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MU Production Services Wins Award

Monmouth University’s Production Services received an award for Best New Jersey Film at the Indie Street Film Festival in Red Bank, NJ. The feature-length documentary, DRIFT, was one of 60 total submissions shown at the regional festival, selected by the audience for the award.

DRIFT details the environmental impact the local community and state has had on the Barnegat Bay, tracing back issues over the last 50 years. The film likewise honors the 50 year anniversary of Save Barnegat Bay, a Monmouth County based non-profit organization and executive producer of the documentary.

Erin Fleming, Director of Production Services and of DRIFT, was at the helm of this two-year long project. Her crew members consisted of community members from all over Monmouth, including students and faculty.
Geoffrey Fouad, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Geography, was responsible for creating the maps that appear in the film. “I made maps that showed changes around Barnegat Bay over time, which then went to a graphic designer, who then finished the maps for the film. This is normal operating procedure in cartography,” he said.

Fouad worked exclusively with a graphic designer and Fleming, attributing a large part of the film’s success to Fleming’s leadership and organization. “Erin is a natural leader and organizer. She facilitated the collaboration between me and the graphic designer seamlessly. Erin is an invaluable asset to our University,” said Fouad.

Nicholas Messina, Specialist Professor in the Department of Communication, agreed with Fouad in regard to Erin’s command of the project. “Erin brings over twenty years of experience to the table, having created films all over the world— Cambodia and Rwanda just to mention a couple.” Messina provided the narration for the documentary, as well as contributed to the audio editing and field audio capture.

He continued, “Having worked with Erin extensively on several projects, she’s the type of person to go, ‘What story can I tell next?’”

Fleming noted her purpose in including Monmouth faculty and staff in these types of projects. She said, “I make it a habit to include University Faculty and staff in projects when possible. We have a vast array of talent on site and why not tap into that.”

She gave the example of working with Fouad. “I’ve collaborated with Dr. Fouad many times and he is an expert in ArcGIS and mapping,” Fleming said. “What greater asset than to include his work in an environmental film?”
Fleming also had multiple student crew members involved in DRIFT. For instance, Jenna Piccotti, a senior communications major, worked on the film’s public relations.

“When I started working for Production Services a year ago, DRIFT was already in the post-production stages. With that being said, it was crucial to market the film via social media. I often focused on producing the promotional content and populating all of that on the Production Services’ social media accounts,” began Piccotti.

She continued, “I have made graphics, mini trailers, and taken pictures and videos at events surrounding the film. Getting the word out is extremely important, so I’m happy to have played a role in doing so for this film.” The film’s message was something that not only left an impression on Piccotti, but other members of the production crew.

Messina elaborated, “Learning about the Barnegat Bay was particularly eye opening. I grew up along the shore and in New Jersey and realized that although we hold this title as the Garden State, our actions tell a different story.”

“In part, it was devastating to see the state in which our environment is in but contributing to this documentary gave me hope that organizations like Save Barnegat Bay exist…I wish more pieces like this were more widely available to the public.”

DRIFT facilitated learning experiences on more than just the environmental aspect. “Working on DRIFT granted students the opportunity to keep active in the field during the pandemic. We were immersed in the watershed, marshes, and swamps, allowing everyone to work their production muscles by shooting in conditions not available in the classroom or studio,” said Fleming.

She added, “Students experienced working with production professionals in their element. Drone pilots, scuba divers shooting underwater, scientists, naturalists— all working in their perspective lanes.”

Piccotti also reflected on her takeaways from DRIFT. “I had the opportunity to attend the Indie Street Film Festival as a member of DRIFT’s crew, which opened up different networking opportunities for me, as well as enhanced my role in promoting the film.”

“Being around different filmmakers and people who were passionate about getting their ideas across to others was really inspiring,” concluded Piccotti.

Messina had a different perspective on the collaboration process. “Because no one person is responsible for the full production of a film, it is important to appreciate and know your role to ensure the greater success of the project.”

Nonetheless, Fouad ultimately credited the viability of the film to Fleming. “This only happened because of Erin. Without her, this project would not have happened.”

He resolved, “What is most valuable to the University is its personnel. People like Erin make innovative things happen.”