Crafton resident promotes Edgar Allan Poe in film
Thad Ciechanowski of Crafton graduated from Canevin High School (now Bishop Canevin) and then received his bachelor’s degree in communications from Robert Morris University. He has gone on to a career as a video editor, director and camera operator, currently employed at a small ad agency in Pittsburgh.
First beginning to love classic literature in high school as taught by his 12th grade English teacher, Ralph Holzer, he started picturing Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Cask of Amontillado,” as a film. He eventually wrote a script with his creative partner, Frank Tirio, and producer Joe Serkoch.
“Lots of renditions of Poe’s stories are old, modern adaptations loosely based on the original or are of poor quality, so I wanted to make a film that was period consistent with the story and good,” said Ciechanowski.
The group made the film for educational purposes and structured it so that it was useable in a classroom. The entire package includes lesson plans, worksheets, vocabulary, easy stopping points in the film for discussion purposes, and a film run time of 15-20 minutes. His wife, Season, a former teacher, writes the lesson plans and other accompanying educational materials.
The self-funded film won an Emmy in 2013 for best education program. Their next film, based on Poe’s “The Raven,” was awarded an Emmy in 2015 for best educational program and was additionally nominated in the craft categories of best editing and best original music composition.
Once the film is funded, it takes about 6-8 months from pre-production to completion. They contract with about 20-30 people to work on the production which includes actors, crew people, musicians and more.
“Funding can take years and is the most difficult and restrictive part of this process,” stated Ciechanowski.
He has since partnered with the Poe Museum in Richmond, Va. to use their scholastic expertise as well as make connections with the other Poe historic sites located in Baltimore, the Bronx (NY) and Philadelphia. The two films are distributed across the United States via Discovery Education, Follett Library Resources, Amazon and their own website.
Educators may purchase each film on DVD for $29.95 or for $17.95 through Ciechanowski’s website. The DVDs come with all the educational materials on the disc. Teachers can also purchase a digital version for $9.99 on Amazon or on Vimeo with the lesson plans available on his website free of charge under the downloads section.
He is currently in the process of raising funds to be able to produce another well-known Poe short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart.” About 50-percent of the necessary funds to date have been raised. Ciechanowski’s goal is to make multiple films at once rather than one every few years. On the drawing board are “The Black Cat,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and “The Mask of the Red Death.”
To make a contribution, visit www.PoeMovies.com. Ciechanowski also encourages more teachers to visit the website to use his educational films in the classroom.
Charlotte Smith is a Tribune-Review contributing writer. You can reach Charlotte at 724-693-9441 or email@example.com.