“The Committee,” a documentary film by a team from UCF, recently won an Emmy for telling the story of a Florida Legislature investigative panel that sought to root out homosexuals from state universities about 50 years ago.
The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in December presented the Suncoast Regional Emmy for Best Historical Documentary to the film, which was a collaborative project that spanned several disciplines.
The 24-minute film was co-directed by Lisa Mills, an associate professor of film, and Robert Cassanello, an associate professor of history, both in the College of Arts & Humanities. The documentary was researched and written by students in their Burnett Honors College advanced documentary class – with backgrounds as diverse as English, accounting, journalism, computer engineering, art, and radio and TV production – and was edited by Aaron Hose, a video producer in UCF’s Center for Distributed Learning.
The film documents the story of the Johns Committee, a little-known investigative panel of the Legislature from 1956 to 1964. The statewide investigation directed by Sen. Charlie Johns lead to more than 200 university students and teachers who were expelled or fired.
Two of the investigation’s victims and an interrogator are interviewed in the film, along with historians, school officials and Bob Graham, a former senator and governor. The film shows the committee’s subversive activities and how the effects of the campaign are still felt today.
“The Committee” has been shown at nearly 20 film festivals nationally and internationally, and won several other awards last year, including Best Documentary at the Love Your Shorts Film Festival in Sanford and the Durban Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in South Africa.
The academy’s Suncoast Chapter recognizes distinguished works produced from Texas to Georgia to Puerto Rico. The film also was nominated for best editing.
To see the film and learn more about its cast and crew, go to the website of the History Department’s RICHES project (Regional Initiative for Collecting the History, Experiences and Stories) of Central Florida: https://riches.cah.ucf.edu/.