Student Profile: Joe Lesar, Master Behind The Camera & Devoted Runner

Senior broadcast major, Joe Lesar, could have graduated in the fall, but he didn’t want to pass up all the great opportunities the J-school offered in the spring semester. During Fall 2015, Lesar took UM News, where the students produced weekly televised and online stories. As a photographer, Lesar not only supported his reporters, but also produced some of his own “one-man-band” segments for the program.

Joe Lesar in the end zone during the Griz v. NAU, September 2015. Photo by Peter Riley.
Joe Lesar in the end zone during the Griz v. NAU, September 2015. Photo by Peter Riley.

Every spring, the J-school offers an upper-level elective called Student Documentary, where the students produce an hour-long documentary for Montana PBS. Lesar wanted to experiment with different forms of narrative story-telling; plus, when he realized that most of his cohorts from UM News were feeding into Student Doc, Lesar said, “We worked so well together, I would’ve felt left out if I didn’t do Doc with them.”

Spring 2016 also marked the last semester when Lesar could compete as at student athlete at UM. Lesar ran track at McQueen High School in his hometown of Reno, Nevada, and he wanted to finish his collegiate career as a runner on a strong note. While Track & Field is Lesar’s strongest sport (notably the 400m, 800m and Triple Jump), he also joined the Cross Country team, where the standard men’s 8K race stretches 10 times farther than his longest track event.

However, sports provided an important entryway into another avenue of journalism for Lesar. One day, he was walking through the Adams Center and happened to run into the director of Griz Vision, Abe Kurien. From a simple conversation about shared July birthdays, Lesar landed a job as a videographer for Griz games—football, basketball and volleyball.

Kurien told Lesar, “Come in and check it out, shadow us at some games, and if you’re interested, come back and we’ll have a job for you.”

Now Lesar’s on his second season shooting with Griz Vision and he runs a floor camera right under the basketball hoop. His ability to know what shots Kurien wants covered, without receiving direction via earpiece, means that Kurien can depend on Lesar to get the job done well.

“Joe, in particular, having already anticipated that shot, means so much,” Kurien said. “Because he knows what’s coming during the plays.”

By now, Lesar considers it second nature.

“You just follow the ball,” he said. “If someone scores, you zoom in on them and get the Hero Shot.”

This work can become more challenging during home Griz games in football season because of the variable weather conditions. Yet fellow J-school senior, Peter Riley, who also works for Griz Vision, said, “It’s a great way for the Journalism community to be involved with the greater campus community.”

“I’m getting paid to go to the home games and be on the ground, with all the action,” Riley added. “That’s a nice reward.”

Lesar agrees that he enjoys being close to the action and seeing the interactions between coaches, players and referees. During basketball games, “The coaches get super-animated, and they scream a lot, which is pretty entertaining,” Lesar said. “I always keep an eye on them.”

Kurien said that Griz Vision is an excellent opportunity for broadcast journalism students to work hands on with the cameras. He added, “Joe, I think, enjoys what he does and wants to be a part of every game.”

Scheduled to graduate in Spring 2016, Lesar hopes to stay in Missoula for a while and keep working for Griz Vision, while looking for jobs at local news stations. “I don’t see myself going home,” Lesar said. “There are so many opportunities from here.”

Learn more about J-school student experiences with Griz Vision here, as documented by Sojin Josephson, sports reporter for the Montana Kaimin.

Further interest and inquiries about Griz Vision can be directed to Abe Kurien, via email, agkurien@gmail.com, or via phone, at 406-207-6370.

By Jana Wiegand
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