Spring-Ford alum's award-winning student film shown at Cannes

Sean Gubitosi as Miles in the short film Empty Pages. Imaged used with permission

Spring City’s own Mike McCoy, a 2013 graduate of La Salle University and a 2009 alumnus of Spring-Ford High School, recently enjoyed the very rare pleasure of having his student work entered into what is perhaps the most esteemed film festival in the world – the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France.

McCoy is part of the team that created the five-minute film ‘Empty Pages’, which screened at the Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner on May 22. The other contributors to ‘Empty Pages’ were McCoy’s fellow La Salle graduates, Catherine Zini, Sean Gubitosi, Andrew Groy and Dave Gryzbowski.

This honor is especially sweet for McCoy as his career focus is first and foremost sports broadcasting, with film serving as more of a secondary interest (he graduated from La Salle with a degree in Communications and Mass Media with a minor in Film), and what makes the La Salle quintets’ Cannes showing particularly interesting is that La Salle is not seen as a top institution for film.

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“Our group, we are not really film students but more communications students,” said McCoy. “La Salle is not known as a film school, but we really worked hard on Empty Pages (and) to be able to (screen at Cannes) was very special.”

‘Empty Pages’ tells the fictional story of an author named Miles Baldwin whose writing comes to life before his eyes before everything takes a highly dramatic twist.

“That twist is really what had everyone talking,” McCoy said.

The group began working on their story in early 2012 so that it could be completed in time to enter entered into a film contest, Campus MovieFest, at La Salle in April of 2012.

“We already knew who we were going to cast in the film – Sean (Guibtosi) and Catherine (Zini) – so we sort of based the character personalities off of them,” said McCoy

The group spent over 20 hours filming at Baldwin’s Book Barn in West Chester, PA, and then went through an eight hour editing process to cut their film down to a length of five minutes.

‘Empty Pages’ was so well received at the La Salle festival that it qualified to show at the world’s largest student film festival: the Campus MovieFest Hollywood (CMFH) International Grand Finale Awards in Los Angeles. At CMFH, the film won the award for Best Story, beating out competitors from renowned film-powerhouse schools such as Alabama, USC, and NYU.

“We were put up against people who eat, sleep and breathe film, people who are working in Hollywood, and there we are – these kids from Philadelphia,” McCoy said. “We surprised a lot of people.”

As a result of winning big at CMFH, “Empty Pages” became one of 23 CMFH films that would go on to be screened at the Cannes Short Film Corner.

“It is surreal to have all of this success,” said McCoy. “It goes to show that hard work and dedication makes all the difference. If you have an open mind you can do anything you want.”

Being that the price tag for a flight to Cannes was an unrealistic expense, McCoy was not able to enjoy the festival firsthand. He was, however, able to see some Cannes crowd reactions to his groups’ film online, and while ‘Empty Pages’ did not win any awards at Cannes it was clearly well-received.

“We were very happy to get more recognition for ourselves and for La Salle,” McCoy said. “We get a lot of love from the La Salle people and from our friends and family.”

Having a Cannes film nomination is great for establishing credibility as a filmmaker, and McCoy admitted that he will certainly have the distinction on his resume, but now with school behind him he is going out into the world to establish himself as a sports broadcaster. He has experience as an anchor, reporter, videographer and producer covering top tier sporting events such as the NCAA tournament and the NFL draft.

“With film it can be really tough to pay the bills,” he said with a laugh, “and though I really enjoy (film) I am focusing on my broadcasting career. I love being a sports broadcaster… …putting together highlight reels, and those 10-11 hour days at the stadium.”

McCoy first had his start in broadcasting when he took studio courses in high school at Spring-Ford, where he learned a lot from instructor Cheryl Murgia.

“To have that introduction to broadcasting in high school really helped me, and I never would have done as well as I did at La Salle with it,” McCoy said.

He received additional motivation to enter in the realm of sports broadcasting from the late sports journalist Don Seeley, who was the keynote speaker for the Spring-Ford graduating Class of 2009.

“He spoke at my high school graduation and he got me really motivated,” said McCoy of Seeley. “His speech was something that I will never forget.”

While McCoy has his sights set on broadcasting, he is far from surrendering his passion for film. He he hopes to one day craft documentary-style sports features akin to the ESPN productions ‘30 for 30’ and ‘Outside the Lines’.

“With hard and breaking news – like the sports reporting – the styles are established, but with features you get to put more feeling and emotion into your work. It is emotion that really gets people going and really connects with them. It takes much more time to put together something like that, documentary style, but it touches on more true feelings and puts more of a face to the story. I am really looking forward to when I get to the point in my career where I can make those types of (productions).”

When asked if his Cannes experience was itself a bit of a dramatic story, McCoy offered the following:

“I believe that those who are able to ‘make it’ are the ones who put in extra time and effort. It takes time, effort, and a set idea… … you really need to have a set idea. You can do it as long as you are passionate about your work and your message. The knowledge needed to be able to make films is out there for anyone who wants to learn – the question is ‘how willing are you to sacrifice what you need to so that you can make it happen?’”

In closing, he was certain to offer his thanks to those who have been there for him as a person, student, and professional.

“I want to say thanks to my grandparents and close family. If it was not for their support – their telling me to keep on going and making sacrifices – I would not have been able to accomplish what I have accomplished. I also want to thank (Communications Professor) Brother Gerry Molyneaux at La Salle, because he really had a positive influence on me. He was the one who gave me my first tour of LSU and (provided) the personal attention and instruction that made my time at La Salle so great.”

To view ‘Empty Pages’ online, go to http://www.campusmoviefest.com/movies/14741-empty-pages

The Empty Pages Cast & Crew is:

Mike McCoy - Captain, Director, Editor, Producer

Andrew Groy- Director, Editor, Producer

Catherine Zini- Actress

Sean Gubitosi- Actor

David Grzybowski- Director, Editor, Producer