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St. Vincent instructor makes 'home movie' of Roscoe

Joe Napsha
| Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, 5:00 p.m.
David Safin, an assistant professor of communication at St. Vincent College, spent a lot of time on his bicycle in his short film 'A Ride Around Roscoe.'
David Safin, an assistant professor of communication at St. Vincent College, spent a lot of time on his bicycle in his short film 'A Ride Around Roscoe.'

David J. Safin grew up in the Mon Valley town of Roscoe, with a father who loved to take home movies of the family's special events, so it is not surprising that his father's passion for filmmaking rubbed has off on his son.

Safin, an assistant professor of communication at St. Vincent College near Latrobe, produced a homage to his childhood and his hometown this spring in a 6-minute, 22-second film, “A Ride Around Roscoe.”

“I would not have been doing this if it had not been for him,” Safin, 37, said of his father, George Safin.

Safin's father had shot more than 200 hours of home movies, beginning in 1984 and continuing until 1996 when David Safin was 18.

Safin tapped that treasure trove of home movies for his film, which he entered into the Johnstown Film Festival, a film shorts competition, that was held Sept. 10-12 in Johnstown.

“If I can hold someone's attention for 6{ 12} minutes, then I did a good job,” said Safin, whose film also has received over 3,000 views on social media.

As the title of his recent film suggests, Safin makes a film of his bicycle ride around Roscoe, with him pedaling on his mother's bicycle, with a basket in the front, and narrating the story of his youth.

“I've always like to tell stories. Film is a new way to tell a story, whether it is fact or fiction,” said Safin, 37, of Harrison City.

The trip down memory lane for Safin, as well as a trip around town, is interspersed with a healthy dose of clips from the home movies his father took. Among the old movies he used were scenes of youngsters walking in the town's Halloween parade that attracted hundreds of people; events at St. Joseph Catholic Church, where he was baptized, had his confirmation and was an altar boy; and his grandparents' house where he and his brother played wiffle ball and held picnics.

The film includes shots of the building that held a tanning salon he was managing when terrorists attacked the United Stations on Sept. 11, 2001; the house where his parents lived when his older brother was born; the Roscoe Presbyterian Church where tickets to Kennywood amusement park were sold; and the Monongahela River, which rose up to flood River Street in November 1985.

Safin offers a touching piece of philosophy near the end of the film.

“Home – the place where all of life's great journeys begin and end. And back in the day, no matter what I got into, I knew I would always end up back here, back home,” Safin said in his narration.

While Safin's film shows off Roscoe, the scenes of the homes, the businesses, the fire hall and the river are a common thread for other communities in the region.

“It could have been any town along the Mon River. I wanted to make sure I was not telling a history of Roscoe,” Safin said.


Safin caught the filmmaking bug “seeing my Dad recording ourselves as kids and later we would direct them.”

Safin took a drama class at California Area High School and a series of video classes at St. Vincent College and liked it.

Safin, earned a bachelor of arts degree in communication from St. Vincent College and a master of science degree in multimedia technology from California University of Pennsylvania. He also has a master of fine arts in film and digital technology from Chatham University.

He has been a full-time faculty member at St. Vincent for two years, but starting working part-time in 2003 an adjunct faculty member for the communication and history departments and as director of multimedia services, Safin said.

For his “Ride around Roscoe,” Safin said he used a high-adventure camera and mapped out a route around town. He did a lot of bicycling, riding the route four times as he was filmed by a friend riding in a car in front of him at about 15 miles per hour.

Safin believes that anyone with a high-adventure camera can make a movie like he did because “film is for everybody. It has become accessible to everybody.”

With his personal film, Safin has made a “home movie” for a new generation, the baby girl he and his wife, Kate, had this spring.

“These are the little stories she can watch,” Safin said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or

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