UofG’s Mannequin Challenge

UofG’s annual festive video has been doing the rounds for the past three years now and, as a huge fan of all things Christmas, it’s definitely my favourite part of the job. The project is a real collaborative project, bringing together colleagues from MaRIO, Communications & Public Affairs and GUST, our student television gurus. We started back in 2014 with a Christmas karaoke video where our student societies each sang a line of Shakin Stevens’ Merry Christmas Everyone. The film had a real homemade feel to it and was an effective way of showcasing student life while conveying a sense of community. Last year we stepped it up a notch and managed to rope our very own Choral Stimulation, finalists of BBC’s The Naked Choir into performing a Christmas medley for us on campus. The video was a huge success, with a reach of 480k.

It was always going to be difficult to top last year and produce something that would engage our audiences to quite the same extent. However, as I was trying to come up with something fun and unique, I’d become fascinated by the latest internet craze that was infiltrating my Facebook newsfeed; the Mannequin Challenge. Everyone from Hillary Clinton to Taylor Swift was trying their hand at it. Could this be altered somehow to incorporate Christmas? Could we actually pull this off on our busy campus? Even more encouraging was the fact that we were yet to see any other UK university try their hand at this.

The first step in turning this from concept to reality was to brainstorm the type of actions that would invoke that warm fuzzy festive feeling; pulling a cracker, meeting Santa, throwing snowballs, putting up decorations, reading the Night Before Christmas, carolling, eating mince pies and so on. Next up was how many volunteers we would require for each part and the corresponding props that would need to be gathered. I worked out that we’d need at the very least around 20 students and staff to take part in order for this to look like a decent challenge. Most of the props could be gathered from home or from other colleagues so the only items we’d actually need to purchase were the artificial snowballs and the little robin (pretty good news for our shoestring budget!).

Following the go-head from our Director, I met up with Dan and Tasha from the Social Media team to chat through the full logistics and think about locations for filming. We soon realised that the best way to go about this was to head off onto the campus with our mobile phones and test what would work best. The original idea was to film in the Cloisters and East Quad but then Dan thought we could go bigger – walk from the Hunterian Museum, down the stairs into the East Quad, through the cloisters, up the court office stairs finishing at the table. It was a brilliant idea but could we pull this off? All we could do was try! We only wanted the video to be a couple of minutes long but with a bit of clever editing we could cover quite a large distance in a short space of time.

We’d originally envisaged that GUST would film the actual challenge. However, Dan recently purchased a DJI Osmo Mobile which allows your mobile phone to remain still while you are walking and we quickly realised that this would be perfect for the video. It was agreed that GUST would film the ‘behind the scenes’ video.

With filming all set for the morning of Friday 25 November, I checked with the Bedellus, Wedding Coordinator and CVSO that there weren’t any other events taking place on campus that could potentially impact on filming (luckily graduations were taking place the following week). Meanwhile, Dan and Tasha notified security of our plans (while managing to rope some of the janitorial staff to star in the video!).

Following an email that was sent out to the student body, we managed to find around 50 willing student and staff volunteers to take part in the challenge, asking them to bring along any Christmas clothing/accessories they may have. We also thought it would be good to add a bit of humour so we managed to rope one of our colleagues (cheers Katy!) into becoming the sports mascot, Gus for the morning who would then hold mistletoe above our VP’s head (thanks Prof Coton!).

The schedule for the morning looked a bit like this:

  • 8.30am – Collect the light up UofG letters
  • 9am – Juliet, Dan and Tasha meet with GUST for pre-briefing.
  • 10.30am – Meet all students and staff volunteers at the Robing Room for a full briefing. Assign each volunteer with an action/position and give them relevant props. Assign staff members with doors and areas to guard.
  • 11am – Practice run-through x 3!
  • 11.30am – Filming commences
  • Noon – finish (before the lectures come out!)

On the morning itself, it was a very frosty -1°C so the first piece of advice for our willing volunteers? Please hold your breath as we are coming round to film you! The biggest logistical challenge was to avoid anyone walking in the background or coming in one of the many doors. This was further complicated by the fact that the Mannequin Challenge must be filmed in one take… so if one person so much as sneezes or even twitches then you have to start from the beginning again. Luckily, with an abundance of helpful (and shivering!) colleagues blocking the doorways and some excellent mannequins we managed to complete the challenge in just a few takes.

So, where are we now? At the time of publish, the video is sitting around 280K views, reaching over 750K people and featured in the Daily Record and Scottish Sun. A huge thank you from UofG to all of the students and staff who took part!

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