News and Tribune

December 31, 2013

Revisiting JFK assassination: Film with Clark County roots examines moment in history

‘Behind Dark Glasses’ is a modern reflection on Secret Service circa 1963

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

NEW WASHINGTON — Armed with a video camera, an idea and a limited budget, an unlikely film duo with Clark County roots will have its second documentary air on KET.

Tim McDonald, a history teacher at New Washington High School and a former student of his, Hobie Crase, Muncie, produced a documentary with a modern reflection on the Secret Service and the John F. Kennedy assassination in 1963, “Behind Dark Glasses.”

Though the project suffered through delays, Crase said the partnership with his high school history teacher is what really made the whole project work.

“We are kind of an unconventional team, I guess,” Crase said. “From a film industry perspective, a two-person team isn’t something that can work out very well all the time, but we sort of take a jack-of-all-trades kind of approach. I take care of all the technical stuff and he does all of the directing and producing. It all manages to work out.”

THE SHOW

The documentary focuses on interviews with two former Secret Service agents. Jerry Blaine, who was on the Kennedy detail and has spoken at McDonald’s high school, gave his perspective from how the agency was run in the 1960s and Dan Emmett, a more recently retired agent, provides a modern perspective on the agency during the assassination.

In the span of a few months, beginning last summer, McDonald said the duo had to do a combination of traveling and working remotely. To meet up with Blaine, they went to his home in Colorado. Emmett is based out of Auburn, Ala., which added to their mileage.

For McDonald, he said his interest in the project was to revisit something from his generation. He said Kennedy’s death is something that he’ll never forget.

“We interviewed [Blaine] to get a feel for what the Secret Service was like on that detail and the problems they had,” McDonald said. “I really, as a history teacher, have a deep interest in the whole JFK thing. I was seven years old and I remember that whole weekend of events.”

Between the two interviews, he said it really provides a good perspective of how much the agency has changed and how Kennedy’s death served as a real catalyst for the change in the agency, going from 235 agents nationwide in 1963 to more than 4,000 today.

McDonald said the film might have wrapped up last fall, but two heart attacks near Christmas of 2012 nearly cost him his life and put the whole production on hold for months.

He said after his recovery and really bearing down on making the film — texting ideas with Crase back and forth, visiting him on weekends to edit while he was in graduate school — there’s a lot about filmmaking he didn’t know and now holds in high regard.

“I have a new appreciation for editing, especially when I see someone’s credit for that,” McDonald said. “Hobie had some great ideas in terms of editing and getting it down to 28 minutes for a 30-minute timeslot.”

But after the project was finished, he said he really appreciates the constraints the Secret Service was under in the 1960s — with what he described as “basically, on-the-job training” and limited technological resources. He thinks the documentary helps explain how the assassination happened, as well as dispel some popular conspiracy theories.

But he also said it gives a sense of what’s it’s like to work so closely with the president, knowing that at any moment, an agent may be responsible for his or her life.

“I think it’s the constant vigilance they’re under,” McDonald said. “There’s that unsaid oath that what they see and hear stays private, they don’t talk about the president’s personal life because it destroys that trust.”

 A WORKING RELATIONSHIP

Crase said ever since he was in the sixth grade, he had an interest in filmmaking. He said once he got into high school, McDonald recognized that and encouraged him.

Once he graduated and began going to college, McDonald said he kept Crase in mind when he became interested in making documentaries. Crase said he liked the idea of pairing up with his former teacher.

“This is the second big project I’ve done with Tim,” Crase said. “Through him, I’ve met some really interesting people. In high school, he knew I was dead-set on going into the film industry in some capacity since the sixth grade. After high school, we stayed in touch and started working on these projects.”

Their first project, “SERVIAM,” focused on five leaders who placed the needs of others before their own, according to the program description. They completed that hour-long project in 2011.

McDonald said the two of them really work well together and he’s glad to have Crase’s expertise on his projects. But they both recognize their talents and capitalize on them to make everything work.

“He has a talent for editing, he has an eye for things that really, he’s the major part,” McDonald said. “I had the idea and the interest. I had been in sales for the first half of my career, so I have no problems with doing the phone calling.”

But Crase said through his undergraduate, postgraduate and work with McDonald, he’s gotten a feel for where his real passion in filmmaking lies.

“Through various classes, at Ball State and doing these projects, I found I have more of a love for non-fiction documentaries and public service work,” Crase said. “I think I value to inform more than to entertain.”