OU Student-Produced Documentary Examines Ireland’s Food Industry

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Producing a film festival-quality documentary is no easy task, yet Ohio University students planned, produced and edited a 20-minute film in just six weeks—all overseas, no less.

Created as part of the Scriptwriting and Film Studies in Ireland study abroad program, Made in Donegal touches on Ireland's recent potential to boost its economy through its bountiful, yet neglected, local food industry.

"It focuses on the local producers, the local buyers and the local advocates for the rebuilding of a sustainable food model in Donegal," said documentary Producer Kelly Matousek. 'My responsibilities, before we even left for Ireland, were to get in contact with people from County Donegal that would support our story and coordinate times that we would perform interviews."

Scriptwriting and Film Studies in Ireland is a six-week summer program that is based in Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland. Twenty students were selected from the Schools of Media Arts & Studies, Visual Communication, Journalism and Communication Studies.

During eight orientation sessions held last spring, the students were divided into four teams and began researching and developing project ideas for their specific documentaries.

Associate Professor Frederick Lewis and Professor Sam Girton headed the class. Lewis commented that, while each of the four documentaries were successful, Made in Donegal exceeded expectations.

"The videography was exquisite and it had a very well-thought-out visual style," he said. "Compared to the other subjects we tackled, 'food in Donegal' was a much broader topic that required a lot of intense research and travel throughout County Donegal in order to find a focus. The result, especially given that it was produced and edited in six weeks, is completely professional. There is nothing 'student' about it."

Director of Principal Photography Alex Bolinger admits that his goal was to make the film look as visually appealing as possible.

"I said from the very start that we wanted this to have a very pretty, very cinematic look, and I don't think we could have done a better job achieving that," he said. "Basically everyone on the crew operated a camera and had at least a few shots that made it into the final cut. It was my job to make sure that we were all in the same mind-set, shooting in the same style."

However, a beautiful documentary has to include state-of-the-art video production equipment. Lewis knew that his students would need the best gear available, so he borrowed equipment from the Visual School of Communication and had the students transport it as carry-ons during the flight to Ireland and back. Audio equipment and cables were shipped from the School of Media Arts and Studies.

"I am a big believer in experiential education," said Lewis. "Producing documentaries in a foreign country with a real deadline is great preparation for the professional world."

Bolinger encourages audiences to keep an eye out for Made in Donegal in venues around the globe.

"We've submitted it to a student Emmys competition, as well as a few other film festivals around Northeastern America," he said. "We plan to submit it to a few more festivals, hopefully in Ireland. That's where I think it will really thrive."

Made in Donegal will make its first festival premiere at the Athens International Film and Video Festival on Thursday, April 18 at 1:30 p.m. at the Athena Cinema.

"The Athens Film Festival brings in so many phenomenal films every year and I'm honored to have this opportunity to showcase our work," said Matousek. "In the end, it was an experience I will never forget and I am so happy we are able to showcase Made in Donegal in an international film festival."

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Photos by Kelly Matousek, Alex Bolinger and Sonya Paclob