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Alumni memories sought for Knight Campus documentary
Jan. 11, 2012
CCRI student Lawrence O’Leary is merging the past and present with a documentary film about the Knight Campus to commemorate the building’s upcoming 40th anniversary.
As a member of instructor Norman Grant’s TV Production II class in the Spring 2011 semester, he worked on the film with fellow students Elizabeth Almeida, Tara Buitta, Tyler Clays and Ronald Wilson.
The Production II students conducted interviews, operated camera and sound equipment and edited some of the film’s segments. They also filmed a symposium on Brutalist architecture and the Knight Campus that was held during All College Week in 2011.
The project proved to be more time-consuming than the students had imagined and the semester ended before it was finished.
“We realized that is was too big of a project to handle in one semester so I took it on as an individual project,” O’Leary said.
He is now working with Grant to finish the currently untitled documentary, which he expects will take about six more months.
O’Leary has been conducting interviews with alumni, retired and active faculty and staff, and one of the building’s original architects, Bob Reilly. Aside from the historical facts, he is seeking unique stories, particularly from alumni, about the building’s history.
“So far I’ve covered history, architecture, construction, the history of the Knight Farm, stories and speculation, mysteries and discovery, opinions, reactions, opening day, and current reactions,” he said. “There’s also a piece about education as it was back then, as it progressed through the development of the school, and new developments over the last 10 years.”
As O’Leary completed more interviews and found more information about the campus, the project became larger and more time consuming. He has conducted more than a dozen interviews so far and has about 40 to 60 hours of raw video to edit.
“Each time I dove in, each time I interviewed somebody, each time I obtained another piece of information, the project got bigger and bigger,” he said.
The completed documentary will be about 30 minutes long and O’Leary hopes to show it on Rhode Island PBS and in a special screening at the campus.
O’Leary said that when he and his fellow television production students ran out of time to finish the project, he was inspired to finish it on his own because of the artistic value of the subject matter.
“I always see everything through and I think this is a great project,” he said.
O’Leary said he dedicates three days a week to finishing the film acting as producer, director, editor, narrator, and even composer for the film’s score.
The film contains some reenactments of historical events and the stories of Knight Campus alumni, as well as original and historical footage of the building.
O’Leary is an adult student who describes himself as a lifelong learner, with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Kansas and an associate degree from the Rhode Island School of Electronics.
After service in the military, he made his living as a television repairman, a private investigator and a professional actor and filmmaker.
He has appeared on stage and in independent films for 15 years, most recently as the lead character in the psychological drama “Blood! Sugar! Sid! Ace!” scheduled for release in January 2013 when it will be submitted to the Sundance Film Festival.
O’Leary has been attending CCRI part-time for the last four years as a theater major, taking courses on such topics as stagecraft and sound production to improve his knowledge of acting and film making.
“Follow your dreams; that’s what I do,” O’Leary said in explaining his varied career. “If you love what you do then you never have to work a day in your life.”
He continues to seek campus memories for his documentary project and invites alumni to contact him at email@example.com.