A Student-Driven Documentary Film

Publication Date

Spring 2016

Document Type



Stories of the Susquehanna is a long-term digital scholarship project that presents stories focused on and around the Susquehanna River. As part of the project, Professor Alf Siewers partnered with a group of students and with Digital Pedagogy and Scholarship staff members to create a short documentary film: Stories of the Susquehanna: Utopian Dreams. The film highlights the legacies of the utopian Pantisocracy project (associated with Joseph Priestley and Samuel Coleridge) and French Azilum.

Students began in the summer of 2014 with the pre-planning phase, which included script writing, story boarding, and production development work. During Fall 2014, the students embarked on the production phase, which involved interviewing selected people and collecting b-roll footage. Interview subjects included the president of the Friends of Priestly House, a Susquehanna River tour guide and conservationist, a French Azilum docent, an expert on historical landholdings, a Joseph Priestley descendant, a French Azilum descendant, and a Joseph Priestley impersonator, among many others.

In Spring 2015, students undertook the post-production phase, which involved editing the story into an almost 30-minute-long documentary film. The final film, "Stories of the Susquehanna: Utopian Dreams" was aired on WVIA on April 17th, 2016, and played in a variety of local movie theaters.



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