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June 18, 2013

The story behind the making of Arizona's 'Hard Edge' Western

If behind every good man is a greater woman, then the same could be said about quality ideas. At least, that was the case for Arizona's "Hard Edge" trailer that was released Monday afternoon.

The idea for the video initially came from Rich Rodriguez's wife, Rita - the properly credited executive producer who envisioned a Wild West poster to play off the "wanted" posters that Arizona sends its recruits. So, she wanted to dress up the coaching staff for a photo shoot in Old Tucson - the site of more than 300 television and movie productions since 1939.

Matt Dudek, the team's director of player personnel and on-campus recruiting who also has a role in the clip, enhanced the plan and suggested to film the trip.

"We're always looking to embrace the community and look at how we are unique compared to everybody else, and utilize that to our best ability," Dudek told GOAZCATS.com.

So, Dudek went to the "digital gurus" of the UA athletic department, John Daley and his video production staff. Among some of the more popular video projects produced this offseason include the official unveil of the Wildcats' new football uniforms, as well as the brief, but mysterious teaser that preceded in early May.

Meanwhile, Melissa Melendez, the personal assistant to Rich Rodriguez, collected the staff's clothing sizes and visited Old Tucson to borrow the proper wardrobe.

The rest, Dudek said, was the vision of Daley, the director of video production. Daley scouted Old Tucson a week in advance, similar to what any movie studio preparing to film a scene would do for a location, and came away with a storyboard.

The video department has produced similar movie trailer-esque promotions in the recent past, including a "Lone Ranger" spoof leading up to last season's home contest against USC.

The entire 2-minute, 39-second recording was filmed in roughly three-and-a-half hours, starting at 6 a.m., last Tuesday. On hand was an 11-person crew - five from the video side, including Daley, and six photographers - that navigated through three different sets for the shoot.

"John knew exactly what to do," Dudek said.

"This was all John Daley. I gave him a pebble and he made it amazing."

The video was filmed and edited by Carlos Moreno, a producer and director on Daley's staff with experience in the making of commercials and films.

Among the locations discovered on set was the Army recruiting sign that Dudek fittingly would stand beside during the credits.

And it is some of those more subtle details that were a product of several hundreds of photos taken during the walkthrough stages of the filming process, Daley said. Although, sometimes, a little luck is involved.

"The recruiting sign was just pure coincidence," Daley recalled. "We were shooting coach Rodriguez at one scene where he's kind of looking around the pillar and leaning against it. We had set up the set to that, and we noticed to the side it said 'recruiting office.'

"Matt was off doing something at another set and we just dragged him over there."

So, what exactly goes into producing an effective promotional video?

Daley said the key is to connect with the younger generation without losing the older crowd, all with the goal to crank out a cool, high-quality product that must be signed off by Rodriguez.

Daley added that the movie trailer trend was started a few years ago by LSU, which mixed soundbytes with highlights to keep its fans engaged throughout the offseason. Since the arrival of Rodriguez's staff, Daley said the connection with the video department for such ideas has picked up significantly.

As soon as the video debuted on Twitter - at high noon, of course - it left many wondering what the purpose was. Most of the time, the videos pumped out by Arizona are clear and timely, such as the series of Lowell-Stevens tours and a few behind-the-scenes, fun-and-games features surrounding the football team.

The first guess is usually the most obvious: recruiting. Everything nowadays is, particularly with the power of social media.

Other obvious guesses include a simple promotion for the upcoming season - and it does that, too. The words across the screen play with the storyline of Rodriguez finding the proper coaching staff on his "quest for the rose," alluding to the program's elusive first Rose Bowl appearance.

But Dudek said the clip was more about having a little fun with a staff he works alongside in the football offices every day.

"We just wanted to go out and have a good time," Dudek said. "Show kind of our personality and just embrace Old Tucson and 'Tombstone' and the Wild West.

"And I just want that to come across to everybody."

And there are more than a few big personalities on the staff outside of Rodriguez. For instance, the unofficial stuntman in the group of 12 turned out to be tight ends coach Charlie Ragle, who tumbled after he was thrown out of the saloon.

And the enthusiasm trickled on down. So, which coach embraced the setting the most?

"Coach (David) Lockwood, no question," Dudek said, referring to UA's cornerbacks coach. "He was taking a lot of iPhone pictures, and he had probably the best time of anybody."

Expect to see a "making of 'Hard Edge'" video rolled out in the near future, by the way.

The feedback and national buzz - ESPN's "College Football Live" plans to produce a segment and there already is a spoof - have exceeded the department's expectations, Daley said.

"That's telling me, 'You're doing something right,'" Daley said.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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