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Behind the Scenes Look at Filming for 'No Act of Ours' Documentary

by on June 14, 2012 2:20 PM

As the Penn State child sex abuse scandal unfolded last year, filmmaker Kelly Dolak packed up her gear and headed to State College.

She began gathering footage for her new documentary, “No Act of Ours.” The 39-year-old writer/director has made several films, but this one hits close to home.

“When the story broke, I knew I wanted to start shooting right away,” said Dolak, a Penn State graduate. “I wanted to have film from all of the events — the press conferences, everything that took place.”

Dolak was back in town last week, gathering more footage from the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte as the jury was selected for Jerry Sandusky's trial. There were several satellite trucks, television reporters, newspaper reporters and photographers.

Dolak was the lone filmmaker in the crowd.

“It's an important story,” Dolak said, “a powerful story.”

Compiling the Footage

After Sandusky was officially charged with child sex abuse, Dolak's filmmaker-mentality kicked in. A Joe Paterno news conference was cancelled on Nov. 8. On Nov. 9, the iconic coach was fired by the university's Board of Trustees. That night, students descended into the streets of State College, tipping over a news van and rioting over the firing.

On Nov. 18, Scott Paterno revealed that his father was suffering from lung cancer. On Jan. 22, the coach died. On Jan. 26, a “Memorial for Joe” was held at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Dolak was there for every event, compiling footage and conducting interviews.

“My thought was, let's get as much footage as we can possibly get. Let's get interviews with key people at the center of the story,” Dolak said.

She began interviewing people in the Penn State community — residents of Centre County, Penn State alumni, fans and students.

She found that most people were more than willing to talk.

“When Joe was fired, I went straight to Paternoville to talk to the students to see what they were thinking. I went to the riot. I found some key students who were willing to talk. Most students had followed the story from the beginning. One of the things I wanted to do was present the story through the students' eyes,” Dolak said.

In postcards that are being distributed to promote “No Act of Ours,” the film's tagline is: “Does loyalty limit the reach of our morality?” According to Dolak, that was the perfect tagline.

“I tried to reach everyone in the Penn State family and capture all of the different reactions and emotions that the family is having in this situation. We're not choosing sides, we don't have an agenda. We're just really going on the journey with them,” she said.

Because there are so many journalists covering this story, Dolak realizes that she will have go above and beyond to keep viewers interested.

“We have to do something different than the news outlets. The film is really a gathering of different editorial remarks on the situation. I'm very interested in the divide. The community will say, 'there's no division here.' But there really is,” Dolak said.

As she compiled footage, Dolak said that she kept coming back to three key words.

“The story is really about loyalty, morality and betrayal. Those are three words, that when I talk to people, those words come up. They're big words. People ask me, 'what's the betrayal, who is that attached to?' Everybody uses that word. They feel betrayed by the university because maybe this could have been stopped sooner. Or maybe they feel betrayed by the university because they fired someone who gave so much to the school,” Dolak said. “I don't have an answer to the tagline. It's very complicated.”

The Kickstarter

To make the film, Dolak figures she needs approximately $28,000. In an effort to gather funds, she enlisted the help of Kickstarter, a site for fledgling filmmakers. At press time, the film had 132 backers who had donated a total of $8,638.

That's just a little over a fourth of what's needed to get “No Act of Ours” to the big screen.

“Right now, we're just trying to find the resources so we can make a feature film,” Dolak said.

Once Dolak secures the funds, she knows it will be a lot easier to make the film that she wants to make.

“We want to approach a production company and producers … somebody with a lot of resources that can help,” Dolak said. “We're hoping to find some investors and backers who really believe in the project.”

Right now, Dolak is working on a shoestring budget with a staff of five.

“The Kickstarter campaign is critical for the future of the film,” Dolak said.

To find out more about “No Act of Ours,” visit www.noactofours.com. The film also has a Facebook and Twitter page.

Labor of Love

To date, Dolak has compiled 80-plus hours of footage. As the Sandusky trial progresses, Dolak will continue to film.

According to Dolak, she will stop filming in approximately three months, shortly after the Penn State football team takes the field against Ohio on Sept. 1 under new head coach Bill O'Brien.

Once she has all of the footage that she needs, the editing process will begin.

“All along, it's just been us following the story. I haven't had a chance to slow down. Once it's over, I can sit down and take a long look at what we have,” she said.

The editing process will take three to four months, she said.

“I'd say we'd wrap in seven to eight months,” Dolak said.

Once the film is finished, Dolak is hoping “No Act of Ours” will generate a buzz not only in Centre County, but nationwide.

“The story develops every day. There's so much information and so many layers to the story, you just have to keep up with it,” she said. “It's definitely one of the more challenging films I've done.”



Chris Morelli is the managing editor of The Centre County Gazette.
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