POINT PLEASANT —Though it may not be probable, it is possible for a 1998 graduate of Point Pleasant High School to walk the streets of Normandy to create a film about the sacrifices made on D-Day, nearly 70 years ago.
Sheridan Cleland, creator and owner of Gen 11 Studios of Point Pleasant, found himself traveling from London to Paris and from there to the streets of Normandy to film the documentary “Returning to Normandy,” created for SERKET USA as well as the World War II Foundation and released earlier this year on the 69th anniversary of D-Day. Last month the film won a 2013 Gold Davey Award.
“I was shocked,” said Director and Editor Cleland. “I wasn’t sure if we would win a Davey, but not only did we win, we won their highest honor. To say that the experience of creating, producing, and shepherding this project has left an indelible impression upon me would be a profound, staggering understatement.”
The Davey Awards is an international creative award focused exclusively on honoring outstanding creative work from the best small firms worldwide. Creators of the award describe it as “David defeated the mighty Goliath with a big idea and a little rock. The Davey Awards honors the achievement of the ‘Creative David’s’ where strength comes from ideas, intelligence and out-of-the-box thinking, not a ‘Giant’s’ bankroll.”
Cleland’s journey to Normandy began in April 2012 when SERKET USA representatives contacted him about doing the film which would showcase the unveiling of the Richard Winters Leadership Monument. Major Winters served during the Normandy phase of Operation Overlord during World War II. Winters and the men of Company “E” 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, were made famous by the release of the Stephen Ambrose book and subsequent HBO mini-series “Band of Brothers.”
Cleland’s film ended up being more than the unveiling of a statue but the unveiling of stories of sacrifice, many untold. Stories like that of Al Manpre, a medic who missed out on D-Day because he was ill. Cleland followed Manpre as he walked the Normandy American Cemetery years later - that’s when the trip took on a profound meaning for the local director. Cleland said Manpre would walk the rows and rows of headstones and when seeing a name he knew, stopped to reflect on the person buried there - making that human connection.
“You could see the history (in that moment),” Cleland said, saying he did not film these moments out of respect for Manpre and would walk away to give him the reverence and distance he deserved.
There were other highlights of filming which included meeting veterans associated with D-Day, including the late Frank Perconte whom Cleland flew to Chicago to interview. Unfortunately, Perconte passed away the week the film won the Davey Award.
The 20-minute film can be viewed in its entirety at the Gen 11 Studios website found at http://www.gen11studios.com/.
It’s been a good year for Gen 11 which also win a Silver Davey Award for one of its commercials for Pancho’s Restaurant.
The Davey Awards is judged by the International Academy of the Visual Arts (IAVA), a 600 plus member organization of leading professionals from various disciplines of the visual arts dedicated to embracing progress and the evolving nature of traditional and interactive media. Current IAVA membership represents a “Who’s Who” of acclaimed media, advertising, and marketing firms. The 2013 Davey Awards received nearly 4,000 entries from across the US and around the world.