Sunday, December 9, 2012

Debriefing the showcase

On Saturday, Dec. 1st, Jordan Greer, James McCallion and I screened each of our documentaries at the 2012 Broadcast Communications Capstone Showcase at Mueller theater.

After my film, The Heartbeat of Lawrenceville premiered, it seemed as if the audience enjoyed watching the documentary. Many members of the audience asked questions about the building, and my experiences with the gym. Many peope pointed out how they liked my "Pittsburgh-esque" characters.They also were very interested in both Jordan and James' films as well.

I believe that my consultants were pleased with the way the film turned out. Although I am yet to receive a grade from either of them, Ryan told me that he thought it turned out well, and I am sure Mickey will feel the same way as the main character in the film.

Mr. Weaver was also pleased with the documentary. I was happy with my grade, and the fact that he thinks that the film could run on WQED in Pittsburgh. He seemed to be pretty happy with the class as a whole. One thing he did say about the film was that there were too many "talking heads." While I agree that there were a lot of interviews, I think this was necessary to telling the story. With a building with 100 years of history, it is tough to fit that into a short film without having a lot of interviews. This is a learning experience and I will definitely keep that in mind for the future!

It is overwhelming and rewarding to hear feedback from my friends at home about the film. Many of them said how it brought back memories of playing at the gym. This makes all of those days of shooting and long nights of editing worth it. In the creation of this film, my main goal was to make a documentary that the people associated with the gym in some way would enjoy. And for the most part so far, that is the reaction that I am getting.

Some advice from your elders

To the class of 2014 Capstone group, here are a couple of pointers I can give to you as this second semester of capstone comes to a close.

Pick a topic that interests you and one that you enjoy. I picked a topic that I was passionate about and ran with it. As you begin editing, you will start to memorize your interviews  word for word, and that is no exaggeration. If it is something you are spending this much time doing, you might as well pick something that you like, so you don't get bored or tired with the story. If not, it will make for a miserable two semesters. Also try to pick a story that will be easy to convey and relate to a diverse audience.

Get out there and shoot. It is never too early to start shooting. Once I got my topic approved, I started scouting out different shots over the summer. Make a shot list of things you may want to use. You also will find some shots you did not expect to shoot along the way. I would advise everyone to start shooting over the summer. Interviews are also something that I would stress to shoot as early as you can. This way, if you forget to ask a question, or you want to find out more from an interview subject, you can go back and talk to them again because you have the time. I went back and talked to my main subject, Mickey, several times before actually interviewing him. Long story short: start as soon as you can.

Don't be afraid to reshape your story. When I first got the idea for my topic, the focus of the story was slightly different than the final product. You may pick one thing, and then take the story a different way to make it more appealing. This is what happened to me, and I am pretty sure it happened to other members of my class as well. I think it gave my story a much better plot, and made the film much more interesting than it would have originally been.

Those are just a few things, but I am sure you all will be fine if you continue to do what you do. It is a rewarding experience and I wish you all the very best. Good luck!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

December 1st, save the date!


Seniors James McCallion (left), Liam Halferty (middle), and Jordan Greer (right)

Westminster College's Broadcast and Digital Communications Department would like to formally invite you to the third and final session of the department's 2012 Capstone Documentary Showcase. This portion of the showcase will feature the work of senior students James McCallion, Jordan Greer and Liam Halferty. The event will take place on December 1st at 3:30 in Mueller Theater, located on the second floor of the McKelvey Campus Center. Each student will present their capstone documentaries of the following various topics. 

"A Modern American Dream: The Souheil Obaid Story."
By Jordan Greer

The film will follow Souheil Obaid and his journey from living in his home country of Syria to immigrating to the United States and becoming a successful business owner.  The film will look to show a positive example of the current “American Dream” as opposed to the common media focus on illegal immigration. 

You can find out more about Jordan's film by clicking here.

"Dirty Politics"
By James McCallion

In 2008 the United States Supreme Court decided that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting campaign funding from corporations and unions.  This in effect created Political Action Committees or Super PACs.  Super PACs now make large contributions to political candidates.  A portion of this money helps make negative campaign ads.  This documentary will investigate the effects negative campaign ads makes on voters in the 2012 presidential election.

To discover more about James' film, click here.

The Heartbeat of Lawrenceville
By Liam Halferty 
Nearing its 100th year anniversary, Saint Mary’s Lyceum has long been a place for the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Lawrenceville to come together to enjoy the various festivities held at this historical venue. This film will highlight how through economic and social trials and tribulations, the Lyceum has remained open because of hard-working people that put in countless hours to keep this century-old building, that is so rich in history, up and running. 

To see more about the documentary, click here.

 A short preview of my film :


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Giving back to those who gave so much

Through the creation of this documentary, 100 years of oral history is being preserved in form of a short film. This film will not only be dedicated to and intrigue those whose lives have been affected in some way by the building, but all viewers can appreciate the story of this century-old landmark, and the way an urban community has come together over the years to keep it running.

Lawrenceville has long been a place of hard-working and determined individuals, and the way in which the Lyceum has been able to stay open through tough social and financial times speaks volumes for the people in the area. The focus of this documentary is highlighting how good has overcame a bad situation, when a group of people came together to save a building so rich in history from closing. The way some of the characters in this documentary have dedicated their life to Christian values of sacrifice and loyalty to their community, definitely meets the service learning outcomes of Westminster. This film will be made to honor those individuals, and the community of Lawrenceville as a whole.

One benefit from the service learning mission that this documentary connects with is that "involvement with important concerns helps students understand issues, builds their passions, and gives them skills." Before creating this film, I thought of the idea of the story through my past experiences and ties with the community of Lawrenceville, the people of the neighborhood, and the Lyceum itself.

I knew that it was a place of hard-working, service-oriented people that have dealt with the rise, and more importantly, the fall of the neighborhood and their parish. These people definitely emulate the service learning statement of Westminster College.

My efforts in creating this documentary also connect with this benefit of service learning because through the production of the film, I have realized the passion I have gained for this topic. The skills I have learned in my three years as a broadcast communications student have helped me along the way, but the skills I am gaining in building relationships and the experiences from this production are much greater and more important in the grand scheme of things.

Westminster's Service Learning Mission

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Music to my ears

Sound can be vital to making a video or photos memorable and unique. This is especially true in a movie or documentary. In my film, I will showcase music from two local musicians and friends of mine, Matt Rheingrover and Roscoe Rhoden.

Both of these musicians graduated from Central Catholic High School in 2009 with me.

Rhoden is an aspiring music producer in the Pittsburgh area. He is a graduate of Full Sail University, with a degree in Recording Arts. Rhoden has worked with artists such as Wiz Khalifa, Devin Miles, Scolla, and Pittsburgh Slim.

Rheingrover is a senior Electrical Engineering major at Penn State University, but creates music in his free time. He prodced Mac Miller's "Another Night" off of Miller's mixtape, The High Life.

Both artists have a vast background in music, from rock to hip hop, from guitar to piano, they can play it all. The music they provided can be used in different situations, such as the first part of the documentary highlighting the history, as well as other parts of the film.

Click here to listen in on some of Roscoe's work

Click here to listen in on some of Matt's music

"Another Night" by Mac Miller, produced by Matt Rheingrover

As far as natural sound goes, the most important scenes in my film featuring natural sound will be shots from the holiday tournament at St. Mary's Lyceum. The natural sound from these games will capture the essence of the historic building, better than just no sound at all, or an empty gym. The audience will be able to feel the energy of the 100-year-old gymnasium.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Shaping the idea

The idea to create a documentary and tell the story of this historic building came when I was sitting with my father at one of my sister's basketball games at St. Mary's Lyceum last winter. I thought to myself, this gym has been very important to many people over the years, and it has quite the history, but no one has really done anything media-wise to highlight the building's past. This is especially interesting that nothing has been produced a film, or wrote a book, with what the gymnasium, parish, and community have gone through in recent years with several closings and the overall condition of the neighborhood of Lawrenceville. 

Sitting at my sister's game, I talked with my dad about what I could go into when creating this film. We discussed the people I could interview, and the different pieces of history that I could research.
It truly is one of those places by which you ponder to yourself, "if only these walls could talk." The funny thing was, pretty much everyone that we thought of to interview, with the exception of two individuals, were at the game at the time. 

While this was the main "event" so to speak that influenced my documentary, my ties to St. Mary's Lyceum go back many years. 

My mother taught at St. Kieran's and St. John Neumann in the early 1990's, both parishes associated with the Lyceum. I grew up in Lawrenceville, and went to St. John Neumann until I was in second grade. My family then moved to a neighboring community, Bloomfield. When I attended Central Catholic High School, I ended up reuniting with many of my friends from St. John Neumann. I then played on the Lawrenceville neighborhood summer baseball team, 9th Ward, in high school with many of these friends. The coach of that baseball team, Mickey McGrane, basically is also the manager of the lyceum. He is also a consultant, aiding me along the way in the creation of this film. 

Whether its through my early ties with the building, the epiphany that I had while watching my sister's basketball game at the gym, or Mickey McGrane himself, the idea of creating a film to display this great piece of history came to me. I hope to convey the building's importance and unique story.

Here is a very raw, outside look of St. Mary's Lyceum, St. Mary's Church, and the old St. Mary's rectory.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Taking a different path

The inside of St. Mary's Lyceum.

Just like anything you do in life, sometimes you are thrown a curveball, and it is up to you to adjust.

When shaping my documentary, I originally wanted to highlight the history of the Lyceum, with a small segment dedicated to the closing of St. Mary's Church and St. John Neumann School, and the way the community responded. When I went to propose my documentary to faculty here at Westminster, I was given the suggestion to focus more on the adversity that the community of Lawrenceville faced when the school and church closed, as this displays a better story. While the building has an interesting and storied history, the way that the community came together and still share this building together, is a much more compelling story.

10-30 minutes would not do 100 years of history justice, either. I hope to include a brief history of the building in my film, but focus more on the recent history of the community, and the way the gym is still used today despite all the closings in the neighborhood.