WNMU awarded for WWII documentary

angela.mccoy

WNMU-TV Channel 13 won a Broadcast Excellence Award for its World War II documentary, “The U.P. Recalls the War,” at the Michigan Association of Broadcasting awards banquet on March 11.

The award was presented to Luis Gomez, an NMU graduate student and production assistant for the documentary, on behalf of WNMU-TV Channel 13 in Grand Rapids.

Gomez said broadcasting stations throughout the state competed for the award and added that he was fortunate to be part of the team who put together the award-winning documentary.

“A lot of hard work and effort was put into this piece and I’m thrilled that it received its much-deserved recognition,” Gomez said.

Sonya Chrisman, producer, director and writer of the documentary, said that although it was an honor to receive the award, it wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of the team involved with making the documentary.

“This award was achieved through the great stories told by those who lived through the war,” she said. “I feel as if I just connected the dots.”

The film was inspired by the books “The U.P. Goes to War: Upper Michigan and Its Heroes in World War II,” by Larry Chabot, and “World War II Comes to the U.P.: 1939-1945,” by NMU professor and historian Russell Magnaghi. Chrisman said she started researching in March 2007 and began taping interviews and collecting stock footage shortly after. Chrisman added that men and women currently living in Marquette, Alger and Menominee counties were interviewed for the film.

“I started putting out feelers to see who was interested in participating, and wherever a veteran agreed to be interviewed, we went there,” Chrisman said.

The documentary is comprised of veterans, historians and others who talk about the military life, the battles, the heroes and the U.P. home front. Those elements, together with personal photographs, stories, vintage newsreels and film footage, help create images of victory and loss. Also featured in the documentary is Magnaghi and NMU archivist Marcus Robyns.

Gomez said each of the interviews featured was unique and memorable because of the stories that were told and the generosity of the interviewees.

“The people we interviewed had such interesting and intimate stories to tell; their experiences during the war were unlike anything I had ever heard,” he said.

The documentary was put together by Chrisman, chief videographer Mike Lakenen, graphic artist Melinda Stamp and Gomez; the narration was provided by Dwight Brady, a communication and performance studies professor at NMU. Gomez said his responsibilities as assistant producer included transcribing every interview, voicing scenes involving a telegram reader and helping Lakenen with lighting and other tasks.

“The interviews, the script, the videography-each and every component was cautiously and vividly executed. It captivates all audiences,” Gomez said. “I think we won because it is a sincere, heartfelt and touching documentary about the everyday, hardworking people in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan who became heroes during the most crucial moment in time.”

The documentary was produced by Channel 13 as a fundraising effort and the DVD is available for a minimum $100 donation.