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Latrobe grad's documentary explores intimate partner violence

| Tuesday, June 23, 2015, 8:13 p.m.
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Tracy Schott, a graduate of Greater Latrobe High School and Penn State University, spent 15 years as a social worker before deciding to pursue a career in telecommunications.

After years of working with families as a social worker, a Latrobe native is using filmmaking to raise awareness about intimate partner violence.

Tracy Schott, 56, a graduate of Greater Latrobe High School and Penn State University, spent 15 years as a social worker before deciding it was time for a change.

“The other side of my brain needed work; I was always a writer,” she said. “To me, it's always about finding, telling and engaging in the story. I'm interested in motivating peoples' hearts.”

Schott, who lives in Reading, is set to release her first documentary, “Finding Jenn's Voice,” on Saturday at the Pittsburgh Independent Film Festival.

The film is the story of Jennifer Snyder, 27, of Allentown, who was murdered in 2011 by her boyfriend on learning she was pregnant.

The concept for the film originated with Snyder's aunt, Trina Angelovich-Rothrock, who requested that Schott make a documentary on the issue. Schott at first had doubts about the idea.

“My first thought was: ‘Oh, a documentary? That is going to be hard to sell,' ” she said. “But then I did some research.”

Homicide is the leading cause of death of women during pregnancy, according to a study by Dr. Isabelle Horon of the Maryland Department of Health. The study, published in 2001 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was one of many sources Schott used during filming.

She also interviewed some of the top experts on the subject in the country, including researchers from Johns Hopkins and Rutgers universities.

Through fundraisers and donations, she raised about $85,000 to make the film, but fell drastically short of its $300,000 budget. Schott said she and her staff worked without pay for more than two years.

“I think Tracy and her staff did an outstanding job. Not only did they put in their time and money, they put in their hearts,” Angelovich-Rothrock said. “They lived it, they breathed it, they truly embraced the film. I feel very blessed that they would do this for Jenn.”

Angelovich-Rothrock said that although the film was very difficult for both her as well as all of Snyder's family, she hopes it will help others recognize the signs of abuse and get help before it's too late.

Schott interviewed 11 women throughout the course of the film, all of whom had experienced intimate partner violence in some capacity.

Using the skills acquired in her earlier occupation, she believes the film can make a difference.

“I felt like I was a social worker again,” she said. “These 11 women have gone from victims to survivors to advocates.”

With the completion of such a grueling project, Schott said, she would like to do something different for her next film.

“The next project is going to be something fun,” she said. “This project has been very emotional for everyone.”

Matt Faye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at mfaye@tribweb.com.

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