Jerry Sandusky's blue eyes have graced front pages and flashed across TV screens since the news of his arrest broke last November. But Altoona native and 1996 Penn State graduate Kelly Dolak aims to tell the story of the scandal through different eyes - those of the students and the community.
Dolak, a documentary filmmaker and film professor, has spent the past seven months shooting a documentary about the Sandusky child molestation scandal called "No Act of Ours."
Dolak was living in the Ithaca, N.Y., area when she heard the news about the arrest. She dropped everything, drove to State College and started thinking about ways to capture the situation on film.
Altoona native and Penn State alumna Kelly Dolak shoots a Penn State football game for her forthcoming documentary, “No Act of Ours,” a look at the Sandusky scandal. She hopes to release the documentary in mid-2013.
"Being an Altoona native, and also being a Penn State alum, I knew the impact the situation might have on the community," Dolak said. "I really wanted to be there and capture it."
On the drive down, Dolak said she thought about which angle she should take and which questions she should try to answer through the film. Upon arriving on campus and beginning to interview students, faculty and community members, it didn't take her long to decide.
"The main focus is the question of loyalty," she said, bringing up the documentary's tagline - "Does loyalty limit the reach of our morality?" - a quote from one of the film's interviewees. "I noticed that word was being repeated in almost every interview I conducted. It was either 'I'm still loyal to Penn State' or 'I'm not loyal to Penn State anymore. I'm really disappointed with what happened here.'"
Dolak's last documentary, called "Post-cards from Tora Bora," was a look at how war can impact a family, and required her to spend four months in Afghanistan. She said she originally thought that working on "No Act Of Ours" would be completely different from "Postcards," but she was surprised by how similar and even more difficult it's been to tell the story of the scandal.
"There is so much emotion and so many different viewpoints on the issue and so much to cover that it's challenging to keep up with," she said. "Every day, there is something new coming out about the scandal."
Unable to wield her camera in the courtroom as the Sandusky trial unfolded last month, Dolak instead decided to follow two Penn State journalists from student-run blog Onward State as they worked to cover the trial in Bellefonte.
"[I wanted] to capture what it is like to be a student blogger alongside, you know, the New York Times, Huffington Post, NBC," she said. "To be a student next to these big media outlets, how do you do that? What's the experience?"
Kevin Horne, a Penn State junior and the managing editor of Onward State who will appear in the documentary, said he did approximately 10 interviews with Dolak aside from what she shot during the trial.
"We would run outside and she'd be waiting there with a camera and film us during the hectic moments," said Horne, 20, of Williamsport.
Horne added he's glad that Dolak decided to focus the documentary on the student perspective, as many of the major media outlets have ignored that part of the story.
"The student reaction to this whole thing hasn't really been shown in a national way," Horne said. "The two student media outlets are putting out great stuff, but we haven't seen the New York Times saying Penn State students are feeling this way.
"There were 40,000 students at Penn State last year. ... That's a story that needs to be told, I think."
Eric Silver, a professor of sociology at Penn State whom Dolak interviewed for the documentary, said he wanted to support her project because she seemed interested in drawing out hidden lessons that we can all learn from the situation, and telling the story in a way that all people can relate to.
"I got the sense that she was genuinely interested and curious about what happened, and about seeing it from as many perspectives as possible," he said.
Silver added that he respects Dolak for taking the "leap of faith" to start the documentary, as well as for telling it from the community's perspective.
"The main narrative of crime and punishment is what the media has picked up on," he said. "What's left out is how this has been experienced by the tens of thousands of people who have been affected by it, but have had nothing to do with it."
Dolak hopes to continue shooting the documentary for three or four more months, continuing through the trials for Gary Schultz and Tim Curly. She estimates a mid-year 2013 release date.
With the overall budget for the film capped at $200,000, Dolak currently has a $15,000 Kickstarter campaign that she launched in an effort to help pay the film crew and start on some preliminary editing.
"We're all working for free right now because we really believe in the story," she said. "[The money] is not going to finish it, but it's really going to help."
Dolak said she thinks "No Act of Ours" will resonate with all film-going audiences, not just Penn State students and alumni. She also hopes it will strike an emotional chord.
"It's an emotional story and there's just a lot of emotion and anger that the community is experiencing," she said. "I hope the film gives you the experience of coming in thinking one thing and going out thinking something else."
To find out more about "No Act of Ours," visit the documentary's website at www.noactofours.com. To donate to the film's Kickstarter campaign,visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/991139385/no-act-of-ours-film before 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.