News

November 12, 2010

Students Help Lift the History Channel’s The Air War Off the Ground

The History Channel’s latest installment of its Emmy Award-winning series WWII in HD again got a hand from Lafayette students who served as interns with Lou Reda Productions of Easton, Pa. The Air War, which premiered Nov. 10, presents the untold story of the U.S. 8th Air Force’s bloody battle to defeat the German Luftwaffe leading up to D-Day.

Donald L. Miller, John Henry MacCracken Professor of History, is screenwriter and historical consultant for the installment, which was inspired by his book Masters of the Air (2006). Narrated by actor Rob Lowe, the two-hour special features original, color footage never before seen by most Americans, including 8 mm footage of the airmen on the bases, devastation in Germany, and Luftwaffe perspective. Actors Casey Affleck, Sean Astin, Chris O’Donnell, and Elijah Wood voiced the first-person accounts of three American airmen and Stars & Stripes reporter and retired 60 Minutes correspondent Andy Rooney.

As head of the history department internship program, Miller helped the students secure the internships with the documentary filmmaking company. Michael Cerankowski ’11 (Easton, Pa.), a history and government and law major, and Nicholas Zawarski ’12 (Easton, Pa.), an economics major, worked as production assistants with managing director Scott Reda. In addition, a good deal of work that history major Tyler Bamford ’12 (Souderton, Pa.) did as an intern in summer 2009 was used in The Air War. Bamford worked as a research assistant with producer Liz Reph for the production of WWII in HD, a 10-hour series that aired on the History Channel in November 2009.

This summer, Cerankowski and Zawarski shadowed Reda for 60 days, discussing contracts with the actors and writing a draft contract for the military network that Lou Reda Productions plans to launch on Hulu.com. Much of their draft appeared in the final contract.

For Cerankowski, who plans to attend law school after graduation, the internship fit right into his anticipated specialty.

“I want to go into sports and entertainment law,” he says, “And being thrown into the fast-paced, sometimes chaotic, atmosphere of a production company was an exciting experience. It helped confirm my career path.”

Bamford conducted research on Andy Rooney. He pulled quotes and background information that was used in the script for both WWII in HD and The Air War.

The experience was eye-opening for Bamford, who knew nothing about film production beforehand. With plans to become a history professor himself, Bamford also is working with Miller as an EXCEL Scholar on his latest book project, Supreme City: New York City 1927.

“This internship has been one of my greatest experiences at Lafayette in terms of hands-on experience working with a topic I might make a career out of one day,” he says. “It would not have been possible without the connections Lafayette professors use to benefit their students.”

Scott Reda is continually impressed with the quality of Lafayette interns, giving them challenging assignments because of their consistent good work. Eight other students, besides Bamford, worked as interns on WWII in HD during summer 2009.

“They were exposed to a side of the business that interns would never be exposed to,” Reda says. “They’re really on the ball and gracious. Their comments make sense; you can tell that they’re absorbing the business.”

For Cerankowski and Zawarski, their internship this summer was a unique experience.

“To witness all the hard work that went into the production of WWII in HD was very exciting,” says Zawarski. “We had the opportunity to watch and participate in the actual process of creating an incredibly successful television series, which was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

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