A video about Stefanie Schaffer that caused tears and laughter for the audience at the annual meeting of the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce recently was created by Gavin Owens and J.J. Plemmons, students at the Stafford Technical Center.
Owens, a senior, and Plemmons, a sophomore, attended the meeting at the Paramount Theater and watched the video along with someone who hadn’t seen it yet: Schaffer.
Schaffer said she was happy when she saw the video.
“I thought they did a really great job. I was a little bit nervous about how I had done in the filming. They turned it around and made it look really professional and really great,” she said.
Owens and Plemmons had a challenging task. They were asked by the chamber’s director of business development, Stuart St. Peter, to create the video a month before the chamber’s annual meeting, and Owens admitted he didn’t know anything about Schaffer at the beginning.
At the end of June 2018, Schaffer was in the Bahamas with friends and family when there was an explosion on a tour boat. An Atlanta, Georgia, woman was killed, and Schaffer’s injuries were so severe, she told the audience at the chamber meeting, some doctors weren’t sure she would survive.
Schaffer is back home in Rutland now, but had to have both of her legs amputated below the knees, among other surgeries she had to endure.
She spoke at the chamber meeting, after the video, which provided insight into what life is like for Schaffer now, was shown.
Plemmons said he was “absolutely” happy with the video.
“The one thing I was watching for was the crowd’s reaction,” he said. “I looked down because we were sitting near the top and I saw so many people crying and so many people were laughing. It turned out great, I think.”
Owens said when St. Peter told him Schaffer’s story, he saw the possibilities right away.
“I think J.J. and I both had the same idea, like, ‘Let’s do this.’ So I look at J.J. and he looks at me and we’re like, ‘Let’s do this,’” he said.
When Owens and Plemmons met Schaffer, they found she was just like anyone else, Owens said.
“She was always smiling, always happy. I don’t think we ever saw her sad once,” he said.
Owens said Schaffer showed them she had a dark sense of humor and could make jokes about her own loss.
“One of the things she told us was, everyone always cuts those moments out because they think it’s too raw. ‘But I want those in there because that’s me, that’s who I am.’ I think she’s a really cool person,” he said.
Plemmons said the students approached the project knowing what they wanted to capture on video, rather than filming everything and finding their story during the editing process.
Plemmons handled most of the producing needs for the video, Owens did much of the filming, and the two students, who have known each other about 10 years, edited together.
“The video is kinda like a story. The things (the subjects) said, point-by-point, came together and fit together really well, I think,” he said.
Plemmons said it was a challenge to cut down some of the footage and lose some good quotes to keep the story clear and concise.
Cristina Kumka, an instructor for video and multimedia communications at Stafford Technical Center, said the “first draft made me cry.”
“(Owens and Plemmons) have enough life-experience now, at the ages of 17 and 15, to differentiate what’s going to be an emotional quote and how to tell the story in an emotional way, and that’s very rare among adolescents, and I think that’s the result of them being involved in the community, their church community volunteerism and doing right by others and giving back,” she said.
Both students are considering video production as a career. Owens already has a video production company through which he makes wedding videos and advertisements.
Melissa Connor, director of Stafford Tech, said she believed Owens and Plemmons were well-positioned as a team to deliver a video on a serious subject shared with the Rutland community in a way many student videos may never be seen.
“It was nice to have a third-year student and a first-year student working together. Gavin’s a tremendous talent and J.J.’s learning from a pro, that’s for sure,” she said.
Mary Cohen, executive director of the chamber, said she expected the video to be posted to the chamber’s website and their Facebook page by the end of the week.