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Windcrossing Film Festival Premieres Independent Films and Honors Legacy of Beloved Professor Don Coonley

NEW LONDON, N.H., March 15, 2012 - The debut of Windcrossing: A Festival of Sight and Sound on April 28 at Colby-Sawyer College will celebrate the legacy of Professor Emeritus Donald E. Coonley, an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and beloved teacher and mentor. In the first of what will become an annual film festival, the college's alumni, faculty, students and friends hope to restore a tradition begun by Coonley of featuring students' original filmmaking.

The first film festival will premiere two independent films, “The Checkup” and “It's Not Not Safe,” adapted from ten-minute plays, and Hammer & Saw's new short film, “Exit 7A.” The festival kicks off Saturday, April 28, at 7 p.m. in the Sawyer Fine and Performing Arts Center. Admission is free.

The idea for a new film festival originated with Colby-Sawyer alumni Mike Mooney '02 and Will Peters '06, award-winning filmmakers and co-founders of Hammer & Saw Films. They wished to honor their former professor and friend Coonley, who introduced them and many other generations of students to filmmaking, while ensuring that his legacy benefits current and future students in the college's Media Studies program.

The short film “The Checkup” is a comedy written and directed by Peters and stars Mike Clark, with Jay Lambert, alumni Kate Lovell '00 and Suzanna Brown '11, and first-year student Zach Matson. The film revolves around a man named Walter who makes a startling discovery: his doctors are not what they appear to be. “The Checkup” was filmed on campus in a nursing laboratory in Colgate Hall.

“It's Not Not Safe,” written and directed by Mooney, stars Charles Moak '12, Aaron Hodge '14 and Jerry Bliss, a retired professor and theater director at Colby-Sawyer, in a comic crime thriller. Filmed at a former bank and jewelry store in Claremont, “It's Not Not Safe” suggests that if time is not on your side, you should get a new watch.

The Hammer & Saw production “Exit 7A” was written by alumnus Asher Ellis '06 and directed by Peters, with alumni actors Ben Watts '03 and Mooney, along with Angela Borrello, Joshua Heggie, Linda Lambert, Jay Lambert and Bliss. In the film, a hitchhiker responds to a driver's question of “Where are you going?” with a stark revelation of her plan to “kill someone who lives off Exit 7A.” The next question comes from the hitchhiker: “Do you think you can stop me?”

Hammer & Saw's 2010 release, “Motel,” written and directed by Peters and featuring Mooney, Watts and Ellis, was shown in the 2010 Vermont International Film Festival, the 2011 New England Film Festival, the Rochester International Film Festival and the Somewhat North of Boston Film Festival, where it won Best Short Comedy and Best of the Best awards.

Windcrossing: A Festival of Sight and Sound celebrates the magic that Professor Coonley put at the center of each student's education, according to Associate Professor of Humanities Donna Berghorn. “By providing an opportunity for students to work closely with alumni, we hope to inspire a true passion for video production and promotion,” Berghorn explained.

Joe Delaney '12, a media studies major and editor of the student newspaper, The Colby-Sawyer Courier, serves as assistant director and editor of “The Checkup” and “It's Not Not Safe.” His work in launching the new festival is part of his senior project.

“It was an amazing and unique opportunity to work with two professional alumni in the field. I learned so much from everyone involved,” Delaney said, “and I couldn't be more grateful to have had the opportunity to use this as my capstone. It wraps up my Colby-Sawyer experience better than anything else I can imagine.”

Coonley, a professor of Humanities and Communication Studies from 1989 to 2008, developed the college's video production program—grounded in the liberal arts with a strong public service component—and its community radio station, WSCS-FM. During his tenure at Colby-Sawyer, Coonley guided students in producing more than 60 community service video projects. Through “Colby-Sawyer Insights,” the student-produced video news program, his students learned as much about storytelling and community service as they did about video production. He often reminded his students that “this is not a video's a communications class that uses video as its medium.”

The film festival pays tribute to the original “Windcrossing” play about a Connecticut aviation pioneer that Coonley wrote and produced in 1980 while he was a professor at Sacred Heart University. Coonley later coproduced a televised version of the play that won an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and a Corporation for Public Broadcasting National Award for Best Local Drama.

Coonley, who resided in New London, N.H., died on June 8, 2011 after a long illness.

To learn about the Media Studies program at Colby-Sawyer and view students' original films, visit

Stay up to date by visiting the Windcrossing Festival's site on Facebook at

Colby-Sawyer College is a comprehensive college that integrates the liberal arts and sciences with professional preparation. Founded in 1837, Colby-Sawyer is located in the scenic Lake Sunapee Region of central New Hampshire.

Colby-Sawyer College, 541 Main Street, New London, N.H. 03257 (603) 526-3000