Patriotism pays.

Kevin Sladek ’03 has been selected as one of 30 finalists in the Tommy Hilfiger “Earn Your Stripes and Be a Star” contest, earning $10,000 and a chance to win the $25,000 grand prize.

Contestants were asked to create a 20- to 50-second video conveying what the American flag means to them. The winning video, chosen from among 700 entries, will be announced this week and aired Dec. 1 on VH1.

Sladek, who is double-majoring in ethics, politics and economics and film studies, heard about the contest Aug. 28 from a friend who found an ad in Gentleman’s Quarterly magazine. The due date of the contest was Sept. 15, so Kevin acted quickly. He assembled a cast and crew of Yale students, shooting the video in just three days.

Sladek said the video required the time and talent of many students. Among them were Mark Dancigers ’03, who composed the music; singer Lauren Rogers ’05; and Courtney Williams ’03 and Ming Thompson ’04, described by Sladek as his “left and right hands.”

“Making the video was very challenging because we had to get it done in a week. It was fun; it was a great concept. Kevin is amazing,” Thompson said.

Sladek said his crew and he tried to “break stereotypes as well as we could — [to show] richness, heritage, stereotype, and lack of it.” To do this, he cast students of different races, who quoted from a common text adapted from a 1914 address by Franklin K. Lane, former Secretary of the Interior.

The colors of the flag are a constant presence in the otherwise black-and-white film. Sladek said the colors were used to emphasize the unity of the film’s subjects.

The goal of the video was to create something with more depth to it than the usual 50-second fashion ad, Sladek said.

“The point we were trying to make is that the flag represents the creativity, the spirit, and the industry of the American people. This is why the only colors in the video are the colors in the flag. We wanted to show this diffusion — [but] most people will see nice colors [and hear an] interesting quote, which is fine.”

Because Sladek had access to a digital camera as well as sound and editing equipment at Yale’s Digital Media Center for the Arts, the video cost him a total of $26. He said the richness in filmmaking lies in the ability to make good things that cost nothing, as the problems that arise when working on a tight budget foster creativity.

Sladek said that editing the video was a time-consuming process because certain elements in the black-and-white film, such as the flag and a red bicycle, were color-treated — a process requiring 35 to 40 hours of painstaking editing which was nearly a frame-by-frame ordeal.

After several sleepless nights of editing, Sladek was finally ready to mail the video. The deadline for receipt of submissions was originally Sept. 15, but after the Sept. 11 attacks, this was changed into the postmark deadline. Sladek mailed the video on Sept. 15 from the only open post office he could find in Manhattan. Sladek said watching the smoke rise as he mailed the video was “surreal.”