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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 20, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Student produces crowd-funded documentary film

Ithaca College sophomore Hannah Basciano is no longer just a college student — she can now add the title of filmmaker to her resume. Basciano, a documentary studies and production major, is currently in post-production for her first documentary short film.

The documentary, “From the End: Katelyn’s Story” tells the story of Basciano’s longtime friend Katelyn Elliott.

On Oct. 17, 2012, Elliott was involved in a severe two-vehicle collision, and a neurosurgeon at Lancaster General Hospital in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, told her family that nothing more could be done. This message was passed on to the local police, who then told the administration at Hempfield High School in Landisville, Pennsylvania, where Elliott was a student, that she did not survive the crash. The next morning an announcement was made in school about Elliott’s supposed passing.

Not long after it was made, the announcement had to be retracted. There had been a mistake. Katelyn was in critical condition, but she was alive.

Basciano said despite the fact that Elliott was in a coma, she had managed to move her head as her mother spoke to her. Because of this movement, which was no more than an inch or two, Elliott was rushed into emergency brain surgery and her life was saved.

In the two years since her accident, Elliott has made nearly a full recovery. She is now enrolled in Harrisburg Area Community College and serves as a symbol and spokesperson for people with traumatic brain injuries.

“She does equine therapy, and she does yoga like crazy,” Basciano said. “Despite a few neurological issues, she’s pretty much completely back to normal.”

The documentary highlights Elliott’s accident and recovery through home footage of the recovery process and interviews with Elliott and her friends, family and doctors. Though the film focuses primarily on Elliott herself, it also touches on the events following the accident involving the school and police and how these mistakes impacted Elliott and her loved ones.

Elliott said she was initially surprised when Basciano approached her about making a film, but grew enthusiastic as she realized the potential her story had to make an impact on others.

“I never really thought of having a life worth filming, writing about or talking about until she started to explain that she thought that it would be an awesome way to share my story of hardship, tragedy and triumph,” Elliott said. “After that sunk in and I realized how many people this could potentially reach and help, I was all hands on deck and was more than ready to help any way I possibly could.”

Basciano received funding for the film thanks to the website Crimso, a crowd-funding network founded by Kosala Kumara, a 2005 alumna of the college.

Crimso allows users to post blurbs about their projects and ask for funding from donors. Users give incentive to donate to their projects, such as crediting, a free copy of the final product or meeting with the creator. Through the site, Basciano managed to raise $1,490 in donations, more than doubling her goal of $500.

The money was used to buy various pieces of equipment, primarily a camera, and pay for transportation to interviews, Basciano said.

Basciano said she is currently in the process of editing the film and has one more interview to complete. She said she hopes the documentary, which is expected to be approximately 30 minutes in length, will be finished by this December or January, at which time there will be a screening in her and Elliott’s hometown and at the college. She will also produce a small number of DVDs, most of which will be sent to her Crimso supporters as part of their donation incentive. The rest will be available for purchase, and the proceeds will go to a charity for individuals with traumatic brain injuries.

James Rada, associate professor of journalism, who has advised Basciano throughout the creation of the documentary, has seen some of the footage that has already been edited. Rada said the film will inspire students and touch the hearts of its audience, and it is something that Basciano should take significant pride in.

“This is a college sophomore who did documentary the way you’re supposed to do it,” Rada said. “She had an idea and … it was a passion, and she pursued it from the standpoint of getting funding but also documenting the story.”

Basciano said she is ready for the documentary to be completed and viewed, but not only for her personal benefit.

“I’m less excited to finish the project than I am to see Katelyn’s reaction to it,” Basciano said. “She has been so gung-ho about this entire film that I’m really doing it for her more than I’m doing it for me, and I’m just ecstatic to be able to show her how much she’s inspired everyone else because I don’t think she’s realized it.”