Documentary on firefighters wins grand prize at screening

Tuesday night, Lycoming College held its fifth Digital Media Video Annual at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St. The night featured a wide variety of local videos, including documentaries, animations and music videos, produced by Lycoming College digital media students.

The organizer and host of the event was college communications chairwoman and assistant professor Leah Peterson, who said the night was “a big success.”

“It was wonderful to see so many people from the Williamsport community attend the screening and cheering for their favorite films.”

Peterson said that the films have gotten better each year and that students enthusiastically work on the projects.

“Students are more motivated and excited about film and video than ever before and it shows in the quality of their work,” she said. “My students spend countless hours on their films from inception to completion, and their hard work has paid off.”

Eleven films by 11 different students were screened, and four of the films were recognized for artistic significance: Chelsea Moore’s “Girl Talk” won best experimental film; Lindsey Scott’s “The Lonely Dog” won best animation; Jehiel Boner and John Piazza’s “Hott Zaaq/570” won best narrative; and Thomas Lurie’s “Williamsport Fire” won best documentary as well as the biggest award of the night, the Woodruff Grand Jury Prize.

Lurie’s short film followed the Williamsport Bureau of Fire as they rushed to burning houses and to residents requiring emergency assistance.

Lurie said he got the idea for the film because he works for the Ocean City, Md., beach patrol and has worked closely with the city fire department there. Once he had the idea, he contacted Deputy Fire Chief Dave Dymeck and got the ball rolling.

“It was pretty cool, my first ride along,” he said. “They gave me a jacket and helmet and we went to a house that had a fire in it the night before. One of my first nights there I went to a heroin overdose and that was really intense. I got to see how quickly they work – they gave the guy a shot and he was OK.”

One of the themes of the documentary is the fire department’s staff shortage, for which the firefighters must compensate each day on the job.

“It really makes you appreciate the work that they do,” Lurie said. “I think this is more common than most people realize and it seems to come down to the politics usually.”

Lurie hopes that his film will have an impact on how the community views its fire department.

“I hope it would just make people realize that they are performing such a unique job,” he said. “Maybe people will now see how great these men are and how they put others before them.”

Peterson was very impressed by the film.

“Tom Lurie’s film, ‘Williamsport Fire,’ is beyond impressive for a student film; it’s probably the best documentary that has come out of our program,” she said. “He worked on the film for almost a year and completely embedded himself in the fire department to really get to know more about the firefighters and the challenges of their jobs. He was born to be a documentary filmmaker.”

For next year’s Digital Video Annual, Peterson plans to invite other area schools to participate.

“I’d like to open the festival to other schools in Pa.,” she said. “I think that it would be a great opportunity to see what other schools are doing and for each of our students to connect over their passion for film and video.”

Residents who missed the film Tuesday night will be able to catch it at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Communications Building on Franklin Street at Lycoming College. For more information, email