Throughout the summer, SUNY Oswego students in classes with cinema and screen studies faculty member Jacob Dodd are working on three films about local landmark Fort Ontario. 

"We are working closely with the Fort Ontario team, including Historic Site Manager Paul Lear," said Dodd, an associate professor of cinema and screen studies department. "The film will provide individuals who may not be able to physically travel the Fort's grounds with an up close tour experience of the exhibits and artifacts.”  

The project is made possible by the Shineman Endowed Fund at SUNY Oswego.

Dodd and his class will utilize a 16mm picture format for this project to catch different detail from digital video, providing richer color and texture. 

16mm is a celluloid motion picture film format. 16mm refers to the size of the film frame. It's smaller than 35mm motion picture film, which is the original Hollywood standard film size,” said Dodd. “16mm film was invented in 1923 by the Eastman Kodak company as an amateur format.  It later became the format for education, industry, and independent filmmaking.”

The class is working closely with Fort Ontario staff to capture the extensive history of the landmark. After the necessary film is captured, a different group of students will edit the picture. The post production team will be students enrolled in the fall 2023 “Motion Picture Editing” class. 

Promoting a local gem

Oswego cinema students have worked at the fort for previous projects, and say it was a great educational experience. Ashley Perretta, a cinematography major at SUNY Oswego, worked with the fort to help produce “A History of Fort Ontario,” which was screened at the Oswego Public Library on May 12. 

It was definitely a big-time commitment. So many late nights were spent on my dorm room floor cutting out tiny paper soldiers and cannons,” said Perretta. “Before editing the film, I never knew what a synchronizer was, or how to use an editing table, so that entire process was a learning curve, but so, so rewarding when the film was finished.”

Students currently working with the fort, like Nicholas Campbell, are excited for the opportunity to film at the historic landmark and would recommend it to others who are thinking about a career in film. 

“You are going to learn so much about how cameras work and get great experience with filming on location,” Campbell said. “There is so much to learn about working on location, different camera angles, how to effectively use light and so much more. This project will have everything a future filmmaker will want to get experience with.”

Fort Ontario dates back to the early 1840s, with the current fort built on the ruins of three earlier fortifications which saw three French and Indian War and two War of 1812 battles. The fort served as the only refugee camp in the U.S. for mostly Jewish victims of the Holocaust. In 1946 the fort was transferred to the State of New York and used  to house World War II veterans and their families until 1953. Fort Ontario was opened as a state historic site in 1949. 

Paul Lear, historic site manager for Fort Ontario, sees the benefits for students who decide to work on projects at the historical site and knows the experience can have a positive impact on their futures.  

There are a variety of factors at play but the principal benefits to the students stem from their individual levels of interest, motivation and commitment. Simply put, they get out in experience what they put into a project in sweat, time, and dedication,” said Lear. “We try to give students experiences that they can use for the rest of their lives, whether working in a museum or historic site, or serving on the board of a historical organization.” 

About the Shineman Endowed Fund

The Richard S. and Barbara P. Shineman Foundation and Dr. Barbara P. Shineman made a combined $5 million dollar investment in 2012 to SUNY Oswego. The purpose of the gift was to establish an endowed chair in the Chemistry Department as well as a flexible pool of earnings, managed by a campus committee, to support educational and cultural opportunities. 

The created Shineman Endowed Fund at SUNY Oswego supports collaborative pursuits brought forward by staff and faculty members that will benefit all constituents; SUNY Oswego students, campus community and the Oswego County region. The committee is comprised of campus and Shineman Foundation members charged with reviewing the grant proposals and making recommendations to the university's provost and vice president of university advancement.  

Through spring 2023, this fund has supported more than $283,000 in projects. The next opportunity for funding is fall 2023. Interested campus members may review the parameters and timelines at the Office Research and Sponsored Programs Internal Funding Opportunities web page.

-- Written by Lila Boudissa of the Class of 2023

SUNY Oswego filmmakers work on a project at historic Fort Ontario

SUNY Oswego student filmmakers are working on projects promoting Fort Ontario as part of classes taught by cinema and screen studies faculty member Jacob Dodd. Shown from left are Paul Lear, historic site manager for Fort Ontario; students Quinn Wilson and Shotaro Ogura; and Dodd.