Kent State Interns Collaborate with Alumnus on Princess Diana Documentary Sequel
For future filmmakers and video production professionals, there’s almost nothing like being immersed in the film industry in Los Angeles: the creative energy, the professional connections and the buzz of activity.
During summer 2023, that dream learning environment came to life for four Kent State Media and Journalism students who interned in Los Angeles at 1895 Films, an Emmy and Peabody award-winning film and documentary company co-founded by alumnus Tom Jennings, ‘85.
Digital Media Production students Alexandria Thompson, ‘24, Michael Gregory, ‘23, Hala Fawzi Issa Al Busaidi, ‘24, and Brooke Knapp, ‘24, spent six weeks working with Jennings at his production company that specializes in documentaries and branded content. While there, the students got to focus on and see first-hand the research, production and effort that goes into producing award-winning documentaries.
They also heard from other professionals in Los Angeles — a sound tech on American Ninja Warrior and an editor for The Voice, to name a few. Jennings, who got his start at the School of Media and Journalism, and other 1895 Films employees mentored the Kent State students.
“Tom really made an effort to make sure our input was heard, and even though he was busy, he had one-on-ones with us to hear our opinions,” said Gregory, one of the Kent State interns.
While there, students worked on five to 10 projects in development, including a sequel to one of Netflix’s top-ten most-watched documentaries, “Diana: In Her Own Words” (2017).
The 1895 Films sequel in production, “Diana: The Rest of Her Story,” and the original documentary, come from never-before-heard audio recordings between Princess Diana and her close friend. The sequel focuses on Princess Diana’s mental health, her two sons, Princes William and Harry and her relationship with her stepmother.
The interns were tasked with pulling plot lines and key information, while removing material already used from the recordings.
Jennings announced the upcoming documentary on Good Morning America earlier this month — a segment the interns helped prep him for before they left Los Angeles.
Thompson, another Kent State intern, said prepping Jennings for the Good Morning America segment and working on the documentary sequel were some of her favorite parts of the internship.
“It was just such a cool thing to work on historically,” she said.
The four students also went on excursions to significant and educational places in the film industry, including a costume and prop warehouse filled with items from different time periods. They also visited art museums and worked with the company and Jennings on an actual set for a brand content shoot.
While there, the interns were given creative freedom to pursue their own projects. Gregory created a one-minute short film that others at 1895 Films helped him with and included real actors. His casting call had more than 50 applicants.
“The internship and the people really nurtured our creativity,” said Gregory. “Tom even helped me with writer’s block for another project that’s really important to me.”
To his surprise, one class that helped prepare Gregory for the internship was his ethics class. While at the internship, they began experimenting with AI-generated voices of famous figures like Malcolm X and Abraham Lincoln. This opened discussions about the ethics behind this, which Gregory really enjoyed and was able to participate in.
Thompson is currently enrolled in Production II, the digital media production capstone course. She says she feels more prepared for it, thanks to her summer experience, because it mimics her real-world experience in Los Angeles.
“It was kind of the best internship you could ask for. Everyone was so nice, and it wasn’t too demanding, but you still got a lot of great experience and got to learn a lot of great things,” she said.