With our revised Public History Concentration ready to start in the Fall, I thought some of the readers of History on the Bridge might find Michael Rossi’s story to be interesting and inspirational:
Michael Rossi has a B.A. and M.A. in history from Boston College. Today he is a freelance documentary filmmaker. The majority of his work has been with the local Boston PBS station–WGBH.
Over at the website of the Boston College Career Center, Rossi writes about his transition from history major to filmmaker. Here is a taste:
I certainly did not set out to be a filmmaker upon entering Boston College. Like most students, I spent my days pondering what to major in and how to apply a liberal arts education towards a productive career that would make a difference. I eventually decided to major in history, feeling that it would provide me the most balanced liberal arts education. The more I studied, the more I realized there was a lot I didn’t learn while growing up in a small suburban town. I wanted to find a way to bring these stories to someone like myself back in my hometown. Sophomore year, while sitting in Professor Karen Miler’s African American History class in O’Neill Library, I decided motion picture was the most effective way to do it. I figured some things would have to be sacrificed in order to reach a large audience – you can’t make a film about some of the extraordinarily in-depth topics explored by historians – but the payoff of that large audience would be worth it.
The only problem was, I had no idea where to start. BC did not have a formal film program at the time. I decided the best thing to do was to propose making a documentary film for my history Honors Thesis. Professor Andrew Buni was brave enough to agree to be my thesis advisor, supporting the unorthodox idea of making a film. But he was pretty blunt in saying that he knew nothing about filmmaking. An internship at Cramer Productions, a company in Norwood, MA, helped me brush up on technical stuff – how to shoot B-roll, what the difference between a gaffer and key grip was, the language and vibe of being on live studio sets and on location, the ins and outs of edit suites and audio gear. I learned a lot. I landed another internship at WGBH, working on Africans in America, a six-hour series about the history of slavery in the United States prior to the Civil War. This amazing opportunity introduced me to what it takes to produce a national production. I was also cast in a few reenactments, which was a lot of fun! Together, these experiences helped me complete my first documentary, a modest history of East Boston.