Student produces documentary, makes it to NJ Film Festival
After creating a University-related documentary for a class, a student will see his film screen at this year’s NJ Film Festival on Sept 15.
Zack Morrison, the director and producer of the film “Knights, Tigers, Cannons, Oh My!” said he made the film to remind students about the University’s historic traditions.
“It began…over the dispute over a revolutionary war cannon that was on Rutgers’ soil until the war of 1812, and by the time of the Rutgers-Princeton football game, Princeton got the cannon back,” said Morrison, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.
The whole documentary is about the current-day tradition that surrounds the cannon war, Morrison said. The cannon is currently cemented in the grounds at Princeton, so the tradition is for Rutgers students to go to Princeton and paint it red.
That’s what Morrison and a group of his friends did in the documentary, which he made for his “Documentary Filmmaking for Writers” course. Avoiding public safety officers, they managed to pour cups of red paint over the grim black and rusted cannon, he said.
Christopher Pasi, a producer of the documentary, said if Princeton had painted the University’s own cannon, he would be upset, but he is glad the rivalry lives on.
“To do something like painting the cannon, or keeping these Princeton Rutgers rivalries alive, it means a lot because we’re connecting something to the past that is lost and it shouldn’t be lost,” said Pasi, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.
Morrison said his biggest struggle when making the documentary was adjusting to the process of producing a film.
“Dena Seidel was very helpful, because there is a precise way to construct this type of a story and she helped me understand it,” Morrison said.
Dena Seidel, director of the Rutgers Center for Digital Filmmaking, said the documentary is a difficult film to make, and is something all students in the course have to do.
“[The students] have to make a documentary and tell the story … following a real person — but as a caricature of a real person — shaping it into a dramatic art while trying to maintain a trusting relationship with that person,” she said.
She said making a film involves understanding its characters and fitting the audience into it.
“You have to have a sense of exposition, you have to hold the audience and make them want to know what’s going to happen next,” Seidel said.
The documentary also explains other University traditions such as the stories behind William the Silent and Old Queen’s Gate, Pasi said.
Morrison said he wanted to make the film to learn more about the history and show students the importance of the University’s history.
“I chose this topic because I spent all my years here growing up at Rutgers and not too many people know about the cannon wars,” he said.
With the film, students would feel connected and see the world through Morrison for a brief part of time, Seidel said.
Pasi said it is important for students to recognize and appreciate the University’s history.
“Tradition is important. If we don’t remember or respect the things that define who we are, then we’ll have nothing to set us apart from the thousand other colleges in this country,” he said in the documentary.