For media technician, Appeal is not only a job but a mission

By Dave Jolivet, Anchor Editor

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FAIRHAVEN, Mass. — Dave Fortin, of Media Image Productions, Inc., based in Fairhaven, and his wife Anne first became involved with the Diocese of Fall River’s Catholic Charities Appeal nearly 20 years ago.

“We did our first Appeal video in 1996,” Fortin told The Anchor. “Since then, my wife and I have videotaped at ministries throughout the diocese on a yearly basis.”

Producing and editing the many videos over that last 19 campaigns has left an indelible mark on Fortin’s heart and soul. “When I told my wife The Anchor was looking for some feedback from me, she commented that even though this is a ‘job,’ it has actually become a ‘ministry’ for me,” he said. “And I guess she is accurate in saying that. The amount of time and effort I put in each year is staggering. And no matter how much you try to get done ‘early,’ in those last four weeks before the kickoff of the Appeal, I end up working long days, seven days a week. I take this very seriously, and try to do my best to make sure everything is just right.”

Fortin is very good at his job, but it’s not just the finished product that he’s concerned about when it comes to the Appeal audios and videos. “My wife and I have four children and three grandchildren. Each year, we come away from these interviews feeling blessed. We see first-hand the difficulties people can have in life. And we come away feeling proud to be part of this diocese, and proud of being able to have a hand in raising the money to make these services possible.”

This year the Fortins shot more than 15 hours of video at 25 diocesan locations, conducting 55 interviews with folks who help those in need and those who are receiving assistance thanks to the many donations to the Charities Appeal. In all it took approximately 200 hours of post-production editing to make the 15 audio and 21 video programs, recorded in English, Portuguese and Spanish, used in this year’s Appeal.

“At least once a year, someone I am interviewing looks directly into my eyes and says, ‘If it wasn’t for [your donations/this agency], I would be dead,’” Fortin told The Anchor. “You can’t imagine the feeling. Being in that room, having that person look directly at you, and saying those words. It has come from women coming out of prison. Young mothers who had been living on the streets with their children. A construction worker who ended up homeless and ready to give up on life. The diocese has positively affected the lives of so many people. And working on this video strongly influences my life. It really puts anything that is happening in my life into perspective.”

Fortin has seen, and felt, a gamut of emotions from the people who have appeared on the Appeal programs since 1996, and he’s quick to credit the hard-working, dedicated faithful who work and volunteer for a plethora of diocesan ministries. “The people who work for the agencies and apostolates are extremely caring and dedicated,” said Fortin. “They are the ones who arrange for the ‘clients’ to be interviewed. Without these first-hand testimonies we couldn’t create these videos. Not only do the directors of these shelters and housing programs welcome us into their facilities, we get to see how great they are with the people they serve, and how they change people’s lives.”

Despite the multitude of hours he puts into each campaign, Fortin credits those with whom he works for the highly-polished and moving finished products.

He praises the efforts of James A. Campbell, director of the Appeal, the diocesan Development Office and the St. Mary’s Fund; and John E. Kearns Jr., director of the diocesan Office of Communications.

He also credits a litany of diocesan faithful for lovingly reaching out to their peers across the diocese to help those in need. 

“Year in and year out we receive great cooperation from everyone in the diocese,” Fortin said. “Arlene McNamee at Catholic Social Services opens up her agency for us. She coordinates with the directors of the shelters and everyone at the various CSS offices. Claire McManus from the Office for Faith Formation is always helpful in guiding us to the best times and places to capture the great work done by her office and their ministries. 

“This list of people who helped pave the way for the success of this year’s Appeal videos is long, and I’m afraid to start listing people, for fear of leaving someone out. However, without the help of people like Father David Frederici, diocesan director of Campus Ministries; Father Rodney Thibault, director of Pastoral Care; and Cheryl Gallerani and Claudia Kennedy at the CSS office in Hyannis, we couldn’t do what we do.”

This campaign, Fortin had a new ally in the fight against poverty, hunger, abuse, addiction and other evils facing diocesan brothers and sisters. “Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., had a big role, since he recorded all 15 audio CDs, and was featured on-camera in all 21 videos,” explained Fortin. “In addition to the time he spent reviewing and editing the scripts, he came to our studio in Fairhaven for an intensive three-and-a-half-hour recording session. We shot ‘green screen’ video segments for the videos’ openings and closings in all three languages. He then went into the sound booth to record the 15 audio sermons, each six-and-a-half to eight minutes in length.

“After he left, his work wasn’t over. He made himself available to review things via the Internet. I was amazed at how quickly I would hear back from him with his feedback. I got used to answering my cell phone and hearing Bishop da Cunha’s distinctive voice, greeting me with some friendly words, and providing his input.”

But it wasn’t only Bishop da Cunha’s time and recommendations that impressed and touched Fortin. It was the bishop’s genuine concern and efforts to listen and offer hope to struggling brothers and sisters across the diocese.

“As anyone who has met Bishop da Cunha can testify, he is a very warm and welcoming man,” Fortin told The Anchor. “Anne and I traveled around the diocese, videotaping Bishop da Cunha at Masses, events and agencies. No matter where he went, and no matter who he met, he seemed at ease, and he made the people he was meeting with comfortable. Whether it be at St. Clare’s in Hyannis, a transitional home for women coming out of prison, or homeless shelters like the Samaritan House in Taunton, or the Grace House in New Bedford, in a few minutes he had everyone talking and laughing. And even though the camera was there, it wasn’t a performance. He truly listened and interacted with the people. Listening to their stories, asking questions, providing some comforting words, and joining with them in prayer.”

Fortin told of one instance when a young girl at the Donovan House, a transitional home for women and their children, encountered Bishop da Cunha. “There is a shot of a young girl reading to the bishop, looking up to him with her big eyes,” Fortin said. “That entire scene just happened spontaneously. The bishop walked into the room and engaged the young girl. I barely had time to get set up and capture it on video.”

Fortin hopes this year’s efforts will help people realize just how many people in the diocese need the help of their peers. “I think viewers will come away with a great feeling about the diocese and how it serves people in need,” he said. “And I hope watching the video helps them make the decision to donate to the Catholic Charities Appeal.

“And now, to get started on the 2016 Appeal videos. We’ve already started shooting.” Not just a job, but a mission.

To view the videos or for more information on the 2015 Catholic Charities Appeal, visit frdioc-catholiccharities.org.

© 2017 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing  †  Fall River, Massachusetts