With just a mic and a camera, two UF telecommunications majors are responsible for the vis-à-vis of Gainesville’s politicians and voters.
Landon Jones, a 21-year-old UF telecommunications senior, and George El-Salawy, a 21-year-old UF telecommunications junior, serve the visual and digital front of Gainesville’s political advertising. From the city commissioner race in March to the upcoming Aug. 18 Florida primaries for the November general election, their videography, which is done through their company Digital Peak Productions, is essential to a candidate’s message and to ensure outreach to Gainesville voters, Jones said.
Gainesville-born and raised, Jones’ affection for creating videos started with a camera at age 16. It began simply enough with him filming shenanigans, skateboarding and other outdoor ventures, Jones said. Realizing career potential, Jones decided to start his company Digital Peak. His first jobs included producing multimedia of The Standard student apartments and documenting weddings.
Digital Peak Productions works to advertise various Gainesville and in-state businesses. Now, a recent foray into political campaigning has stemmed from connections made by local clothing company Always True in late 2019.
District 3 City Commissioner David Arreola reached out to Digital Peak to produce reelection content for a second term after seeing videos made for Always True clothing. The clothing line's owners helped patch Jones and El-Salawy through to team with the incumbent candidate.
After their initial recordings for Arreola in early December, Jones said he believed this content to be more straightforward to the politician’s values than what they had created before with other businesses. They placed emphasis on clean editing and point-driven film direction.
“From there we connected to David’s campaign manager after doing all his videos and then ended up with seven or eight candidates that we’ve been producing content for,” Jones said about their cumulative political experience.
Campaign consultant Katy Burnett, and Digital Peak’s script supervisor for her candidates, moved Jones’ and El-Salawy’s talents to work with other then City Commissioner candidates Harvey Ward (District 2) and Reina Saco (At-Large Seat). After their successful elections, she relegated more filming to the duo for the upcoming primary elections.
Burnett is responsible for managing several democrat candidates for this election: Mary Alford for Alachua County District 1 Commissioner, Anna Prizzia for Alachua County District 3 Commissioner, Ayesha Solomon for Alachua County Property Appraiser and Yvonne Hayes Hinson for Florida House of Representatives District 20 Representative.
Filming for campaigns is typically done with candidates in outdoor Gainesville backgrounds with self-funded equipment that they have accumulated and improved, El-Salawy said. They make sure to utilize devices to equalize lighting in different settings as well as two cameras to shoot dual angles. Depending on the audience per candidate, videos may differ in length and platforms such as their website or social medias.
Much of those productions are encapsulated for Instagram; social media is a path that they want to continue to create for, Jones said.
Jones’ right-hand man El-Salawy is the duo’s creative director & editor.
“He is incredible with his B-roll and his talent and his vision,” Jones said about his partner. “While I drive home the story, he can drive the visuals that you’ll see. He is the one that really creates just the beautiful imagery and pieces it all together for us to really ensure it’s a hard-hitting video.”
Pairing with Alachua County sheriff candidate Clovis Watson Jr. most recently, “When we get on set with these people, we really can see who they truly are,” Jones said. “Listening to Clovis and understanding the points he was going for, helped me to believe in him. Truly believing in them helps the edit come along because you are portraying the points you think are the most crucial.”
“We cut away to the good takes, take away the bad takes and shape and form this narrative that encaptures what they’re trying to present to their audience,” El-Salawy said. “It’s really them telling their story, how they’ve grown up, what their goals are for the community. It’s all pretty positive and pretty nice.”
Even through exploring new avenues of videography in the Gainesville political scene, Jones and El-Salawy said that they are only testing the waters. Their roots are in capturing the outdoors and they want to record what they love most as much as possible. However, Jones said his time with the candidates has given him a better respect for the values and efforts of community leaders.
“People are quick to assume nowadays,” he said. “So giving other people the opportunity to hear them out [candidates] and just myself to hear them out has helped to educate me and the people around me.”