By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — Niskayuna High School alumni Michael Corcoran and Gavin Dowse don’t necessarily always share a vision. The two argue about the creative fine points of the latest Mercedes Benz commercial, whether an iPhone is a passable tool for videography, and whether to shoot from unusual angles.
“Gavin’s very meticulous with his angles and shots,” Corcoran said.
“More artistic,” Dowse said.
“Nope,” Corcoran countered, barely pausing for the playful rivalry before launching into a list of ideas, projects and dreams the team has in mind.
The two met during their time as Niskayuna High School students, and the lessons they learned there about curiosity, creation and hard work still drive them.
Dowse and Corcoran discovered videography as a mode of expression in separate ways. Dowse began skateboarding when he was young and learned his way around his camera while recording himself riding and doing tricks. Corcoran was involved in the TV studio at Niskayuna High School, and quickly became excited about the creation of television spots and film.
“You start to watch movies and think, ‘Look how much work went into the first five minutes,’ ” he said.
After meeting at school, the two began to collaborate on video projects during the summer before their junior year. Their first videos were purely recreational experiments depicting one day in the life of a friend or, later in the school year, an afternoon of sledding during a snow day.
Since then, their friend David Kosineski has also joined the team, pitching in time, energy and equipment, since the group currently funds their work themselves.
Though none have had any formal training, the friends’ intense interest in film has earned them notice. The Niskayuna Community Action Program enlisted the team to create a video about Niska-Day in mid-May, documenting the 33rd annual celebration of town pride. The final product was so well-received that the group was invited to present it to the Town Board, as well.
It may come as a surprise that such voracious, self-motivated learners have found themselves disappointed with their first years of college.
After graduating from Niskayuna High School in 2013, Corcoran headed to Pace University, but quickly transferred to Siena College. Dowse chose to begin his engineering studies at Hudson Valley Community College, but plans to transfer elsewhere.
Corcoran and Dowse both say their first year as college students was a bit disappointing. They also share serious concerns about college debt. While they understand the value of a college education, they say the crushing price tag puts pressure on students and takes the fun out of exploring one’s interests. “It just makes me sick to my stomach because I don’t think kids know what money is,” Dowse said.
The two agreed that although they wished they could make movies full-time, they felt obligated to study other subjects in college, as fallback plans. But their experiences have value for their film careers: They’ve decided to record their opinions, and those of other college students, as part of a documentary about the rising cost of college.
“I’ve never seen a big-name documentary about college,” Dowse said. He hopes they can gather enough research and interviews to create something that evokes the same response as “An Inconvenient Truth,” the David Guggenheim documentary about climate change.
“It could be a great foothold for our filmmaking,” he said. The two ambitiously hope to complete the documentary by the end of summer, then submit it to the highly competitive Sundance Film Festival.
And if it gets rejected, that won’t slow this video team down. They’ve already got next summer’s project planned, an incentive to help them push through another academic year of lecture halls and exams without curves.
The goal: a 10,000-mile, cross-country road trip, punctuated with short, casual video blogs broadcast to what they hope will be a solid following.
“We’re all saving for it right now,” Corcoran said. “I take $30 out of every paycheck and put it in a big jar.”
Corcoran and Dowse’s videos can be viewed online here.