A double major in Wildlife Biology and Environmental Writing & Media Studies, Allison Perna ’14 recently made a film that was both personal and from the heart. What began as a final project for her Documentary Film class with Professor John Zavodny eventually grew to mean more to Perna than just another assignment.
The film is a twelve-minute look into the Unity College women’s soccer team, and serves as a framework for viewers to see the deep connections and respect for each other the women share as a team, and their close interpersonal relationships.
Perna recalls that after one particular day of filming, a teammate contacted her and apologized for what the player thought was a “bad interview”. Perna said that the interview was actually one of her favorites.
“She provided a lot of humor and really showed her personality,” stated Perna. “Without her clips, the film wouldn’t have been nearly as funny and interesting.”
Perna noted that all of the team members were very helpful and accessible throughout the process, and that those featured in the film were glad to have participated in the project.
“Once the film was done, the women were excited to see it and seemed to really like the end product,” said Perna. “I know that the seniors had mixed emotions, because it was a reflection on the season and there were humorous parts in the film, but they were also sad because it is their last year at Unity.”
The backdrop of the film is the Yankee Small College Conference (YSCC) East Division playoff against Southern Maine Community College, a team that the Unity Rams had played several times before, winning each game handily. The winner of this game would continue on to the semi-finals. Although the women initially felt confident that their team would again see a victory, as the game unfolded, it was apparent that the Rams were facing what could be a possible upset.
One major challenge that Perna faced was trying to shoot footage while still having to fulfill her obligations of being on the team. She said that she was constantly walking the line of documentarian and soccer player. There would be shots that she really wanted to get at practices or games, but realistically couldn’t because she was also expected to take part in those practices and games. Similarly, it was hard to film the winning moment against SMCC. Perna was torn between getting the shot that she “had to have”, and running over to celebrate the victory with her teammates.
Other issues arose such as the unpredictable fall weather, sometimes very cold and rainy. Perna said that on the game day against SMCC in late September, the weather was really bad and she had to worry about keeping the camera dry. Filming with numb hands and fingers was a challenge as well. However those challenges turned into opportunity when because of the miserable weather, Perna was able to film the team huddled in the shed at halftime. She believes this footage encapsulates the overall feeling of the film quite nicely.
Further challenges included making cuts from and editing down all of the film. Perna said it was difficult to eliminate some of the interviews, given that her teammates/friends were willing to be a part of the project and were very generous with their time. In addition, while the film is only approximately twelve minutes long, Perna had many, many hours of footage from the season that she had to go through in order to edit everything down to just those twelve minutes.
Perna gives John Zavodny a lot of credit in helping her see the film through. She said that under Zavodny’s tutelage, she learned how a film idea becomes an actual finished product, and that he also taught her everything from how to set up the structure of the film, to how the footage might flow, to the “nitty-gritty” of the editing process. More specifically, Perna says that Zavodny was great at helping her to narrow the focus, and stated that without his help, her film would not have been possible.
“I had so much film footage and there were so many different paths I could have taken, I really needed someone to help me pinpoint my message and get it across in the most efficient and meaningful way possible,” said Perna. “Because Professor Zavodny is genuinely excited about what he is teaching, it inspired me to get excited too. The result is that my film was so much more meaningful to me than just another assignment. I hope that I was able to get that across to the viewers.”
This was not the first film that Perna has been involved with a film, however it was the first time she put one together from start to finish (filming, interviews, and editing), and was solely responsible for making the many decisions involved along the way.
“Overall, I would say that the biggest thing I learned was how to effectively organize a story for the screen,” said Perna. “Getting that figured out and seeing how to make the most of the film format was new to me, but I think I was able to walk away with a pretty firm grasp on it.”
The message in Perna’s film that she would like to get through to the audience is how close the women’s soccer team is and what the sport itself can do to bring people together, and help them grow both on and off the field.
“I hope I was able to show that not everyone on this team is a superstar when it comes to soccer, but that it doesn’t matter when you are playing with friends. When you see the relationships we have and the lessons we learn as a team, it doesn’t really matter if we win or lose,” said Perna. “We come from many different backgrounds and have different approaches, but in the end, we are able to embrace those differences and learn from them.”