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Brockport students win film festival impact award

by Paul Cifonelli - Sports Editor
Tue, Feb 18th 2020 01:00 pm
Three journalism majors at  The College at Brockport — Kyle O'Gara (above), Josh Gillett and Ricky Wolf — won an impact award for their documentary on police trauma. Photo Courtesy of Ricky Wolf
Three journalism majors at The College at Brockport — Kyle O'Gara (above), Josh Gillett and Ricky Wolf — won an impact award for their documentary on police trauma. Photo Courtesy of Ricky Wolf

When attempting to work on a project, sometimes it can start a journey that was not expected. It could be a home renovation that reveals additional problems or a hobby that ends up turning into a full-time job. For three students at The College at Brockport, Kyle O’Gara, Josh Gillett and Ricky Wolf, their Department of Journalism, Broadcasting and Public Relations capstone project turned into an award-winning documentary.

The trio directed, produced and edited the documentary “10-33: When Officers Need Help.” O’Gara entered the documentary into the Impact DOCS Awards Competition and the project won the Award of Recognition. O’Gara, Gillett and Wolf were informed of their victory on Wednesday, Jan. 29.

“I’m so thrilled we were selected for such a prestigious award for our film,” O’Gara wrote in a press release published by Impact DOCS. “It started out as a school project but snowballed into so much more. Without my crew, Joshua Gillett and Ricky Wolf, the Greece Police Department and Officer Hughes allowing us to tell his story, none of this would be possible. I’m grateful he shared his experience with us so that we could help other officers dealing with those kinds of issues.”

The documentary is about the trauma police officers face and the high suicide rate of police officers. While the documentary took on a serious tone when it was published, that was not the original idea for the project.

“Josh and I were like, ‘hey, let’s make an episode of Cops, but local, because we never get to see that kind of stuff,” O’Gara said. “Then we pitched it to [Associate Professor] Carvin [Eison], and he shot it down. So we had to find some more social relevance; we had to make it more impactful. So we started talking about, ‘Why don’t the public trust the police anymore? Why is there this divide and disconnect?’”

Once the proposal was submitted, the group reached out to many different police departments in the area. The Greece Police Department allowed O’Gara, Gillett and Wolf to interview officers and ride-along with Officer Eric Hughes for a day. While speaking with Greece Police Chief Patrick Phelan, the group realized they had to completely change their topic on the spot.

“When the chief of police said something about [the high suicide rates among officers], we all turned our heads and realized that we had to [change the topic] right away because we only had so much time,” Gillett said.

Changing the idea that quick was a bold move because they had just one day to conduct interviews and go on the ride-along. Once they got in the car with Hughes, the group knew the officer had a story to share about his own trauma on the job. In 2015, Hughes was in an officer-involved shooting, which O’Gara and Gillett both recalled hearing about, as they are from the Rochester area.

“I knew who he [Hughes] was and what happened,” O’Gara said. “I remember coming home from school and seeing it on TV and I was like, ‘Oh, wow, that’s crazy. That never happens.’ But the fact that he opened up to us within half an hour of meeting us about something that’s super personal to him. We could tell he wanted to get it off his chest.”

After creating such a powerful and successful film, the trio all had something to take away from the experience. Wolf was in charge of creating the website for the group, which included behind-the-scenes pictures and footage, a timeline of the events of the project and more information about the help that is available to police officers who have experienced trauma.

“Part of [the takeaway] was web development,” Wolf said. “I’m now doing an internship where I’m developing websites, so that was something I wanted to get experience with. But then definitely learning about the police work, being able to go to the police station and get in there, behind-the-scenes, it was a big deal to see that.”

Eison, the professor of the class the documentary was made for, saw the determination from O’Gara, Gillett and Wolf during the semester.

“The three of them - Kyle, Josh and Ricky - I think they were very focused on accomplishing something,” Eison said. “They really wanted to make a little movie. And don’t you know they did. Nothing could make me more excited because that is exactly what I’m trying to get students to do, is to get them excited about something and then, who knows where it can go.”

If you would like to watch “10-33: When Officers Need Help,” the full documentary, along with behind-the-scenes of filming, is available on officerindanger.wordpress.com.

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Taken by Vincent Croce:
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