UVic Lipdub goes viral

By Chelsea Herman

Last year, UVic student Shawn Slavin made a pledge: by the time he graduated in December 2010, he would do something worthy of being on the front page of The Martlet.

In September, Slavin made good on his promise by spearheading UVic Lipdub, a video project that on Sept. 25 brought approximately 1,000 students, staff and community members to campus to sing, dance and show what they could do. The ambitious project got him his Martlet cover (and the cover of The Ring), but the media attention didn't stop there.

Slavin and the lipdub have since been featured by numerous major media outlets, including Maclean's, the Vancouver Sun, the Chicago Tribune, and CBC News.

The video, which went live on Oct. 23, logged over 20,000 hits in its first day and, by press time, it had been viewed 124,000 times.

The project was a labour of love for Slavin, who came up with the concept after Hollywood blogger Perez Hilton mistakenly gave UVic credit for a lipdub video that was actually produced by a Spanish university that also uses "UVIC" as its shortened form. Although the mistake was quickly corrected, the incident caught Slavin's attention. "I saw an opportunity to bring the UVic community together in a way I'd never seen before. I knew we had to do it." He spent the next three months tirelessly arranging virtually every aspect of the video.

Slavin is quick to point out that while he initiated and directed the project, the video could not have happened without the help and support of over a hundred volunteers, corporate sponsors, and UVic itself.

Although the project was student-led from start to finish, numerous university departments chipped in with grants and supplies, including Student Affairs, the UVic Bookstore, Continuing Studies, Alumni Services, and numerous academic units, while other departments helped out in equally important ways, such as arranging access to the roof of McPherson Library for the pivotal final shot.

Political science faculty member Janni Aragon was an outspoken supporter of the project, spreading the word to students via Twitter and Moodle and in her lectures. She and her family also came out on Sept.25. She says the project appealed to her because it "really demonstrated the positive, vibrant energy that exists on our campus and in our community."

The video does an "incredible job capturing the energy of the day," says Jim Dunsdon, associate vice-president, student affairs. "But what has been really special is the comments from current students, prospective students, alum and other people who have enjoyed a glimpse of what the campus spirit is like at UVic."

As much as Slavin is enjoying the "overwhelming" attention he and his project have garnered, he says this is not how he measures success.

"I knew it was a success when I got home on September 25th after a long day of filming the Lipdub, and I saw the smiles on people's faces in the pictures posted online. We had come together as a university to build community, and that was the true goal of this project. Everything since has just been icing on the cake."

The project will raise funds for BC Children's Hospital and the United Way through pledge-per-view donations by businesses.

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