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Sara Ziegler: Childhood Hobby Becomes Sophisticated Craft

When the Communication Department at CCSU wanted to develop a promotional video about its state-of-the-art television production program, Dr. Karen Ritzenhoff, associate professor of communication, turned to a video veteran: communication major Sara Ziegler, who has been making videos since she was eight. Ritzenhoff said, “Sara is not only an enthusiastic, devoted, and passionate student, she is also a high achiever and meets her goals with comparative ease.” Ziegler teamed with fellow communication major Lance Cortez to produce a high-quality seven-minute video that drew positive attention to the communication program. The video is just one of the highlights in the academic career of Ziegler, who is the first of her family to attend college.

Learning the Craft
In fall 2001, Ritzenhoff encouraged Ziegler to apply for a 10-day trip to Siracusa, Sicily, scheduled for the following spring, to produce another short video. Ziegler had never traveled before and was excited about the opportunity. When she arrived in Siracusa, she decided to produce a video focused on a distinctive cultural difference between Sicily and the U.S.—the marketplace, a vitally important part of life for Sicilians, who daily visit the marketplace in order to buy fresh produce, meats, and breads. “I was helped by a local who took me under his wing and helped me break the language barrier while showing me the details of his store and his regular customers,” said Ziegler.  “The Sicily trip was the best experience in video production because it taught me to think on my feet and create original ideas.”

A Career-starting Internship at UConn Health Center
While making promotional videos at college, Ziegler also found time to intern at UConn Health Center in fall 2002 in its video communications department. She produced programs broadcast by satellite throughout the Health Center and neighboring hospitals. Ziegler’s supervisor at UConn Health Center, Bill Hengstenberg, said, “Sara’s attention to detail and quality of work was outstanding. She is a quick learner and one of the few interns in whom I am confident a project will get done quickly and successfully.” Ziegler was permanently hired at the end of her internship. 

A Producer Since Childhood
Ziegler has been making small independent movies since she was eight years old. She teamed up with her sister and friends, borrowed her father’s video camera, and let her creative ideas produce miniature masterpieces. Ziegler’s first and favorite self-made movie is a 20-minute video titled The Past. It features a murderous police chief who sends his rookie detectives to investigate his crime. The chief believed that he concealed all evidence, but his crime is discovered by his partner, and the chief is sent to jail. “We reinvented this movie five or six times because we loved the plot so much. We used the same tape and almost wore it out!” Sara and her friends have made 20 to 30 movies collectively and continue to shoot video. The Sword is their most recent movie, produced in winter 2002, with most of the original video crew taking part.

Sara never expected to follow her childhood hobby to a rewarding career. She recalls the day her high school history teacher inquired about her college aspirations. “I suddenly remembered my hobby and thought ‘I want to make films,’” said Ziegler. “I did not want to go to film school and did not want to be far from home, so when I heard about Central’s excellent Communication Department I knew it was the right college for me. Dr. Ritzenhoff constantly pushed me in the right direction and gave me the confidence I needed. CCSU has the professors, equipment, and resources to give any student a complete communication education. The program was truly a steppingstone to higher education in film.”


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