All College

Alumnus videographer Jacob Schmiedicke (’09) has brought the story of Irish advocate Daniel O’Connell to life in a new independent film, The Liberator. Produced with the aid of numerous Thomas Aquinas College alumni and friends, the project allowed Mr. Schmiedicke and his collaborators to fulfill some lifelong dreams.

“I’ve been interested in filmmaking since I was in high school, making movies in the backyard with my parents’ camcorder,” Mr. Schmiedicke remembers. “I’ve always preferred the dramatic, Hollywood style of filmmaking.” He nurtured his craft during his four years at the College. “I continued filmmaking as a hobby, making short films and skits that we could show at school dances and entertainment.”

Jacob Schmiedicke (’09)
Jacob Schmiedicke (’09)

As it happens, the College’s program of Catholic liberal education transformed filmmaking from a hobby to a high art. “The education obviously wasn’t in the technical aspects of filmmaking, but I learned things that were more important to a filmmaking artist like myself,” says Mr. Schmiedicke. “Things like meaning, story, theme, human nature, the nature of God, the nature of reality. Studying those helped me to form a vision of what I wanted to be as a filmmaker. I wanted to be more than just technically proficient; I wanted to tell meaningful stories.”

After graduating in 2009, and after several years of working other jobs, Mr. Schmiedicke elected to pursue filmmaking professionally and founded his own production company, StoryQuest Video, in 2015. “I started by doing promo videos, commercials, music videos, anything that came along,” he recalls, adding with a laugh, “Being newly married with children on the way, I wasn’t terribly picky! I needed to pay the bills, but still wanted to use my technical and storytelling skills.” Fortunately, those skills were much in demand — including by Thomas Aquinas College. “I did some videos for the Admissions Department. It’s been an honor to work with the alma mater, and to keep telling the story of the College.”

Those videos caught the attention of Bill McCann, father of one alumna and one current student — Nora (CA’20) and Niamh (NE ’23). “Back in 1985, I was an undergraduate exchange student at the University College in Cork, Ireland,” says Mr. McCann. “It was there and then that I first encountered this figure of Daniel O’Connell. As I learned more about him, it seemed to me that the story of his life and the people he led might be well told in a film.”

Mr. Schmiedicke was just the artist to bring that story to life. “Bill reached out to me,” he says. “He said, ‘I need someone with filmmaking experience to help. Is that anything you’re interested in?’” The answer was obvious: “I jumped at the chance to get back to my roots and do some creative filmmaking.”

The Schmiedicke family moved to Massachusetts for the summer of 2021, cameras and other equipment in tow. “We shot the film over a period of six weeks,” says Mr. McCann, who not only directed the film but also starred as Daniel O’Connell. Other alumni in the cast include Dr. Rick Cross (CA’75), Clarke Mitchell (CA’11), Molly (White CA’87) Smillie, Kevin Murphy (NE’22), Thomas Froula (CA’21), Tim Hartzell (CA’17), as well as Mr. McCann’s daughters. Even after the filming was finished, there was much work to do. “Jake spent much of the next year editing,” Mr. McCann recalls, “and we added a beautiful score.”

After years of planning and production, The Liberator premiered in Massachusetts this past August to an audience of 600, fulfilling more than one long-cherished dream. For Mr. McCann, the story of Daniel O’Connell had finally been told; and for Mr. Schmiedicke, his handiwork was shimmering on the big screen. “It was cool to see the film finally in its polished form, in a real movie theater, surrounded by hundreds of audience members.”

But he cannot help but add, with a smile, “It brought me back to my TAC days, when we would roll out the projector and put one of our funny skits up onscreen at the dances.”

For those interested in watching, The Liberator will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray available for order through the film’s website in the next few weeks.