Making their mark: Morristown High duo creates videos for national park

Morristown High School juniors Kylee Strasser, left, and Katie Rosa have created a documentary about the Morristown National Historical Park.
Morristown High School juniors Kylee Strasser, left, and Katie Rosa have created a documentary about the Morristown National Historical Park.
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The Morristown National Historical Park is having a pretty good year so far.

In February, a $2.25 million interactive Discover History Center opened at the Washington’s Headquarters Museum.

A Congressional bill this month authorized the addition of 100 acres to the park from willing sellers and donators.

And Morristown High School juniors Katie Rosa and Kylee Strasser have created a video series showcasing all the Revolutionary War history that this park—the first historical park in the United States—has to offer.

“The videos created by the students are absolutely amazing!” said Tom Ross, superintendent of the park. “They really did an excellent, professional job–from the directing and shooting scenes and ‘b-roll,’ to the research and collection of historic images and the final editing and production of the videos.”

Video: Historical Morristown

Rosa and Strasser, students from Michael Butler’s broadcasting classes at the high school, spent three days last fall shooting scenes at sites comprising the park: The Museum, the Ford Mansion, Jockey Hollow and Fort Nonsense.

Using scripts written by the Washington Association of New Jersey,  the students worked through the winter to produce and edit a 10-minute documentary and several shorter versions.

The Park Service intends to link to the videos, and also plans special screenings at the Jockey Hollow Visitor Center and Museum Auditorium, Ross said.

“We are proud to partner with Morristown High School and these terrific young people,” said Eileen Cameron, president of the Washington Association.

MHS filmmaker Katie Rosa, left, chats with Washington Association of NJ President Eileen Cameron, at opening of Discover History Center. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
MHS filmmaker Katie Rosa, left, chats with Washington Association of NJ President Eileen Cameron, at opening of Discover History Center. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“It was a lot of fun. I learned a lot about history, and I learned how to work with other people on a film, which will help me later,” said Rosa, an aspiring filmmaker whose career began when she purloined her mother’s old camcorder to make short movies with her kid brother.

Their early subjects ranged from a princess being captured by a dragon to “a team of ninjas trying to confiscate the peanut butter and jelly from the kitchen of a queen,” recounted Rosa.

She is an active member of Morristown High’s drama crew, and will study filmmaking at Ithaca College this summer.

Strasser has loved movie production “ever since I discovered iMovie in 4th grade.” She was thrilled to discover Morristown High’s award-winning broadcasting department.

“It feels like a little family. Everyone is extremely welcoming, kind and helpful,” said Strasser, who volunteers with the nonprofit SNAP– short for Special Needs Athletic Programs–when she isn’t honing her photo and video skills.

Butler, a former director for Court TV,  said the assignment provided the girls with invaluable real-world experience.

“I think the best thing they did was to work with outside people, outside the friendly confines of the broadcasting department. It was like doing a commercial job. They had to learn to work with a client,” Butler said.

Rosa credits Butler with teaching her about the industry–and about life.

“He’s not only my teacher, he’s my mentor,” she said. “He helped me become a better person. Anyone in his class can say the same.”

One of the students’ new-found fans is retired Judge Kenneth MacKenzie, who appears in one of their segments about the historical park.

In addition to knowing lighting, camera angles, and smart editing, Rosa and Strasser “understood when a re-take was a good idea!” MacKenzie said with big smile.

In fact, he noted, they were a joy to work with in every respect but one.

“They have no driver’s licenses,” the judge said. “Someone had to drive them here.”

Video: The Washington’s Headquarters Museum

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