Production of two films documenting Penn State following the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal will begin this week, but the similarities stop there.
Los Angeles-based filmmaker John Ziegler’s “The Framing of Joe Paterno” will be a commentary film focused on the national media’s portrayal of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno — a picture Ziegler thinks paints a “fraudulent narrative.”
The other documentary, a locally produced film called “365 Days,” will be a hyper-local look into State College and how the town attempts to overcome the adversity placed in front of it.
Ziegler, who made media-critical films such as “Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected and Palin Was Targeted,” said he was drawn to this story because of the nature of the coverage by the national media.
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“My main passion is media and the media coverage,” he said. “In this case, it’s the worst I’ve ever seen in any story of my life.”
He said he specifically has a problem with the media’s use of Paterno as a scapegoat. He added that the other main goal is to find out what really happened at Penn State.
Ziegler said he will attempt to interview people such as members of the board of trustees, former football players, media members and university employees. He said he has contacted the Paterno family, but he will not publicly comment on its status regarding the film.
His filming kicked off Tuesday when he went with former Penn State running back Franco Harris to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block’s office to discuss Block’s role in approving the Penn State NCAA sanctions.
Though Ziegler lives 3,000 miles away from Penn State, he described State College as the “epicenter” of the film, and he will be making multiple trips to Pennsylvania.
He couldn’t give a time frame on the release date, but said it likely would be after the Tim Curley and Gary Schultz trials early next year.
Conversely, the “365 Days” crew will be pouring all of its resources into the State College area. Local producer Eric Porterfield is teaming up with Texas-based director Erik Proulx to show how the town recovers from adversity.
The team will spend a full year documenting all the angles of life in State College, talking to residents, alumni, store owners, students and university employees to see how the community can bounce back.
“The walls can’t speak for themselves, so we have to find people to tell their stories,” Proulx said.
The first of the 365 days will be Saturday for the football game against Ohio University. Porterfield said his team has been given access to Beaver Stadium by the university, but terms have not yet been disclosed.
“It’s a great step forward just to have the university open its doors to an independent film crew,” he said.
Proulx said his passion has been the theme of people overcoming obstacles. His film “Lemonade Detroit,” which he said will be similar to this one, profiled the Michigan city after the collapse of the auto industry.
Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter@MetroMattMorgan.