With films like Fahrenheit 911 flooding the box office and entire cable networks devoted to nonfiction, TV-R associate professor Ben Crane says he and his students are in luck.
“Times and tastes have changed,” Crane says. “Now there are far more opportunities —as well as far more competition—for documentary producers.”
Crane has taught courses in journalism, documentary research, scriptwriting, and critical thinking and has written and produced a variety of works for radio, television, film, and stage.
Along with former Ithaca College communications professor Slawomir Grünberg and Jason Longo ’94 (see ICQ 2006/2, “IC Documentarians”), Crane created the documentary School Prayer: A Community at War, which aired on PBS—and won an Emmy in 2000. The film tells the story of a woman in Mississippi who publicly questions prayer in public schools and brings a lawsuit against her school district. It follows her and her family as they deal with both backlash and support from their community.
Crane recently finished working on his latest documentary, Strongest Ever, a portrait of “the world’s strongest woman,” Becca Swanson. The production was born of Crane’s documentary research class, and had significant contributions from many current and former students and faculty of the Park School, including producers Jacqueline Willemsen ’06, Chris Lavigne ’06, and Colleen Evanson ’06.
“The class is quite an experience for students, mirroring the process by which independent producers make documentary films,” says Crane. “We prepare students through lectures, screenings, and workshops, followed by hands-on experience in field production, postproduction, research, writing, and public speaking.”