Applying knowledge gained through their West Liberty University communications courses and acquiring valuable real-world experience in the process, Sam Miller and Seth Starkey recently returned to the West Liberty University campus after working on a Weather Channel documentary.

WLU professor Christian D’Andrea, who heads the university’s documentary filmmaking program, is the executive producer, creator and director of “Hurricane Hunters,” a new documentary series debuting on the Weather Channel in 2012. The Hurricane Hunters are an Air Force Reserve squadron based out of Biloxi, Miss., which flies planes into hurricanes to better understand them. The team obtains key pieces of meteorological data that can be gathered only by flying into the eye of a hurricane. The television series tracks their lives and their missions during the height of hurricane season.

He selected Miller and Starkey to work on the production in September. “We had what I would characterize as a very successful internship. It actually went beyond internship.  I integrated Sam and Seth into the crew,” D’Andrea explained. He added that the film crew and Air Force personnel “began to look to Sam and Seth for insight into shots, help wrangling equipment, help managing characters and complex scene set-ups, and even executing shots and capturing critical moments.”

He noted, “The students were second unit directors on a number of scenes, empowered to make the call on key storylines, run interviews and stage shots.”

D’Andrea praised the students for their professionalism and job performance.

“They were trusted by all of us.  We trusted them to go off and get shots and pickups we needed.  We trusted them with our expensive equipment, including cameras with $40,000 lenses.  We trusted them in the most important way of all – we trusted them with our story.  We trusted them to professionally interact with and coordinate our key characters.  I gave them key parameters, technical requirements and story insight for a scene or shot we wanted, and then often times we let them get it.”

The value of an internship like this, D’Andrea said, was that it offers much more than the typical internship. The students gained professional experience on a network television shoot. “They were empowered to be ‘hands-on,’ contributing to the production and collaborating on story design, shot choice and technical elements.”

Miller concurred, “This program is going to be unlike anything else West Liberty has. It’s in-field training, which is the best form of learning. It was an amazing experience.”

He added, “The film documentary program at WLU is going to allow students to help bring the heroes of everyday life, like the ones we met in Biloxi, to life.”

For more information, please visit the WLU documentary and film program website at