Professor Jason Schmitt never planned to become a documentary filmmaker.

Yet, this past summer, he and his two-man film crew, which included Clarkson alumnus Zachary Brunelle ’17, traveled to a host of cities — London, Toronto, Washington, DC, New York City and Boston — interviewing leaders within the open access movement for his upcoming film, “Paywall: The Business of Scholarship.”

Schmitt says that he fell into the video field by chance – a result of a project following his PhD dissertation.

“Once I got into documentary filmmaking and interviewing, I saw the excitement, energy and power behind it,” says Schmitt, an associate professor in the Department of Communication and Media. “I was immediately intrigued both from the storytelling side as well as the artistic side. Documentaries are a great, creative way to have an impact on an audience – and, sometimes, it’s a pretty profound impact.”

Funded through a grant from the Open Society Foundation, “Paywall: The Business of Scholarship,” which Schmitt plans to release in September 2018, explores the profit-driven publishing industry and how it hinders access to current research due to pervasive paywalls, particularly hindering developing nations. While scientists and academics are aware of the paywall phenomenon, Schmitt stresses that the film is not aimed at that audience. Instead, the film is intended for general society and the reasons they should care about obtaining open access to research.

“There’s never been a more pertinent time to talk about open access because everyone has the digital tools to share information around the globe at no cost,” says Schmitt. “The access to knowledge is a vital concern for society. “

This winter, Schmitt will be wrapping up the majority of his filming and begin editing the interviews and crafting the final film.

“My goal is to raise awareness and create an opportunity for people to learn about open access and academic publishing through a different media,” says Schmitt who practices what he preaches through the courses he teaches at Clarkson. These include Digital Video Production and an Intro to Social Media class that includes digital storytelling and social media campaigns, which brings Schmitt’s real-life experience full circle.

“I always tell my class that the ability to create rich media is something that all employers are looking for regardless of the position that you're applying for,” says Schmitt, who works closely with Clarkson students, like Brunelle and Emily Fountain ’17, who assisted Schmitt on media campaigns during the early stages of his documentary.

“It's a win-win scenario. I get to have great students and students get to work on grant-funded projects where they gain real resume experience and credibility that leads directly to career success.”

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