UPDATE: The documentary by UNCSA School of Filmmaking students and alumni will be completed this fall to be part of the Carolinas Aviation Museum's permanent "Miracle on the Hudson" exhibit, scheduled to open Jan. 15, 2011. See the teaser trailer for the documentary here

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June 8, 2011/FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE / High-res photo available upon request
Media Contact: Marla Carpenter, 770-3337, carpem@uncsa.edu





WINSTON-SALEM – Students from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) School of Filmmaking are documenting a piece of history as it moves down the Eastern seaboard. The plane that safely landed in New York’s Hudson River in January 2009 is finally reaching its intended destination of Charlotte, and the student filmmakers are documenting the journey.

Student cinematographers Devin Forbes of Raleigh, Aaron Gantt of Albemarle and Kevin Johnson of Cary, along with recent graduate and sound editor Andrew Brzozowski of Chapel Hill, are interning with Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, where the Airbus A320 will be on permanent exhibition. It has been stored at a warehouse in Kearney, N.J., since being pulled from the water.

The plane was operating as US Airways Flight 1549 to Charlotte when a flock of geese struck both engines, causing it to lose power shortly after takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Jan. 15, 2009. The pilot, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, made an emergency landing in the Hudson River, and all 155 passengers escaped safely. The incident has been labeled “Miracle on the Hudson.”

The student filmmakers are documenting the 600-mile journey south in a convoy of trucks and vehicles – including a 120-foot-long custom-built flatbed trailer – with a police escort. They left New Jersey on June 5 and are expected to arrive in Charlotte on Friday, June 10. Along the way, the caravan is making several stops to allow the public to view the plane.

Chase Car

The chase car sitting at the UNCSA School of Filmmaking with downtown Winston-Salem in the background. L-R: Kevin Johnson, John LeBlanc (faculty adviser), Kate Miller (staff member/internship coordinator), Devin Forbes, Aaron Gantt, and Andrew Brzozowski.

“This is pretty amazing,” said Forbes from the passenger seat of the film crew’s car. “When we were told it was the plane that landed in the Hudson, we thought that was cool, but we didn’t know we would be this involved.”

Sound editor Brzozowski, who graduated from UNCSA on May 28, echoed those sentiments. “We had no idea it was going to be this big of a deal,” he said, adding that the crowd response has been overwhelming. “It seems like in some towns, every person in that town shows up to see the plane.”

The trip has garnered national media attention, including coverage on NBC’s Today Show and in The New York Times, but the UNCSA film crew is excited to be closest to the action. “We are closer than any single media news source,” Brzozowski said. 

The film crew maintains constant radio contact with the driver hauling the plane. “We’re getting all of it. We have exclusive coverage,” Brzozowski said.

J. Supor & Son Trucking and Rigging – which pulled the plane from the river, stored it for two years, and is donating the move south – has created a web page with real-time tracker (http://www.jsupor.com/ ). Details of the trip are also available on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/#!/ft1549) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/CarolinAirMusem).

The current collaboration between UNCSA and the museum began late last summer, when museum president Shawn Dorsch contacted the School of Filmmaking about the project. The museum had previously provided use of a former Piedmont Airlines DC-3 plane as a prop for the Academy Award-winning short film, TWO SOLDIERS, on which School of Filmmaking students worked.

School of Filmmaking Dean Jordan Kerner – who is a Hollywood producer whose credits include CHARLOTTE’S WEB, SNOW DOGS, FRIED GREEN TOMATOES and the upcoming THE SMURFS, which is in theatres July 29 – has been enthusiastic in his support for the project, calling it “culturally significant.”

Kate Miller, who arranges internships for the film school, said the schedule for moving the plane has changed a few times, but the plan finally came together in a way that made the internships possible.

The student filmmakers left campus for New Jersey on June 3 in a car provided by the museum, labeled “Official chase vehicle for US AIRWAYS Flight 1549” and bearing logos of UNCSA, UNC-Charlotte, and the museum. (UNC-C mechanical engineering students have built the stand that will ultimately display the plane in the museum.)

During the trip, the film students have been filming interviews with Dorsch, crowd reactions, and details of the journey. They will document the plane’s arrival in Charlotte, including survivor interviews and a gala fund-raising event with Sullenberger as guest speaker, on Saturday.

Back at UNCSA, the students will work throughout the fall semester with faculty adviser John LeBlanc and others to edit their footage and complete the documentary film, which is slated for the museum exhibit.

The permanent exhibit is expected to open Jan. 15, 2012, on the third anniversary of the flight. In addition to the documentary, the exhibit will include passenger artifacts and details of the federal investigation into the event. Carolinas Aviation Museum is located at Charlotte /Douglas International Airport.

There also has been discussion about the students’ footage being used by the Discovery Channel. Japanese and Canadian television companies are documenting the trip, too.

The student filmmakers said the trip has been an invaluable learning experience so far, about making a film, and about working in the real world. Brzozowski noted, “One day, we didn’t eat for 16 hours. We had to figure out how to get meals.

“I’m really proud of us four.”  

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts is the first state-supported, residential school of its kind in the nation. Established as the North Carolina School of the Arts by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, UNCSA opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. More than 1,100 students from high school through graduate school train for careers in the arts in five professional schools: Dance, Design and Production (including a Visual Arts Program), Drama, Filmmaking, and Music. UNCSA is the state’s only public arts conservatory, dedicated entirely to the professional training of talented students in the performing, visual and moving image arts. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.