Action! New video contest aims to dispel negative ideas, display real life of Valley

HARLINGEN — Perceptions are often mere opinions, and often they’re wrong.

To counter the negative ones people may hold about the Rio Grande Valley, the Rio South Texas Economic Council, the McAllen Chamber of Commerce and the American Advertising Federation’s Rio Grande Valley chapter are teaming up as movie producers.

“There’s a perspective that living in the Rio Grande Valley, or living along the border, is like living in the ghettoes of New York or Detroit or Chicago,” said Steve Jennings of Benchmark Outdoor Inc. of Harlingen, who also serves on the board of the AAF’s Valley chapter.

“Like it’s a real war zone, where you get up in the morning, put on your bullet-proof vest and hope to survive the day,” Jennings added.

The AAF, the McAllen Chamber and RSTEC Executive Director Matt Ruszczak have dreamed up a video contest to counter some of those demonstrably false impressions by focusing on the Valley’s good life.

So what’s the motivation for making a video about life in the Valley?

“The incentive is — money,” Ruszczak said.

“The Rio South Texas Economic Council had the great opportunity to join in this conversation with the American Advertising Association and the McAllen Chamber and we’re actually putting $5,000 dollars on the table for the winner of the contest,” he added.

“Our intention is to allow our people to be creative and tell a genuine story about what it means for them to live in the Valley, and the strong quality of life and quality of place aspects that make them like being down here,” Ruszczak added.

Both Ruszczak and Jennings urge videographers to be as creative as they can within the broad framework of why they live where they live.

“Hopefully, some of these will catch on and go viral,” Jennings said, “and through doing this, we would be able to have a grassroots publication of what it’s really like to live here. … We realize the more we do this, the better it is for the businesses down here and the people down here.”

Both men stress videographers have “maximum freedom to do their thing,” Jennings said.

“For one person, it might be riding motorcycles through the Valley, for someone else it might be life on the beach, and for someone else it might be bicycling the trails,” Jennings said.

“If I can see a video that talks about something people love, and it’s great, and they want other people to share in it, I think that enthusiasm will show through,” he said.