November 10, 2009

Students Help Capture World War II in High Definition

They worked with Lou Reda Productions on the History Channel’s 10-hour WWII in HD airing Nov. 15-19

When WWII in HD begins airing Nov. 15, nine Lafayette students will know they had a hand in one of the History Channel’s most ambitious projects to date. They served as interns with Lou Reda Productions of Easton.

Donald L. Miller, John Henry MacCracken Professor of History, was writer and chief historical consultant for the full-color, high definition series narrated by Emmy Award-winner Gary Sinise. Miller’s best-selling book, The Story of World War II (2001), was the inspiration for the character-driven series, which tells the story of the war through the lives of 12 individuals whose paths often intersect in serendipitous ways. The series uses color footage, much of which has never been aired before, drawn from more than 3,000 hours of World War II film unearthed from archives and private collections across the globe.

As head of the history department internship program, Miller helped the students secure the internships with the documentary filmmaking company.

Cara Murphy ’11 (New Providence, N.J.) conducted historical research and assisted with archiving film and video footage while working with freelance film editors Jasmeet Singh Bansal and Lucas Abel. The editors also included Murphy in creative decision making, such as how to capture a particularly intense scene.

“An interesting scene described one of the main characters leading his troops into battle and encountering a medic running away from the action,” explains Murphy, an English and psychology double major. “This is a particularly difficult image to locate since most of the medic footage illustrated medics doing their job rather than cowering from danger. When I left the project, we still had not located the best image to capture this; however, we discussed possible alternatives and brainstormed what types of images could be used. For instance, I located an ambiguous shot of one man chasing another.”

As a research assistant, Emily Caracandas ’10 (Glenmont, N.Y.) read dozens of unpublished memoirs written by WWII veterans. Working with producer Liz Reph and Don Meyerson, she shared her input on how the personal experiences preserved in the memoirs could be woven into the series.

Caracandas, a history and Spanish double major, gained valuable insight into documentary film production and how to connect her work at Lafayette with a professional project.

“I was provided the opportunity to witness exactly what goes into the formation and production of a documentary and how all of these components work together to create the finished project,” she says. “I was thrilled to experience firsthand how to apply the knowledge I have gained as a history major to an intriguing career option. The internship allowed me to take what I have learned in the classroom and bring it to life in a ‘real-world’ setting.”

Murphy pursued the internship as a way to explore her interest in early 20th century U.S. history. The experience prompted her to consider a career in television writing and editing.

“I did not realize the complexity or intricacy of television production,” she says. “At Lou Reda, I learned that every phrase and image needs to be carefully constructed and placed in order to captivate the viewer. The lives and experiences of the characters were wrought with valor, zeal, heartache, pain, and even ecstasy. It was our job to convey this to the viewer and enable him or her to see WWII through the eyes of these diverse characters.”

The Lou Reda team was impressed with the interns’ high quality of work and passion for learning the production process.

“Because of the proximity of the College to Lou Reda Productions’ downtown production house, Lafayette students are a great resource for internships,” says Bansal. “Lou Reda provides great internship opportunities for Lafayette students because they can come from virtually any background and learn new skills in the production world and go away with vast amounts of knowledge and appreciation for the effort and skill required in the field.”

Other students and graduates who served as interns include Tyler Bamford ’12 (Souderton, Pa.), a history major; Dan McDonald ’10 (Palmerton, Pa.), an English major; Cassandra Bradley ’09; Douglas Michell ’09; Sarah Reddan ’09; Ashley Ruane ’08; and Sara Walter ’09.

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