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Documentary Focused on State College, Sandusky Premieres Tonight

by on December 27, 2013 8:00 AM

After more than one year of filming, a documentary crew is set to unveil a film detailing the impact the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal had on the State College community.

The final product will be screened Friday at The State Theatre as part of an invitation-only red carpet premiere event for the film "365 Days: A Year in Happy Valley."

Directed by Erik Proulx, who also directed "Lemonade: Detroit," and produced by Eric Porterfield, who has lived in State College since 1989; the crew set out to capture how the crimes of a former Penn State football coach and international media frenzy impacted the community.

"I think it will challenge people's conventional thinking and that's what it's intended to do. It was never designed to be a film just for people of Penn State. It was developed and created with universal intentions," Porterfield tells StateCollege.com. "I don't know what it accomplishes, that's for the viewer to decide. We're not trying to create an agenda. But what I think it's about is ... the depth and the strength of a community and how in times of crisis it is forced to respond in a way that it perhaps never imagined."

The official 365 days of documenting started Sept. 1, 2012; however, the crew started filming shortly before that date and continued beyond the one-year mark. The film does not move in chronological order, however its "bookends" are the first home football games of the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

"We cover a lot in an hour and 35 minutes ... so much has happened there and really we could keep filming for another year and still not be done telling the story," Proulx says. "I think when people see the film they might get an appreciation for everything that's happened and what the community has endured and that they're still together. Nothing is going to break up the community ... Hopefully from this adversity comes...great understanding, wisdom and strength."

Porterfield said the film goes in an unexpected direction.

"I think that the film will surprise people. We challenge the notion that you don't really know what you think you know," Porterfield says. "I think they'll be both surprised by how we handle it and I think hopefully they will appreciate what we're asking them to think about. That's what film is supposed to do, leave people scratching their head."

A preview of the film will be held in roughly 13 cities with week-long screenings in Los Angeles and New York. Depending on how film is received, it will either be released to theaters or go to digital distribution.

"We're hopeful that this story can be told to a much broader audience," Porterfield says. "Much the same the original story has been told ... we just think our story is much more refined and more accurate portrayal of the community."

The film features interviews with sportscaster Bob Costas and ousted Penn State President Graham Spanier, along with many other interviews, from Penn State students to small business owners.

Proulx believes it was important to interview Costas for the documentary.

"(Costas) is the narrative sports journalist in the country ... The media got a lot of it wrong and he's not afraid to say that...Most journalists don't do that." Proulx says. "What's refreshing about Costas is he has continued on the story, even though it's not a hot topic anymore ... He hasn't let it go ... He's still looking to be accurate and not just opinionated."

What will not be in the film is an interview with a family member of Joe Paterno, who was Penn State's head football coach when authorities charged Sandusky with child abuse.

"We tried really hard to get the Paterno family ... Understandably they're very reluctant talking to anyone with a camera ... We tried to convey we weren't out to get blood," Proulx says. "We wish we could have done a better job of having a fresh perspective from the Paterno family."

Penn State's board of trustees voted unanimously to terminate Paterno after nearly 46 years arguing Paterno should have called police after a graduate assistant told him he saw Sandusky with a young boy in the Lasch Football Building showers.

Sandusky, the former Penn State defensive coordinator, was convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse, for which he is serving a sentence of 30 to 60 years.

 

 

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government. jenn.miller@statecollege.com
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