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Zac Skipp '11: The Man Behind the Scenes

Story posted July 13, 2010

Zac Skipp '11 says he wants to become a filmmaker, but one look at his impressive resume shows he has already spent nearly half his life in that role.

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Zac Skipp '11 calls the shots at Commencement 2009.

At the tender age of 11, he was part of a film crew that produced "Party Animals," an HBO documentary that chronicled the 2000 presidential election.

"I was sitting at home and my cousin's next door neighbor called and said, 'I'm going to Texas to interview George W. Bush. Do you want to film it?'" recalls Skipp.

Cameraman Skipp, director Chaille Stovall, then also 11, and sound technician Elizabeth Farrell, 10, traveled the country to the early primaries and both national conventions, asking how politics was relevant to young people's lives.

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Skipp (with camera) interviews ABC News anchor Peter Jennings.

They spoke with Bush at the Governor's mansion in Austin, Texas, and interviewed Al Gore as he kneeled in the snow during the New Hampshire primary.

Along the way, they became news themselves, appearing on ABC's Good Morning America and on The Rosie O'Donnell Show.

Having endeared themselves to the late ABC World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings, Skipp and his fellow filmmakers found themselves on a mission. Jennings had tipped them off as to where Bush was staying.

"We went and found Bush and actually got into the hotel and interviewed him in the hallway," says Skipp.

Newspapers coast to coast carried photos of the young film crew's interview with Vice President Al Gore as he campaigned at the New Hampshire primary in 2000.

Great get, right? There's a "but." A big one.

The sound girl hadn't replaced the batteries in the microphone, leaving them with absolutely no audio from the conversation with the soon-to-be President of the United States.

"She didn't come on the next trip."

But kids can be forgiven, because they are, after all, just kids, even if they are playing with the big boys.

"We were running around, breaking the rules, being kids," Skipp says, "and getting yelled at by a woman from The New York Times, because we were being too loud in the back of Al Gore's campaign bus."

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Skipp (back), with director Chaille Stovall, graces the cover of Weekly Reader magazine. The crew also appeared in newspapers across the country and on Good Morning America and The Rosie O'Donnell Show.

That same year Skipp also worked on "The Big Ouch," an HBO Family documentary that followed a young girl through chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.

A Miami native, Skipp was bitten by the film bug at an early age, so he has had a lot of time to learn from mistakes (like the self-proclaimed disaster he encountered while shooting a friend's wedding) and to focus on the direction he wants the story of his life to take.

"I came to Bowdoin because I didn't want to go to film school right away. If you go to a big school for film studies, you focus on that, but if you go to a liberal arts school, you see everything," says Skipp, an art history and Spanish major with a film studies minor.

"I know I want to be a filmmaker, but I wanted to be educated about the world and not just one thing."

ESPNU aired a segment Skipp edited about Bowdoin's historic Zamboni ice resurfacer, affectionately known as "The Monster," February 1, 2009, as part of the sports network's "Campus Connection" series.

His sophomore year, Skipp served as general manager at BCN, a position he'll resume this fall. He has also produced the Commencement video and edited the video shown during the College's Climate Days.

Skipp, along with Kaitee Daley '09, produced a segment about "The Monster," Bowdoin's historic Zamboni — one of the oldest collegiate ice-resurfacing machines in the country — that aired on ESPNU as part of the sports network's Campus Connections series.

Video produced by Skipp was shown during Bowdoin's Climate Days, held April 9-10, 2009.

The duo also produced a video commemorating the centennial of Robert E. Peary's historic trip to the North Pole, which appeared on ESPN's Web site.

Skipp is spending part of the summer in New York City for an eight-week internship with Jigsaw Productions, whose "Taxi to the Darkside" won the Oscar for best documentary in 2008.

While Skipp's earliest productions were documentaries, he envisions a future in feature films.

"I just think it's a lot of fun to start with nothing — an idea — and then see where it goes."

In the production of the life before him, Skipp is hardly starting with nothing, but where he goes will certainly be something to see.

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I just think it's a lot of fun to start with nothing - an idea - and then see where it goes.
— Zac Skipp '11