Dan Elghossain has been involved with TV since he attended Rutgers University, where he worked at the
TV station. After graduating from Rutgers in 2009, Dan has worked at the Travel Channel, Bloomberg Television, and now
he works freelance for Aljazeera America and part time at Princeton University. Working freelance allows Dan
to pursue his own projects, the first one being "The Professors' Project," with his friend since college, JJ Leaver.
John J. (JJ) Leaver first got involved in video production at Mercer County Community College, where he
mainly directed and worked on shows for public access channel MC-TV26. He graduated with a degree in television
production in 2005 before going to Rutgers, where he soon got a job at their television station. JJ worked in various
degrees of production such as editing, shooting, directing and producing. This is where JJ met Dan and it wasn't
long before they started working on projects together both at Rutgers and outside in the way of shooting
weddings. JJ graduated with a degree in Communication in May 2010 and has been doing freelance video work
ever since in different capacities, such as public interest videos, conferences, and musical performances. With
endeavors such as The Professors' Project, he is hoping to expand further into creative documentary style videos.
In October of 2013 The Professors were contacted by Dan and JJ. The two filmmakers had become
fans of the band through mutual colleague Nick Romanenko and were particularly intrigued by the
confluence of rock n roll music and academic life expressed in original songs
such as “Untenured Blues,” “Peer Review,” and “Foucault Funk: The Michel
Foucault Postmodern Blues.” There clearly must be a story behind how a
faculty of successful and renowned academics could also really light the stage
on fire with rocking and interesting original music. Dan and JJ decided that they wanted to tell that story.
Dan and JJ’s goal was to record, edit, and produce a
mini-documentary about The Professors which would run about 15-20 minutes long.
The original plan was to film a dress rehearsal for a show in a practice studio.
Then they would come to the actual show itself, performed at Rutgers
University in December 2013, and capture footage of the band performing on
stage for an audience of graduate students from the School of Communication
and Information. In between would be scenes of the band members
talking about their work, the band, and what drew the two together.
Dan and JJ made it clear that the band’s original music would be the heart
and soul of their film.
It soon became clear that one rehearsal and one gig at Rutgers
would not be enough to capture the essence of The Professors. The following month,
January 2014, The Professors were scheduled to play at a national conference of
library educators in Philadelphia. Now we had a band of academics playing
for an audience of academics at a national academic conference in a big
city. This should be the perfect combination of elements to convey what
The Professors were all about. Dan and JJ filmed the concert in Philadelphia.
However, they also recorded two-to-three-hour interviews with each
band member, some of which also included time shadowing the band member
as they went through their daily life as a university professional or a student.
Though the footage was piling up, Dan and JJ planned to complete
and release of the film in the early spring of 2014.
Come March of 2014, Dan and JJ were not acting at all like their typical upbeat
selves - they seemed distracted and down. When asked, they admitted
to being concerned about several things: First they were overwhelmed by
the amount of footage they had recorded (nearly 100 hours) plus hours of
archival footage provided by the band; second they had no idea how to take
all that footage and condense it into a 15-20 minute film; and, perhaps most
importantly, they were unsure as to what the theme of the movie should
be… what would be ‘the angle’ or the narrative arc that would capture what
The Professors was all about?
Dan and JJ were largely off the grid from spring 2014 until early August 2014,
when they contacted The Professors again. The band was eagerly awaiting
some news of completion, but all the filmmakers could say was, “We are
getting veeeeery close. But we do need a LITTLE more footage…”
There was, safe to say, a collective sigh of disappointment and sad shaking
of heads across the entire band.
What could be taking so long, they all wondered?
And will the wait be worth it?
They had no idea just how powerfully that question would be answered.
On Friday, September 26th 2014, the current members of The Professors sat
in a darkened, quiet classroom on the Cook Campus of Rutgers University,
accompanied by past band members and a few close friends. The pizza had
been eaten, the beer had been opened, and as the dusk began to fall outside
the moment of truth had arrived. The tension in the room was palpable:
Dan and JJ were concerned the band would be unhappy with the film and
how they were portrayed. The band had no idea what to expect and were
worried that after almost a full year the final product would be a letdown.
Finally, the words were said: “Here we go.” The lights were dimmed, the
PLAY button was pressed and thus began the premiere of:
The Professors' Project from Dan Elghossain on Vimeo.
Since the informal screening on September 30th, 2014, The Professors' Project has been screened in a number of prestigious
and juried academic venues.
The Professors’ Project: Where research meets riffs (juried and competitively selected) was presented at the 19th annual conference of the New Jersey Communication Association, St. Peter’s University,
Jersey City, NJ, April 11, 2015.
The Professors’ Project: Exploring the connections between academic life and musical
creativity (juried and competitively selected) was presented at the 106th annual conference of the
Eastern Communication Association, Philadelphia, PA, April 25, 2015.
The Professors’ Project: Exploring the connections between academic life and
musical creativity (juried and competitively selected) was presented at the 73rd annual conference of the
New York State Communication Association, Villa Roma Resort, Callicoon, NY, October 17, 2015.
And the Big One!!
The Professors’ Project: Expressing the vicissitudes of academic life through musical
creativity and performance (juried and competitively selected) was presented at the 101st annual conference
of the National Communication Association, Las Vegas, NV, November 18, 2015.
Here are the reviews of the NCA referees:
This is a very passionate, creative, and well-narrated project!!! I enjoyed watching the video, hearing the comments from the scholars/musicians, and of course, those fun musical performances that were woven into the documents!
I hope the presenters could elaborate more on the larger meanings behind organizing and keeping the band. I understand that playing the rock and roll music is a great way to entertain the audience and the performers who are mostly professors having a successful and yet stressful careers. But the point is how such a band can contribute the current academic world as an important theoretical, cultural, political, or social issue, other than the fact that it challenges the stereotyped images of professors and gives performers a break from the pressure at work? I hope the panel participants can think about this question and prepare a detailed answer for it.
Hello Professors' Project people. By some odd coincidence I was chosen (oops--passive there!)to review your documentary. I say co-incidence because I'm a retired Professor who moved to Chicago to do some stand-up! The documentary is SO well put together. I enthusiastically recommend this presentation.
What a great story! I would have liked a clearer explanation/description about how you would inform "cultivating the creative spirit in academe". The peer reviewed article referenced a number of articles used to examine the experiences specific to THIS band - how the ideas and researched applied to this band's experience. What I had expected (and wanted...maybe needed?), based on the panel description and rationale was a broader discovery of just how we could enhance our own creative process within academe.