End of the Road



After almost one year, the Capstone film making process is over.  It’s hard to believe that just last spring I was putting all the pieces of this documentary about the life of John Challis and just last week was the Capstone Documentary showcase.  This was a valuable learning experience that took a lot of hard work and effort, not just from me, but from other people who helped make this documentary the best it can be.  I want to now take the time to acknowledge those people and thank them.

The first person I want to thank is my supervising producer, Mr. Bradley Weaver.  He is my supervising producer because he was the teacher of the class and he helped out with whatever problem I had, while also providing constructive feedback and advice when I was trying to put my documentary together.  Without him, I would’ve never known what direction to take this documentary in and also getting not only me, but the rest of the students through this long and hard process, so that’s why he is the supervising producer and also why I want to thank him for his role in the documentary.

I also want to thank my consultants, Scott Challis and Matthew Pereslucha.  Scott helped me out with getting all the archive footage he owned and allowed me to use it so I want to thank him for that.  Also, providing feedback from when I’d show him a piece of footage and telling me what he wanted to see.  Matt was very helpful due to his experience with making a Capstone documentary and he had helpful tips from his days in Capstone to help become a better producer, writer and editor so I want to thank him for all he did for me throughout this year.

Finally, I want to thank my family, especially my father who helped film for me, for supporting me while I worked extremely hard on this film and I want to thank the Challis family for allowing me to interview them about their son and brother.  I understood that going in this wasn’t going to be easy for them, but they cooperated with me and I can’t thank them enough for that.  This might be the end of my Capstone journey; still this was only the beginning into helping me be the best broadcaster I can possibly be in the future.


A Work In Progress



For broadcasters, the easy part of making any news package or documentary is shooting the story.  The hardest part is to piece it together in the editing process.  Editing can take a while because you want to put together a well thought out and interesting story.  Plus, you have to be certain that you have enough shots to work with while editing your story.  This mindset is no different when creating this documentary for the Challis family.

While editing this documentary, there have been some ups and downs during this process.  I’ll touch on the upside first.  The story for my documentary is clear and flows well.  I am telling this story in a 3 part style, John before he got cancer, John when he got cancer and John after he got cancer.  Another upside is that I got great compelling interviews from not only Scott and the rest of the Challis family, but also from people like Joe Maddon, the manager for the Tampa Bay Rays and former Pittsburgh Pirate Adam LaRoche.  When put into the right place, these interviews can do provide a more emotional and meaningful story.

After I shot this documentary and looked back at the shots during the editing process, I do have a few regrets.  First, I wish that when I interviewed the Challis family, I should have had them change locations instead of being in the same area.  Another thing is that the lighting in the interviews is good but it could have been better and can be easily changed in editing.  Overall, editing this documentary hasn’t been painful nor it hasn’t come with its fair share of regrets.  However, with every package or documentary broadcasters shoot, it’s another opportunity to get better.  Here is a sneak peek of my documentary and I am confident that I am on the right track to making a masterful documentary. https://vimeo.com/80326575

Father Knows Best


In my previous blog, I mentioned what my first consultant, Matt Pereslucha, had to say about my interview I did with Gina Challis.  After Matt’s feedback, last week I showed the same piece of video (https://vimeo.com/78161657) to my second consultant Scott Challis.  Scott is the father of John Challis and I really wanted his feedback because this documentary is not just a reflection on John, it’s a reflection on his entire family and I want the Challis family to be proud of the film.

Scott was very pleased with the interview of his wife and he asked me about an offer for my interviews of his family.  “Do I have your permission to use your interview for our book.  I’ll make sure you get recognition in the book.  I think it is great.”  The Challis family, along with helping me with this documentary, is also in the middle of a book deal with the author writing about John’s story.

After reading that quote in his response back to me, I was very honored about being mentioned in this book and also pleasing Scott with his interview. He didn’t give me any feedback on the technical side of things, however Matt provided me with that information.  I recent talks with Scott, he has told me that he is happy with my progress and he has confidence in me that I will make a strong documentary about his son.  That was one of the main goals going in and so far I am confident that I am heading in the right direction to making “Courage:  The John Challis Story” into a successful documentary.

A Watchful Eye


In the broadcasting world, having a second or even a third pair of eyes critiquing your work.  While filming and piecing together my Capstone, feedback is not only welcomed , it’s needed.  As stated before in previous blogs, I have brought on two consultants helping me make the best documentary based on the life of John Challis. One consultant is Matt Pereslucha.  Matt is a former Westminster student, who majored in broadcasting and has experience with Capstone. 

Recently, I showed Matt a piece of footage I shot for my Capstone (https://vimeo.com/78161657).  It was an interview with Gina Challis, John’s mother, and wondered what he thought about the shot and what needed to be fixed.  One thing that stood out to me was the fact that Gina had too much head room and Matt was right on the money.

“Just my opinion, i would recommend cropping the interview a little and get tighter on her; try to take away some of that headroom.” stated Matt.  He also said that the lighting was serviceable and that can easily be fixed in the editing process.  Unfortunately, he did not say much about my progress recently, but when speaking to him a month ago, he was pleased with the progress made so far.

I value Matt’s opinion and I see where he is coming from.  It would be foolish of me to not listen to the feedback of an experienced documentary filmmaker and I plan to take his advice and fix up the interview so that it looks good.  Hopefully, with following Matt’s advice, this is one step closer to perfecting “Courage: The John Challis Story” and making a film the audience will appreciate.

Lights, Camera, Action!


   On December 7th, after months and months of filming, editing, writing and perfecting, the Westminster College broadcast students will present their documentaries to the public.  The showcase will be at Mueller Theatre inside of McKelvey Campus Center at Westminster College and it begins at 11:00 A.M.  This is also free of charge to the public.

   I welcome everyone to come out and see my documentary; however the people I plan to invite will be my family, my consultants Scott Challis and Matt Pereslucha and the rest of the Challis family.  I hope to see them there because they have showed me tremendous support throughout this whole process and I want them to see all the hard work that went into this special film. 

   The documentary will be dedicated to the Challis family.  This will help honor their son and brother and also preserve the memory of this influential figure.  My goal for the showcase is for the audience to realize that even if you are faced with the slightest bit of adversity in your life, do not let shape the way you plan to live the rest of your life. 

   Joining me on the showcase will be Kendall Hunter, who will be presenting his film titled “By Faith, Not Sight”, and Jarred Treshok presents his film “Moore Hope:  The Inspiring True Story of Amelia Moore.”  All of these documentaries will test you emotionally and express messages the audience can take with them for the future.  So mark your calendars now for December 7th and prepare to be moved with heart touching documentaries.

An Outside Influence


Throughout my time here at Westminster, I have taken classes that I consider to be very informative and have taught numerous lessons not just on the subject, but in life as well.  During junior year I took a spanish class titled “Topics: Spain” and yes it did teach me about the history and culture of Spain, it also taught me important aspects of life that I will hold onto and use in my future.

Now many of you are probably asking yourselves, how can a spanish class teach you about life?  Well, the answer to that is you must have a strong work ethic and be able to challenge yourself in order to have success in the real world.  During this class, we had to read all these stories and most of them I didn’t even understand the main idea of the story.  If you didn’t even attempt to try to understand the stories, then you were so far behind that you might as well take a failing grade because that was what you were going to get.

However, I learned that I couldn’t let this happen.  If I were to take it easy and coast through a hard spanish class, imagine what I would do when faced with crucial problems in my adult life.  Would I just coast through and pray for the best?  So I decided to go beyond what was expected and worked like a madman understanding every last detail and challenged myself to become a better reader and writer in the spanish language.

This ties in well with the documentary making process.  I have to have a strong work ethic in order to provide an audience with a well-produced and well-written documentary,  If I just try to coast through and take the easy way out, that would never help me in the long run with my future career plans and it provide a poor excuse for a documentary.  Plus, I must be able to challenge myself to become a better writer to the story I have and go out of my comfort zone to make the documentary people would be proud of.

The professor who taught this class Dr. Jeff Bersett.  I would to thank him for helping me realize that without hard work and determination, there is no success and I have carried that message out ever since and used it to my advantage while filming this documentary.  

The Westminster Advantage

   I can’t speak for most colleges, but in Westminster’s case, they do everything in their power to ensure that their students become engaged in the real world.  They call it civic engagement and it relates to not just being engaged in your school but also be engaged with the communtiy as well.  While filming this documentary, I have used one of the definitions Westminster provides of civic engagement to its fullest extent.  That definition is to demonstrate moral and ethical commitments to neighbor, society, and the natural world.

  Now how did I do that?  Well, when I first thought of doing a documentary on John Challis and told his family about my intentions, I made a moral commitment to them on that very day.  That commitment was to work as hard as I possibly can so that I tell john’s story as best as possible.  Like I mentioned in my previous blogs, I won’t want to let the Challis family down.  It is my duty to make sure that I provide a well-produced documentary and just for my own personal gains, but also as a way to honor John Challis and to have his memory live on in the hearts of plenty.  I am committed to do that and promise to come through.

  For an ethical commitment, I understand that talking about a subject as emotional as losing a son and a brother at a young age isn’t easy to do, so if the Challis family wants their privacy, I must respect that.  Also, when I approached Scott Challis about this documentary, he had to deal with an author who wanted to write a book about John so I also want to make sure that this process is as less stressful as possible.  There is no need to provide unneeded stress when you have given your word that you will do your job to the best of your ability and that’s what I am doing with the Challis family.

  Westminster has taught me a lot when it comes to being civically engaged with the outside world.  With this college being a liberal arts school, it gives you the tools you need to become a better citizen.  I am starting to see it now with my experiences in Capstone and I have used what I learned about civic engagement in the documentary process.  It will help me improve as a person and I appreciate Westminster for giving me the tools to improve my being.