The radio-television-film graduate student has worked on his first documentary, “A Casebook on Remote Viewing,” since he first enrolled at UT in 2006. The Documentary Channel will broadcast his documentary early next year.
“I got to class, and the first thing my professor told me was, ‘Hey, welcome to UT. You’re going to have to make a documentary. Start thinking about ideas now,’” Penta said. “I started looking at anything that might be interesting, [including] sea turtles [and] scientific research. I finally found a study on parapsychology that I decided to base my film on.”
After partnering with UT, the national TV network will have exclusive U.S. broadcast rights to select films from student documentary filmmakers.
Three other films in addition to Penta’s have been selected for broadcast so far: “The Cockroach Project” by Ruth Fertig, “Dreams in all Sizes” by Christina Kim and “Pay Dirt” by Berndt Mader. DOC U, a program that regularly highlights film school students and their productions, will showcase the films in early 2010.
Kate Pearson, the TV network’s senior vice president of programming and acquisitions, said a deal with UT has been in the works for more than three years.
“Austin is a natural place to go if you’re looking for artistic innovations,” she said. “The students coming out of UT are probably some of the top film students in the country.”
Ellen Spiro, co-director of UT’s Documentary Film Center, said the partnership is an invaluable opportunity for student filmmakers.
“It’s one thing to just make a film, but to have the stamp of approval from a group like The Documentary Channel really gives their films an added recognition,” she said.
The partnership will continue on an annual basis, and any films created by UT students are eligible for the selection process, Spiro said.
By the end of the spring 2010 semester, several more UT student documentaries will be selected for broadcast on The Documentary Channel. The network is the first channel devoted exclusively to documentary films.
Pearson said she hopes the students can use their publicity from The Documentary Channel to jump-start their film careers.
“By airing their films on The Documentary Channel, they will receive a lot more recognition from other students, media representatives and even studios,” she said. “It’s kind of a dream come true for any student to get a film on national television.”
Penta said he has already put the distinction on his resume.
“It feels really good that this amount of attention is being directed at UT’s program,” Penta said. “We certainly have one of the top programs in the country, but we’re [often overshadowed] by other schools.”
Source: The Daily Texan