Student Film Discusses Long-Lasting Effects of Final Four Run

By Jamie Rogers

Mason graduate student Jake McLernon's documentary about the men's basketball team 2006 Final Four run will be screened Wednesday, Dec. 10. Photo by Alexis Glenn.

Mason graduate student Jake McLernon’s documentary about the men’s basketball team 2006 Final Four run will be screened Wednesday, Dec. 10. Photo by Alexis Glenn.

The capstone film project of Jake McLernon’s graduate school career sheds light on how George Mason University’s men’s basketball 2006 run for the NCAA Final Four continued shaping the school long after the last basketball shot was made and the arena lights dimmed.

The prescreening of the 15-minute film, “8 Years Past Midnight” is at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 10 in the Johnson Center Cinema on the Fairfax Campus.

View the finished film here.

McLernon, who will graduate this month with a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Film and Video Studies, says people have asked whether this is the right time to make a movie about something so pivotal for George Mason.

“It is absolutely the right time,” he says, noting that two full cycles of college students have graduated. “Eight makes more sense academically.”

The initial rush is over and the people whom he interviewed for the film are in a better position to reflect on what transpired, he says.

The film includes interviews with Mason President Ángel Cabrera, President Emeritus Alan Merten and former Mason Athletic Director Tom O’Connor.

Wednesday’s screening is the only one of its kind before the film is distributed by Mason’s Office of Student Media, which will also post the film to its YouTube page in late December. People at the screening can offer their feedback before McLernon makes the final cuts.

McLernon, who earned a bachelor’s in communication from Mason in 2012, has worked for Mason’s student media for five years, and was nominated for the 2014 College Broadcasters Inc. award for the office’s film “Patriot of Liberty” which is about the college’s namesake.   He views the making of his latest film as a social responsibility and a way to give back to Mason.

The film concentrates on the short-term and the long-term effects the run had on Mason, McLernon says.

“In the short term, Mason got this glut of media attention,” he says. “It allowed them to tell their story over and over and over.” It also led to an increase in admissions in the 2007-2008 school year, about a year after the run, he noted.

The Final Four run also brought the arrival of music professor Dr. Michael Nickens, better known as “Doc Nix,” McLernon says.

Before Nickens, the athletic band was entirely student run, McLernon says.

“Just the amount of press Doc Nix & The Green Machine brings in. It is one of the best impacts of the Final Four … his band exists because of basketball,” McLernon says.

A novice smart phone video of the band practicing had 2.5 million hits on YouTube, he noted.

But the biggest and longest running impact is Mason’s brand and identity being showcased during March Madness media coverage, McLernon says.

“It’s no longer, ‘Who is the Cinderella (team),’ it’s ‘Who is the George Mason?’” he says.

The title of the film, “8 Years Past Midnight” is a nod to the media deeming Mason the Cinderella team during the run, which started March 17 and ran into the first week in April 2006.

“Midnight—it’s really a crossroads for change. In the story the change happened at midnight,” he says.

McLernon made revisions based on feedback from a three-member faculty committee that includes Ben Steger, Kathryn Mangus and MAIS Film and Video Studies program director Cindy Lont.

“The three of us … all bring expertise, which helps Jake in the development of his final project,” says Lont, which is particularly important with a non-classroom-based project such as this one.