Student Docs to Air on WCNY

By Maddie Veneziano ’20, November 14, 2019
Three Ithaca College student documentaries chosen to air on regional PBS station.

Three documentaries produced by Ithaca College students will air on WCNY on Sunday, November 17, at 10 p.m. Each of the documentaries were produced in a nonfiction production course in the Roy H. Park School of Communications.

“Echoes of Jubilee,” produced by Shinice Ford ’19, Shyala Jayasinghe ’20 and Alfio Vasta ’20, highlights the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers, an Ithaca singing group dedicated to the preservation of “negro spirituals.” “Heart of Gold,” produced by Connor Duffy ’20, Ella Krings ’21, Julia Rongo ’20 and William Streleckis ’21, follows a family fighting against gun violence in their community. “Called to Serve,” produced by Sierra Baker ’21, Rachael Geary ’21 and Hank Huhnke ’21, focuses on a pastor struggling to lead his new congregation.

Associate professor John Scott, who teaches the nonfiction production course, said that the work his students produce is audience-ready. “It’s thoughtful, it’s well produced, and I think audiences outside the school who watch it can really get to know something particular and dynamic that they otherwise would not have known about,” he said. “This broadcast is another way to tell the story of the high-quality work that they are making.

In addition to airing on WCNY, the documentaries were also screened at Ithaca College on October 30 at an event hosted by student organization IC Docs. The event also included a performance from the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers, who are led by IC associate professor Baruch Whitehead. “Echoes of Jubilee” contains an interview with the group’s namesake, civil rights leader and longtime Ithaca resident Dorothy Cotton, conducted shortly before she passed away in June 2018.

A group of people singing

The Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers perform. (Photo courtesy of Baruch Whitehead)

One of the producers of “Echoes of Jubilee,” senior documentary studies and production student Shyala Jayasinghe, is also a member of the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers. She said getting to see the impact the singers have had on the community has made her membership in the group much more meaningful.

“As I made the documentary, I really came to understand how unique this group was and how inspiring Dorothy was,” Jayasinghe said. “To know that more people will get to hear these stories makes me so incredibly happy.”

Alfio Vasta said choosing a local group to be the focus of the documentary helped bridge the gap between the campus and Ithaca communities. “Meeting with older residents and residents who live here full-time, I felt that I got a better understanding of what Ithaca was like for the people who live here,” Vasta said.

Ella Krings, who is also the president of IC Docs, said that having her work broadcasted on WCNY is a wonderful feeling. “This is the first documentary that I ever made, so I didn’t really have many expectations about what would happen to the film after we finished,” she said.

Jayasinghe said having her documentary air on WCNY gave her validation. “It was so amazing to have so many hours of hard work pay off in this way and definitely made me feel so much better about the work,” Jayasinghe said. “I knew it was good, but it was good to affirm that it had potential past being a student film.”

Scott first contacted WCNY during the 2008-2009 school year to ask if the station’s director of TV programming would be interested in looking at some student documentaries. Since then, 34 documentaries from his class have been broadcasted on WCNY.