NEW CASTLE, Colorado - Lisa Doherty is one of those lucky souls who gets more out of her job than she puts into it. The New Castle videographer puts everything in as the owner of ReelSoul Productions, a video production company with a focus on capturing the stories of Western Colorado families and nonprofits. "My mission is to illuminate community, life and people through videography and telling the back stories of the human experience," Doherty said. She has a steady stream of jobs, and Doherty said the community's unique stories seem to find her. Her projects include an educational piece on forest fires in the Roan Plateau; a legacy story on her Peach Valley neighbor, Bill Moulton; the news about how the River Center and New Castle Lions Club helped community member Silvia Caro get a prosthetic eye; and the story of Patti's Main Street Coffee House, which served up "happiness in a cup" to New Castle residents for years.
One video is titled "Redefining Hope With Hospice" about HomeCare & Hospice of the Valley. In the piece, longtime valley resident Lou Cunningham wears a red turtleneck sweater that brightens her face. Her breath is not labored as she speaks and she occasionally smiles and laughs, although there is no question Cunningham is ill; her frame is tiny and she talks from her bed, where she is propped up against a flower print pillow. The 10-minute-long video is interspersed with images of leaves in the breeze, mountain streams, a trail in the woods, and Cunningham receiving help from hospice nurses, volunteers and her family members as she was dying from bladder cancer in 2011. After 24 years helping patients as a hospice staff person or volunteer, the video shows Cunningham on the receiving end. "I used to be really fearful of being around patients who were dying, even though I had lots of nursing experience ... and now my understanding is just so much different from that," Cunningham said in the video. "Maybe showing a copy of this tape or learning more about [hospice] yourself, so that you can help [the patient], because Americans are still very, very uncomfortable with death, and once you get comfortable with it, you just are," Cunningham chuckles, as the video transitions to a still photo of a snow-covered tree against a sunny sky. Cunningham wanted to chronicle the end of her life and worked with HomeCare & Hospice of the Valley, which hired ReelSoul Productions to produce a short documentary that visually shares the benefits of hospice. "It was such an honor to have this intimate experience with Lou - just my camera, me and her - to have this conversation about what it means to be in this world and what it's like to have to leave it," Doherty said.
Doherty, whom clients describe as flexible, easy to work with and a good listener, was not intimidated by the hospice project. She too has been a hospice volunteer and faced her father's death when she was a teenager. "There's the more personal side - losing a parent in your formative years and wanting to know as much as you can about them and not wanting to let those memories slip away. I find myself very comfortable with death and helping people remember them, to document what is essential about them and how they lived their lives," she said, to explain the myriad inspirations that led her to establish ReelSoul Productions three years ago. Snowmass Village resident Laura Kornasiewicz, who is also a hospice volunteer and serves on its board of directors, learned about ReelSoul when she saw the video about Cunningham. Kornasiewicz wanted to tell the story of her 93-year-old father-in-law, Edmund Kornasiewicz of New Castle, and his twin brother, Edwin, of Glenwood Springs. "I thought, wouldn't it be perfect to do a video with 'Pop Pop' and 'Uncle Dud' and have them talk about all the pranks they pulled in the Army Air Corps, so my kids would be able to have that and their kids would have that," Laura Kornasiewicz said.The Kornasiewicz family completed filming on Dec. 9, and their video is currently in production. Kornasiewicz revealed that in the process, both she and her husband, Stan, learned new things about the twin brothers, who have lived most of their lives together. The two were born in Fort City, Pa., and married two sisters, Nelda and Mary Ellen. They moved to Glenwood Springs in 1985 to be closer to Edmund's sons. They love to talk, and Laura wanted to capture some of that in video."The focus was on them and their stories. We tried to capture what they can remember of their brothers and sisters; life as first-generation Americans; and a little bit about what life was like back then," Laura Kornasiewicz said. They told of countless identical twin pranks, such as swapping places at a track meet in high school or pretending to be the other in order to go on leave while in the Army Air Corps. Edmund's wife, Nelda, also spoke about how they all met, "swapping" dates, and their double-ring wedding ceremony.
Although Doherty walks in to a filming project with a template, she keeps the process flexible to allow for technical difficulties, situations with extraordinary challenges (such as the Kornasiewicz's twins difficulty in hearing) or dealing with camera shyness. She shoots in high definition and uses professional lighting, audio and post-production services. However, she's not big on special effects and instead prefers to keep true to each individual's story-telling. "I am truly so fascinated, so interested, in how people's lives have gone, and the reflection that comes with telling your own story," Doherty said. "I always walk away from a story having learned so much about life. Every time I meet a client, I walk away with one of their gems, and that is such a gift for me."View some of the community stories or contact Doherty at www.reelsoulpro.com.