IU faculty and alum collaborate on documentary featured at Heartland Film Festival
The documentary film “Thunder Rolls” was selected for the Heartland Film Festival and will premiere on Oct. 7 at Landmark’s Glendale 12 Theater in Indianapolis. The film was directed by IU Media School senior lecturer Susanne Schwibs and Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus Robert Arnove. “Thunder Rolls” follows the baseball team Indy Thunder whose players are all blind or visually impaired.
Schwibs began teaching production and filmmaking at IU in 1990 and has been a full-time faculty member at The Media School since 2016. Schwibs was also a producer for WTIU, where some of her collaborators on “Thunder Rolls” also worked.
Schwibs was first introduced to this sport for athletes with visual impairments and disabilities, which is formally known as beep baseball, from her co-director Arnove. Schwibs and Arnove were inspired by these athletes and thought highlighting this sport would make a compelling film. In 2016, Schwibs and Arnove reached out to local teams and heard back from Indy Thunder and their coach Darnell Booker. While the film took a long time to complete, Schwibs expressed that they were able to follow the players’ stories more in depth.
“We knew we didn’t just want to make it about the baseball game. We wanted to make it about the people who do it. And that team is special because they have this sort of family cohesion” said Schwibs.
Schwibs also emphasized the importance of not defining these players by their disability while making this film.
“I think in the case of Indy Thunder what defines them are these other aspects of what makes human beings like community, friendship, their achievements whether athletic, or in any other way. Every documentary filmmaker always discovers and learns things. That’s what I really learned and appreciated about this” said Schwibs.
Henry Malone, BA’15, was a co-editor and associate producer on “Thunder Rolls.” Before Malone’s involvement with “Thunder Rolls,” he worked with Schwibs when he was an associate producer at WTIU. At The Media School, Malone was able to gain experience in all areas of production which has been invaluable to his career.
When reflecting on his time with the Indy Thunder team, Malone shared how he became very invested in the team and their success.
“They are the story,” said Malone. “The story wouldn’t be there without this incredible team doing this incredible thing, and these incredible people doing things that others might think is not even possible.”
Scott Carmichael, who teaches color correcting and finishing at The Media School and is the media production specialist for the radio/TV department, did the color correcting and grading for “Thunder Rolls.” Carmichael also runs graphics for WTIU and has known Schwibs for many years from working together on numerous projects at WTIU prior to “Thunder Rolls.” Carmichael explained how “Thunder Rolls” was a more technical project for him because he had to color match one event from multiple cameras.
“The key to doing color correcting is understanding how color correcting works in digital media,” said Carmichael. “That gives you the basis you need to manipulate color any way that is needed. My job as a colorist is to execute the producer and director’s vision.”
Schwibs and Malone hope audiences leave this film with a new perspective on the blind and visually impaired community. They want audiences to understand that disabilities do not define a person, and that everyone deserves equal opportunities. Schwibs hopes that this film allows beep baseball to be more widely known by the public and recognized by the Paralympics.
Malone is also working on another documentary project that he was introduced to by Schwibs. This project will feature people recovering from strokes and highlight the advancement of knowledge and technology in this area within the medical community.
Along with the premiere on Oct. 7, where 38 Indy Thunder team members will be in attendance, “Thunder Rolls” will also play on Oct. 14 at 12:30 pm at Emagine Theaters Noblesville 16. There will also be an encore screening on Oct. 14 at 2:45 p.m. at Emagine Theater Noblesville 15. The film can be streamed virtually Oct. 5-15 at www.HeartlandFilmFestival.org.