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Taylor students pursue excellence in all that they do, and it’s getting recognized. At this year’s College Television Awards hosted by the Television Academy Foundation, the same organization that hosts the Emmys, film students Gabriel Burch, Ethan Ochs ‘23, Anna Rodman ‘23, and Luke Zobel ‘23 were awarded two College Television Awards for their short documentary film Lizzi: Deeper than Water.
The project was created for the Documentary Filmmaking class offered every fall, taught by Professor of Film & Media Arts Kathy Bruner, who also served as the executive producer for the film. She put the team together, most of whom had not worked with each other before.
“You've got a dream team here,” Bruner said. “I didn't necessarily know that when I put them together, but I knew what their different interests were, and I could tell that the four of them would make a good team. I didn't know what a dream team I was putting together, so thank the Lord for that.”
The film tells the story of Paralympic swimmer Lizzi Smith and her journey from a community pool to medaling at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. At the beginning of the semester, the team was asking everyone they knew for ideas and people that could be good documentary subjects. Rodman’s physical therapist connected them with Smith’s dad, who then connected the team to Smith.
Originally from Munice, Indiana, Smith no longer lives locally. She was planning to be in Indiana for recognition at a Colts game during the timeframe that the team needed to film.
“We only were with Lizzi for three days; it was very short,” Rodman said. “We just worked with her family to get everything else sorted but it's very chaotic because you're trying to get stuff in such a short period of time. So it was rushed and chaotic but it all came together.”
The team filmed first with Smith’s family, getting as much background information as they could to be prepared to work within Smith’s visit. They conducted virtual interviews with Smith to make sure that this was the story that they wanted to tell and that they were equipped to tell.
The team worked tirelessly to tell Lizzi’s story, filming interviews, requesting stock footage from the Indianapolis Colts, working on the sound design, and editing together the final story.
“Lizzi: Deeper than Water is a very ambitious project,” Bruner said. “This kind of documentary is crafted in the editing. You shoot a lot of stuff and you gather a lot of stuff, but then you have to figure out how best to craft the story during the post production phase.”
At the end of every semester, Film & Media Arts faculty submit student work to festivals and awards. In the fall of 2022, Bruner submitted Lizzi: Deeper than Water to the Television Academy Foundation for consideration for College Television Awards.
In December 2022, the team was awarded the Loreen Arbus Focus on Disability Scholarship, a $10,000 scholarship that celebrates student filmmakers telling the stories of people with disabilities.
Lizzi: Deeper than Water is the second short documentary from Taylor about a Paralympic athlete to receive the scholarship. The documentary was also eligible for submission to the Nonfiction Series category. Lizzi was one of three films nominated for the award.
The team flew out to Los Angeles to attend the 42nd College Television Awards to be recognized for their scholarship and find out the winners of the Nonfiction Series.
“It was really just an honor to be there,” Rodman said. “It doesn't matter if we won anything, just to be there was incredible.”
Competing against the first and fourteenth ranked films schools in the world, Lizzi: Deeper than Water won.
“It was really cool to be in a space where there was so much creativity and good quality filmmakers that we were apparently in the same category,” Zobel said.
Taylor’s Film and Media Arts program gives students exposure to a wide range of film projects, from narrative filmmaking to producing for clients and everything in between. This allows students to discover what they are passionate about and gain experience that will open doors for them to work anywhere. At the heart of it all is a dedication to pursuing excellence and pursuing Christ.
“It feels like an important and important job to be part of the storytelling process to tell stories that are good, beautiful, and true,” Bruner said. “They’re not necessarily overtly Christian, but because of the fact that they are good, beautiful and true, they honor God.”