Ohio State releases documentary about marching band
Ohio State football is not kicking off its season this week, as was originally scheduled, but Buckeye Nation still can channel some team spirit with “Hang on Sloopy” and Script Ohio, thanks to a documentary released today chronicling the marching band’s 141st season.
“TBDBITL 141,” a two-hour film detailing the 2018 season of what fans call The Best Damn Band in the Land, is now available for rental or purchase at vimeo.com, with proceeds going to the band’s scholarship program.
The $9,000 project — directed by Joe Camoriano, OSU’s director of national broadcast media, and funded by the university — follows the all-brass-and-percussion band from drum major tryouts in the spring through the football team’s Rose Bowl victory over the Washington Huskies in coach Urban Meyer’s final game. In between, the film shows grueling summer sessions, game-day traditions and the band’s first appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
Some of Camoriano’s favorite scenes are those that take fans behind the scenes, including one showing band staff members in a “war room” of sorts choosing the roster.
“That’s not open to the public,” he said. “It’s almost like hallowed ground.”
He said he had been interested in doing such a project since he began filming the band’s now-viral halftime shows for YouTube in 2013.
“We wanted to show behind the scenes — how do you do Script Ohio?” he said. “I wanted to show the feelings of the band and not just use narration. That’s why I picked three students to focus on.”
Those band members are 2018 drum major Konner Barr, trombonist Sydney Reik, and Thomas Unger, the sousaphone player who dotted the “i” for the Michigan game.
Chris Hoch, Ohio State’s director of marching and athletic bands, said he was thrilled for the opportunity to showcase not only students’ tremendous time commitment but also their talents.
“I constantly get asked about behind-the-scenes — how we do what we do,” Hoch said. “People might be surprised by the amount of work that goes into putting a season like this together. It’s a yearlong process.”
Preparation for the following season starts in January, Hoch explained, and Camoriano and his team — which included Aaron Nestor, assistant director of national broadcast media — were there every step of the way.
Hoch said it was challenging at times to have cameras on him and the band for every moment, especially when long hours got the better of them or a thunderstorm ruined practice. But it all made the finished product more authentic.
“What they ended up capturing was very real,” Hoch said.
Barr, the drum major, said he felt like he was on a reality TV show at times.
“It was a very immersive experience,” said Barr, 23, who now works in digital marketing. “One time, me and a bunch of band friends went to B-Dubs (Buffalo Wild Wings) after practice, and Joe asked, ‘Can I tag along?’’’
Barr said he’s thankful that the movie will allow him to relive many memories from his first season as drum major, which had been a lifelong dream. (He held the same post in 2019.) It’s something he’ll share with his future children, and he can’t wait for his family members, who make appearances in the film, to see it, too.
“Fans see us on Saturday and think, ‘Oh, they must practice,’ but this gives you a picture of what we actually go through,” he said
That work was mirrored by Camoriano, who said it was a challenge at times to keep up with the band’s fast-paced, rigorous schedule. The whirlwind trip to New York City for the Thanksgiving parade, for example, was followed two days later by the Michigan game.
Snippets of interviews with Meyer and legendary golfer and OSU alum Jack Nicklaus about their love of the band also are included.
The film did experience delays, first because of issues with music copyrights and then because of the coronavirus pandemic. “TBDBITL 141” was initially supposed to premiere in mid-March at Columbus Documentary Week at the Gateway Film Center, but that event was canceled. Still, the film beat out more than 6,000 entries for the 26th annual Communicator Award of Excellence by the New York-based Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts.
Accolades aside, Camoriano said the film gave him a unique opportunity to see the emotional side of the band and show the world just how it operates — like a family.
Besides the show filled with music by the band Queen that they performed for the first game of 2018, and the instructional breakdown of the moves that marchers must memorize, Reik, the trombonist, said seeing her adopted family on the screen is the best part about the documentary.
“That’s what the public has no idea about — those interpersonal moments,” said Reik, now in her fourth year.
Even with football in limbo, the 21-year-old education major said she’s still excited about the marching band this fall. The group plans to begin meeting in small section groups soon and put on a handful of shows to at least release on YouTube once they can convene in a larger group.
Reik thinks it will be emotional for people to watch the film because everyone in Buckeye Nation, including the band, is missing game day.
“Hopefully this will be a little treat, a little taste of excitement in this time when we’re all feeling a void,” she said. “Hopefully it brings some Buckeye spirit.”