By Kenna Caprio
Field producer Matt Carter clears the entrance to the Student Center at the College at Florham. Students walking through the building scoot over to avoid the shot. Director Cyndi Haas adjusts her monitor and calls out, “Action!”
Fairleigh Dickinson University alumna Kenzi Locks, senior Daniel Palmer and Associate Provost Brian Mauro stroll across the Student Center to greet Animal Planet stars and fish tank builders Brett Raymer and Wayde King. The group introduces themselves and exchanges pleasantries. After a moment, Haas yells, “Cut!” And then requests a “reset.” The key players head back to their starting spots: Raymer and King just outside the lobby doors and Locks, Palmer and Mauro near the doorway to the Bottle Hill Pub. When Haas says, “Action!” they’ll stage the introductory scene again.
Cameras film at the University for three days in late October, in which The Bottle Hill Pub becomes the home of a 500-galloon freshwater fish tank.
“We build a product we love from scratch,” says King. “And the whole world sees it on TV. It’s an incredible feeling.” The popular Animal Planet show “Tanked” follows Raymer and King as they navigate their business, Acrylic Tank Manufacturing in Las Vegas, Nev., and build and install personalized fish tanks across the country.
FDU got “Tanked” after Mauro and Locks, former student government association senior senator and class gift coordinator, reached out to the show regarding the 2012 class gift.
Traditionally, graduating students at the College at Florham in Madison, N.J. and Metropolitan Campus in Teaneck, N.J. fundraise and bestow a gift upon their campus as part of their class legacy.
This year, College at Florham students thought big and bold. It paid off.
“They saw the show and wrote in. We talked to Brian for at least six months,” says Raymer of planning the shoot, negotiating a contract and working on a tank design. “We wanted to outdo any previous gift to the school.”
Previous class gifts include: outdoor furniture, large clocks, a chess table, gazebos, paintings and sculptures.
As Student Government Association President and Class of 2012 Class Gift Coordinator respectively, Palmer and Locks were responsible for supporting and coordinating the fundraising efforts.
“Ultimately, we ended up raising $15,000 through T-shirt sales, a tricky tray, graduation celebrations in the pub, a beer tasting in Lenfell Hall and an Applebee’s breakfast with FDU student servers,” says Locks. “We raised more money for the gift than ever before.”
Palmer is proud of the work that the cast and crew put into the project, not to mention Locks and Amanda Vacchio, also an SGA senator and class gift coordinator. Their dedication is a “great example of student leadership,” says Palmer. “Anytime you have people inside and outside of the university recognize that, it helps justify a lot of the hard work that we do on campus.”
The custom-made tank is branded with FDU Devils logos and contains a large coral insert, live plants, specialized lights and freshwater fish in addition to the 500 galloons of water, says King. It measures eight feet by three feet by four feet.
“It’s a community tank that features red devil hybrids, algae eaters, South American cichlids, red Texas cichlids, flower horns, king parrots, fire eels and red hooks,” says Raymer. The fish are a mixture of aggressive and non-aggressive species to create a more friendly, less hostile environment.
The tank is now finished, unveiled and displayed in the pub.
“This is one of the nicest gifts for anyone to give somebody else. It’s over-the-top and you should be really proud of yourselves. It was months in the works and you worked your tails off,” Raymer says to the FDU community as the cameras roll during the “reveal” shoot. Each episode of the show features the client’s reaction to the completed tank. In this case, Locks, Palmer, Mauro and College at Florham Provost Peter Woolley joined a crowd of students, including cheerleaders and the devil mascot, for the big moment.
“It’s the best class gift ever,” declares Woolley as the cameras film the group’s excitement.
The “Tanked” episode featuring Fairleigh Dickinson University will likely air sometime in the spring of 2013.