Heart through the lens
Dave Reiss, associate professor in the department of electronic media and film has always been inspired by stories and films that touch the heart.
This year, Reiss was recognized for his documentary “Swirl for a Girl” about Carman Lay, a graduate Maryland School for the Blind. Reiss won the Best of Competition in the Promotional Faculty Video category at the 2013 Broadcast Education Association Festival of Media Arts.
Reiss’ neighbors, Gary and Tricia Lay, lost Carman to Aicardi Syndrome in 2009.
Carman was diagnosed at birth with the rare genetic disorder that typically only affects females. Approximately 800 cases in the United States have been reported, according to aicardisyndrome.org.
After Carman’s death, the Lay family decided to develop an endowment fund for the MSB and create The Carman Lay Foundation, according to the foundation’s website. Reiss said that the foundation so far has funded a music teacher for the MSB in memory of Carman’s love of music.
“I knew about the foundation, as all our neighbors are close—but had no idea how deep the story would go,” Reiss said. “The film is used on their website for outreach and fundraising, and a shorter version is shown at all of the Carman Lay Foundation events,” Reiss said. “I feel very lucky since I work the video screening during these events, and get to see up close how people react to the film. As a filmmaker—seeing your work reach an audience in a positive way is the best reward.”
When Reiss first came to teach at Towson University in 2005, he also worked on a film about Salvatore Aquia, a champion wrestler at the University of Maryland who died in a car accident at age 25. Aquia’s family “channeled their grief into action,” according to Reiss and the family raised over $50,000 for a memorial in their son’s name.
“For that film I included my students as volunteer crew, and held a private screening with the students and family once the film was finished. Watching the family thank each of my students for their efforts on Sal’s behalf was another thing I will never forget,” Reiss said.