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WCU Stories

Stage and Screen student gets rave reviews for docuseries

Aidan McGinnis

Aidan McGinnis

By Paul Garner

In the spring, seniors at Western Carolina University’s School of Stage and Screen pitch their senior thesis projects.

Aidan McGinnis, however, held back his long-considered idea. A former high school football player-turned-video content creator, McGinnis found his true calling in sports media during his college years.

Despite his enthusiasm, his initial pitch for a cowboy western-themed film was passed over by his classmates. Prompted by a professor to focus on his sports passion, McGinnis revisited “Whee, The Cats,” a docuseries offering a candid look at the WCU football team.

Within two days, McGinnis outlined nine episodes and secured support from WCU Athletics. His revised pitch to his class was met with resounding approval.

With the official greenlight from his peers, McGinnis rallied a dedicated team to chart six months of production for “Whee, The Cats,” including the crucial summer camp. Understanding the camp's success was pivotal for the team's commitment, McGinnis meticulously planned each segment. The attention to detail paid off when they filmed coach Kerwin Bell's rousing "We Decide" speech, which became the season's defining moment.

“Aidan formed a really strong team around him and it became a tremendous group effort to follow through with the entire project,” said Steve Kniss, an assistant professor of film and television production. “Beyond finding other students to help with filming and editing, he also needed to get the players and the team invested to want to be a part of it, and as far as I know, he never was denied an interview request when he reached out to players or coaches.”

The Catamounts began the season with a defeat at Arkansas, but rebounded to win their next five games, marking the start of what would be one of the best seasons in the school's recent history. Despite the success of the Catamounts on the field, McGinnis aimed to showcase the team positively regardless of outcomes.

The crew's dedication extended to planning each episode's details, coordinating travel and reviewing footage weekly. McGinnis' dream project was becoming a reality. The series gained popularity, including Chancellor Kelli R. Brown expressing her admiration. 

As the final whistle blew, McGinnis couldn't help but reflect on the journey. With a heart full of gratitude, he acknowledged the unique opportunity that the university provided.

"I think about this project daily and what else I could have done,” he said. “I think I couldn't have gotten the experience with athletics and the School of Stage and Screen anywhere else. Sometimes, you have to give someone an opportunity, and I was given that opportunity and ran with it."

He emphasized that the series' authenticity and depth could only have been captured within this community, a sentiment that resonated with the entire crew.

"When I think about picking up my first camera at WCU, I didn't even know how to change the settings. I didn't know how framerate, iso, or aperture worked", the film and television production major said while reflecting on upcoming graduation.

McGinnis and "Whee, The Cats" exemplify the comprehensive offerings of WCU to its students — past, present and future — as well as to the broader community.

“Looking at size and scope, it's the biggest senior thesis we've ever put on in film and television production and the quality of every episode kept getting better and better,” Kniss said. “Aidan grew so much as a filmmaker throughout the entire process and I couldn't be prouder of how “Whee the Cats” turned out. So much of that is owed to Aidan's passion and drive to tell compelling stories week-to-week.”


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