBT TV in South Bend. The hope, of course, is that those outside Culver will be charmed by what they see, and given the focus and style of the commercials, chances are they will be.

They’re the work of the Culver Redevelopment Commission, which aims to turn the focus towards development in its TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district in Culver, though broadly speaking that includes promoting all of the community's entities, which the commercials aim to do.

According to Kathy Clark of the CRC, the commercials are tied into a newly-launching website,, which not only promotes development opportunities, retail and dining options, major community events, and other amenities of the community, but is also aimed at tracking the success of the commercials.

"Along with the commercials," she says, "we hired someone locally to work on a website that will...track all the hits and usage. It will give us at least some way of determining if the commercials are reaching people or not over the 30 days they'll be initially airing."

Clark says the CRC understands the website isn't a perfect tool, and with that in mind, local entities with websites are encouraged to utilize existing tracking tools -- or install tools like Google Analytics -- to determine if there's been any increased web traffic to them.

Local businesses may also want to keep an ear out for mention of the commercials when newcomers visit their establishments.
Clark emphasizes the website is a "process; it's being tweaked for weeks to come," and will likely continue to evolve in the weeks and months to come.

The CRC, Clark says, under the guidance of Rick Tompos, includes Jerry Ney, Steve Heim, and Brandon Cooper. The Commission decided last spring to assist the town council in offering support to the Culver Chamber of Commerce, "not only for business retention, but for the new, upcoming Culver Fall Fest (the weekend of Oct. 19), as well as promote new business development.”.

"We decided we would put together some commercials to not only do that, but to give a source of business development to allow us to work closer with the Marshall County Economic Development Corporation,” Clark says. “They (the CRC) chose Jerry and myself, and we chose to include (town manager) Dave Schoeff as our sub-committee."

The sub-committee contacted WSBT, whose production team had shot several commercials for Culver businesses and the Chamber last year, and the company created a proposal. Meanwhile, the sub-committee contacted 15 people "from all walks of life" in the community and held a brainstorming session on the commercials in June.

Says Ney: "After an hour-long open discussion, we came up with the themes of friendly people; diverse population; wonderful schools; and the artistic points of our community like the writers' group, Crisp art gallery, Maxinkuckee Players, and the quilters; and sports on the lake like sailing, hiking, and fishing; and our great shops and restaurants.

"We all decided as a group that those were quality of life issues, which is usually one of the top three or four things new businesses look for when they're considering relocating."

The group gave four topics to WSBT producers requesting commercials focusing on them. The result was four scripts, complete with screen shots, which were sent to the sub-committee, who chose the places they felt best suited to filming, and the people to be included.
"All the shooting was done in one day except the Maxinkuckee Players; they came down and got the beautiful scenery and wonderful costumes of the actors during their rehearsal."

Leading the filming process was Nicholas Scholten, WSBT's CCS producer, who also managed to capture some of the most striking footage in the commercials: vibrant and lavishly colorful sunsets on the lake.

The one-day shoot which captured most of the scenes took place over 12 hours one day in mid-August, and included scenes of Culver's downtown and uptown, some retail and dining, the lake (including the town beach and east shore), and Culver Academies.

Scenes range from a couple strolling the beach with a baby stroller, to art faculty at Culver Academies pointing to artworks in the Crisp Art Gallery; from teenagers walking through downtown, to a couple entering a local restaurant, with a sunset toast on the east shore of the lake wrapping up one advertisement.

Many may have seen last year's Culver commercials, but the new series differs in a couple of ways: first, most of last year's were limited to 15 seconds, while these are 30 seconds. The difference may seem minimal, but the overall effect is that of a somewhat more comprehensive and broad look at the community.

Another major difference stems from the producers' excitement about the project.

"They had never done this for a town before," says Clark, "and they upgraded us to a cinematic camera, which is normally three times the cost. This project is filmed in high definition 1080 mode, so it has wonderful clarity and superb quality."

All of that shows in the look of the new commercials.

The sub-committee accepted two of the three commercials, while a third will have some slight re-editing before airing. A fourth commercial is planned for a bit later.

"In the spirit of business retention," explains Clark, "we want to do a test market, so we're going to release two of the commercials each of the next four weeks, beginning Sept. 22 with CBS' "Sunday Morning" TV show. The others will run during the 6 to 7 p.m. WSBT news broadcast. We'll alternate those commercials, and the last one will run the Thursday before Fall Fest."

The tagline of the commercials and the website, she adds, is, "See what we have to offer at"

The hope is to shoot scenes of Fall Fest and other autumn and winter scenery to create more diverse, seasonal future commercials as well, Clark says, after interest is gauged from the first two.

"We're promoting quality of life," she points out, referring to a recent column by Brian Howey of The Howey Political Report, who interviewed Ball State University economics Professor Michael Hicks.
Hicks described job creation as a local problem rather than a state one, contrary to popular assumptions.

"I felt the point (he) made that best fits why we are doing these commercials is when Hicks explained, 'As Americans became richer, schooling and community amenities matter more. This is an iron law of economics, that the share of income we spend on some goods rises as we get richer. Education and amenities (like health care and recreation) are two of these things. So, the Midwest built its small towns long before the quality of a place made much difference in migration or incomes. Today, quality of place matters deeply, and we are, in many places, unprepared to deal with it.'

"I feel our CRC and town council are ahead of the game in this respect," continues Clark. "We know that quality of life is important to business owners, and we have a suburb quality of life -- mainly lots of recreational opportunities and one of the best schools in the country. These things should be played to our advantage."

Those able to share information which would help the CRC track the success of the commercials are encouraged to contact Kathy Clark at