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A look behind the scenes of a sports team can develop a new appreciation for fans and critics alike. But what does it take to get a peek behind the curtain?
“Whee, The Cats” is a student-led docuseries following the Catamount Football team through their successful 2023 season. The 10-student production crew is led by director and co-producer of the project, Aidan McGinnis.
As director, McGinnis creates episode outlines, finding the story within the two weeks of recording. As co-producer he works to create the schedule for production, coordinates interviews, plans set locations and manages finances for the project.
McGinnis created the idea for “Whee, The Cats” in 2021 and is now implementing it and using the project as his senior thesis in the film and television production program.
McGinnis has worked as a videographer for the football team since the athletic department hired Kerwin Bell in 2021.
“When [Bell] got here I could tell the team and culture was changing…and in my head I was thinking, ‘this could be a really cool thing to document’,” McGinnis said.
Since that time, McGinnis has been thinking about the potential of a project like “Whee, The Cats”.
McGinnis thought critically to come up with a name for a production that fit. He knew “whee” needed to be included. While watching a game, the retro “the cats” logo on the side of the players’ helmets caught McGinnis’ eye. “Whee, The Cats” was born.
McGinnis got his inspiration for the series from watching programs like NFL Films, Hard Knocks and miniseries on Power 5 programs.
“You don’t see a lot of FCS schools have a lot of coverage like this.. I wanted to bring that to Western,” he said.
Joshua Overbay, program director for the film and television production program urges his students to leave WCU with a “calling card” or a piece of production material that sets you apart from other college graduates. For McGinnis, that calling card is “Whee, The Cats.”
In the beginning stages of creating this project, McGinnis thought it would be a small production. He hoped to film a few episodes following the football team.
“I really wasn’t anticipating this being a big project.”
Once word of the project spread to athletic boosters and leaders within WCU athletics, “Whee, The Cats” became a full-on production.
Athletic Director Alex Gary has been a fan of the project from the beginning. He has been a full supporter of the docuseries and provided positive feedback to McGinnis and his crew.
“It’s tremendous…the more that fans can be aware of what is going on in the lives of student athletes the better. It helps us engage with more fans and allows [the fans] to know more about who they cheer for on Saturdays,” Gary said.
As the promotion of the project grew, so did the need for a highly skilled crew to work with McGinnis to make the project a reality.
Steve Kniss is the professor working with the project. He serves as the executive producer, the only non-student working on “Whee, The Cats.”
Also helping with the project is Chancelor Mayfield, who co-produces the series with McGinnis and is also an editor and camera operator. Other students involved in the project include Jack Floyd, Jeremiah Godfrey, Jack Hanson, Kaylee Held, Trent Lakey, Megan McRacken, Brennan Sawyer, Matzi Villafuerte, and Dane Walker.
“Everyone has played such a big role in this project. Without them, it would not have been possible,” McGinnis said.
The production team films the games, interviews and other segments that need to be included in each episode. McGinnis says sometimes all-nighters are necessary to finish the episodes because they are on a tight bi-weekly deadline.
“After the first couple of episodes we realized [this project] was really hard,” McGinnis said jokingly.
“Being students; it’s hard to balance classes while still putting out something that is really popular, and people want to see it,” McGinnis said, but he said, it’s worth it.
One of the reasons the production crew continues to produce episodes is because of the popularity of the videos. The first episode amassed nearly 4,000 views on YouTube.
The viewership and popularity of the docuseries has made McGinnis want to continue the project and create bigger and better episodes.
McGinnis also said the appreciation that he and his crew continues to receive from the catamount community has helped him look toward his future career.
“It gives me confidence that I can find a job after school. This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a while and it’s something that I want to get into in the future,” McGinnis s
aid, “this whole project validates that and shows that I can do it.”
In the short term, McGinnis wants to be a video producer for a collegiate athletic program.
Long-term, he has set his sights to being the director of content creation for a professional sports team, specifically, a hockey team or a power 5 collegiate program.
“This is something that I will take with me forever,” McGinnis said. He hopes “Whee, The Cats” has impacted the athletes and his crew as much as it has himself.
McGinnis and his production crew are working on planning the final episodes of the docuseries. Fans of the series are in luck though, McGinnis says if the catamounts make it into the FCS playoffs, the production crew plans to create a 10th and final episode around the team’s playoff run.
McGinnis says the final episode will not be a typical bi-weekly release. Instead, it will feature the entirety of the playoffs, no matter how far the catamounts reach.
The series has shown fans incredible moments throughout the Cats season including the missed field goal to win the game against Eastern Kentucky, as well as the field goal to win the game against Chattanooga. Along the way, viewers also received an inside look at some of the lives of the players like former walk-on receiver AJ Colombo who leans on his father, who is a former walk-on himself, for inspiration. Fans were also able to see defensive tackle and graduate student Marlon Alexander and his mother and father Relonda and Marvin. Senior receiver David White Jr. was featured in episode 2. White, who lost his father in 2021, spoke on the impact of his loss had on White’s football journey.
Fans can view previous episodes of “Whee, The Cats” on the Catamount Sports YouTube channel. To follow McGinnis, Mayfield and the rest of the docuseries crew, follow their Instagram @wheethecats.