|Julie Mancini '98
by Rebecca Costello
On a sunny, unseasonably mild morning in February, senior Julie Mancini has driven an hour-and-a-half down Route 12B to her job at FOX TV 40 in Binghamton, N.Y. Cameraman Rob Melnyk hands Julie her script and goes over the day's assignment. She quietly skims it while he gathers his equipment.
As host of the FOX Kids' Club, Julie stars in clips that air between cartoon shows mornings and afternoons - getting Binghamton's kids psyched for upcoming shows (Goosebumps, Spiderman, Beetle-borgs, to name a few), announcing contests and prizewinners and doing Public Service Announcements (PSAs) and educational clips - about subjects like animals at the zoo, cultural holidays or government and voting.
"Isn't there a word missing?" Julie queries, pointing to the script. "Should I put 'consume' right here?"
"Sure, that sounds better," Rob agrees as they head outside to shoot a PSA about recycling. While Rob sets up, Julie lays her script, printed in extra-large capital letters, on the ground. She murmurs to herself, snapping her toes on the cement as she absorbs each word, frowning and biting her lower lip. Looking up occasionally to test her memory, she feeds the microphone wire under her coat and over her shoulder, and clips it to her lapel. Rob hands Julie a pile of papers culled from an office recycling bin and gives her a few instructions. Julie gazes downward, poised and calm, waiting for Rob's "ok."
The film rolls. The pensive young woman disappears and a different Julie pops out. Brows raised, eyes wide open, she waves two fistfuls of the paper around. "Did you know that every person in the United States uses 600 pounds of paper each year?" Julie exclaims in a perky, excited voice. "That means three people consume almost a ton!" She drops her arms and looks expectantly at Rob.
"That was good," Rob feeds back. "I want to do it from over here now." He changes angles. A few more takes, then they troop to a clump of trees beside the highway to continue.
A minute to study the next line, a few flubs and restarts ("Try it slower," coaches Rob), and Julie punches it out in a bright forceful tone: "It takes 17 trees to make one ton of paper, so you need to conserve paper!" On you she points straight at the camera. Then she crouches next to an overflowing Broome County recycling bin: "Using recycled paper helps reduce air pollution. So recycle paper and save the trees!"
Then to the news studio, where Julie records an announcement of a Beetleborgs video giveaway contest, standing in front of the green chromakey wall used by the weather forecasters. The green background allows Rob to go back and superimpose the tape of Julie over any scene he chooses. Rob trots to the editing suite and confirms the tape is okay. In under an hour, Julie is done for the week and heads back to Colgate in time for her one o'clock Kinship and Marriage class.
Taking a chance
Home for the summer two years ago - Julie hails from Sidney, just outside Binghamton - she saw an ad for Kids' Club host auditions. "I thought it would be cool, but I didn't think twice about it." But Julie's family encouraged her.
"I don't have any acting ability, so the day of the audition I kept it to myself and just jumped in line," she admits. She was asked to announce that the Power Rangers were coming on next. "I went crazy in front of the camera. I was really loud and flailed my arms. I guess they liked that." She started in September of her junior year.
Asked why her family thought she would be perfect for the job, Julie exclaims, "I'm very excitable! And my parents know I love children." In fact, FOX wasn't looking for someone with acting ability, but someone who would relate well to children. And relate she does.
Loyal viewers recognize Julie in public. "I was in the mall and some little girls started yelling, 'It's Julie! Hi, Julie!' One came over and tried to hold my hand and her mother said, 'What are you doing? You don't know this person!' and the girl said, 'Mom, it's Julie!'"
"Some eight-year-old kid called and said he wanted to meet 'Julie the Host'" Rob mentions. "I think he's in love with you!"
Julie's past extracurriculars at Colgate also demonstrate her interest in children. She has coached Odyssey of the Mind and tutored fourth graders in Spanish at Hamilton Elementary, and participated in Colgate Sidekicks, a big brother/big sister program. She's had to curtail these since taking on the Kids' Club, which is plenty to balance with her studies.
Art that means something
Julie fell in love with Colgate well before her college search. Her sister, Michele Mancini Benton '93, played basketball at Colgate, and the family went to every game, away and home. "I told myself I'd never go to Colgate because my sister went there," Julie explains. "I dragged my parents everywhere else but at the last minute I realized I love Colgate too much. I applied early decision."
She originally majored in computer science, based on job prospects, but she wasn't happy. "I'd finish my computer homework and get out my markers and paints," she says. Changing her major to art and art history, Julie resolved, "I won't be stuck in a job that I don't like when I get older."
When developing her senior art project last fall, Julie found inspiration in memories of a friend who had endured child abuse. Her original plan, an installation using dolls to depict abuse, soon became a performance piece. Making the dolls with chicken wire, which she covered with plaster, she didn't use gloves and she repeatedly cut her arms. "They looked just like my friend's arms," Julie explains. "I knew I had to incorporate that."
People who visited her senior show were directed down a narrow, rickety staircase, into the basement of an old house in Hamilton, the room washed with red lighting. Piles of the dolls were strewn around. Julie sat in the back making more dolls.
"I wasn't sure I was getting the effect I wanted," says Julie, "but I got letters after the show from people who said the show helped them understand abuse better." Then she knew she'd accomplished her goal - to create a work that would mean something.
After she graduates, Julie plans to take her visual skills to architecture school, but first she will take a cross-country trip to Alaska, where she will seek a job with an environmental firm for the summer. In the meantime, she'll finish her semester and trek to FOX each week.
Being Kids' Club host has led to appearances at some special events
at the Binghamton Arena - gigs that Julie says are her favorite part of
the job. She's hosted the Ice Capades, the Shriners' Circus, as
well as Sesame Street Live. "In the studio it's just me, and we
don't get the station here at Colgate, so I don't even see it," she remarks.
"It's completely unreal to me that I'm on television. When I come out in
the arena and I'm with the Sesame Street cast it's just amazing."