Jon Mark Beilue: Have Video Equipment, Will Travel

Have Video Equipment, Will Travel

WT students ready for 12-day documentary production in Israel


If Randy Ray could wave some kind of magical educational wand, the associate lecturer and director of broadcast engineering at West Texas A&M University would have every WTAMU student travel abroad, and if possible, study abroad.

A couple of years ago, he took some students to England following a course he taught on the Beatles and the effect the legendary musicians had on our culture. Now, beginning Sunday, he, four students, two other faculty members and a small entourage will spend 12 days in Israel.

“A lot of kids raised in the bubble of the Texas Panhandle think this kind of environment is everywhere, but it’s not,” he said. “It’s a unique culture here and sometimes you have to get away to see that.

“There’s a great quote from Mark Twain – and I’m paraphrasing – but ‘travel is the death of close-mindedness.’ And that’s kind of cool.”

Some minds and eyes are likely to be opened as Ray and his students will be on a working vacation through Nov. 29, or certainly a different work environment in their continued collaboration with the non-profit organization, Texans for Israel.

“We’re going there to work,” he said. “Yes, it’s great to be in Israel, and it’s a fantastic opportunity, but we’ll be working all the time. Shooting a film is not easy work. We’ll be lugging gear and taking it to unfriendly places.

“While everyone else is having fun, we’ll be editing and dumping footage and other stuff. Yes, it’s a blessing to go and a great opportunity for the students and me, but it’s still work.”

What communication graduate students Dane Glenn and Keith Augustine, agricultureWTAMU's Israel travel group graduate student Mandy Boychuck, and undergraduate student Kaycee Timm will be charged with is producing a travel journey video for Texans for Israel.

To put it another way, it’s a documentary on what 12 days in Israel is like for some first-time travelers—which includes WTAMU President Walter Wendler and wife Mary—to a country that is both the Holy Land and one in the vice grip of security because of its warring Arab neighbors.

“Aside from this which is really a trip of a lifetime,” Glenn said, “this is really helping me in the whole production phase of video making. There is a documentary portion to it. This has helped me plan a whole lot better and taught me the ins-and-outs. It’s opened my eyes to how involved and how much more complex video making is.”

The 25-to-30-minute video, which will be available for public viewing Dec. 13 at Bar Z Winery, will be used by Texans for Israel in their educational and promotional events. While there, the students will work with Nashville producer David Kern, who has his own well-received movie on the country, “I Am Israel.”

“I have friends who I’ve loved dearly for 20 years that say I’d sure like to go to Israel but they’re either scared or think it’s too expensive,” said Mike Isley, founder of Texans for Israel and a former WT Foundation board member. “We want to make a beautiful documentary of what it’s like from the time you leave Amarillo to the time you set foot in Tel Aviv and all the things you do for 12 days.

“We’re going to meet some cool people and do some cool things, and so these students are going to document this, and we’ll use it to show that this is how a trip to Israel works, this is how much fun we had. It will be kind of a mini-movie to help people get over being afraid to go to Israel, and get it off your bucket list.”

Isley is from Amarillo, and from the time he was a boy, said he always had Jewish friends. He felt a connection. While in college in the 1970s, some friends of his went to Israel after the Six-Day War. When they returned, they told Isley that he had to one day go.

He did, in 1980, as part of Trinity Fellowship Church’s first trip to the Holy Land. That only fueled his desire to support that country which was endangered on all sides in the volatile Middle East.

“I have this thing about loving Israel,” Isley said.

Through what may be now 25 trips to Israel, Isley developed a network of influential friends in the country. He joined a national organization, Christians United For Israel, but other things in his life limited his time.

Then about 10 years ago, he and some others began work to start a non-profit, Texans for Israel. It has clicked for Isley.

“What I found out is there are many people who feel like I do,” he said. “I’m a Texan, and Israelis love Texans.”

The purpose of the organization is to support Israel and its people, take an active role in building Jewish communities, invest in the expansion of Israeli agriculture and connect Christians to the Holy Land.

Isley and Ray met a couple of years ago through Ray’s cousin, a friend of Isley’s. Based on what each did, they thought there could be a mutual professional relationship. Isley needed some media and marketing help, and Ray’s graduate communications class was looking for a client.

This fall semester, Ray’s students have assisted in building Texans for Israel’s social media presence, podcasts, event planning and marketing.

“Every Monday night, we’ve done a podcast, and I never thought I’d be doing a podcast,” Isley said. “They have some students who are brilliant with social media. We did a little, but they ratcheted it up so we weren’t an embarrassment.”

While there is work, there will also be time to take advantage of where they are beyond the Holy Land sites. They will ride horses on the beach along the Sea of Galilee, have dinner with Holocaust survivors and spend time with the head of the Israeli Defense Forces, sort of the country’s Homeland Security.

But they won’t be taking their eye off the ball—which is the production of the documentary.

“We absolutely love what they’re doing in the Department of Communication,” Isley said. “They’ve made us better, and I’d like to think we’ve made them better. It’s been a win-win.”

Do you know of a student, faculty member, project, an alumnus or any other story idea for “WT: The Heart and Soul of the Texas Panhandle?” If so, email Jon Mark Beilue at


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