Wade Balsamo, a freshman at North Central College, worked with his father to create an award-winning short film about the philanthropic organization Walk On.
Balsamo, of Barrington, is passionate about production and his efforts to promote Walk On, a nonprofit that provides equine-assisted activities to people with physical, cognitive, social and emotional disabilities. Walk On helps inspire people to advance to their highest potential.
“When I heard about [Walk On] and the incredible message that could be told with the film, I immediately jumped on board to help out in any way I could,” says Balsamo.
CK & CO, a media production and communications firm, was looking for talented and creative high school and college students interested in getting real-world experience by helping the community. Balsamo was awarded a $1,000 scholarship and $500 will be given to Walk On, the focus of his winning video.
It’s not surprising that Balsamo was able to make an award-winning video, given the world-class expertise of his filming partner and father, Thomas Balsamo. Being the owner of World Touch Productions since 1978, a production company that specializes in documentary films and other media in addition to his own portrait company, Thomas has had experience with high-profile clients around the world.
Thomas’ main focus is working with companies such as CNN and Toys ‘R’ Us that uplift people with special needs. He was inspired to focus his work on people with special needs after a woman suggested that autism should be the subject of a photo gallery.
“I got to this point where I had an epiphany and realized my work is affecting people,” says Thomas. “I needed to give back.”
The filming of Walk On is the first time the father-son duo has collaborated directly on a project, with each managing very different aspects of the film’s creation.
“I pretty much initiate the project, work on the storyboard, planning,” says Thomas. “Wade’s specialty is the editing; he’s a very talented editor.”
“We work really well together that way,” says Wade (photo, left). “I led post-production, helping bring the story and message into fruition. That’s where the magic happens and the story comes together. It’s like you're given a jigsaw puzzle, but there’s not just one image it can make.”
As with any puzzle, problems arise; the Walk On feature was no exception. In the midst of the film’s critical moment—an interview with Maria Milik about her son Leo—a nearby lawn mower began to roar. Wade edited the audio at this point of the film, eliminating the roaring sound and allowing Milik to be heard.
“There are going to be difficulties in any creative project you approach. In this case we had several, but none we couldn't overcome,” says Wade.
Thomas agrees, saying it’s vital to any project that the producers stay calm to keep the clients relaxed, despite frustrating technical issues. “Working with people is trying to bring out the best in them.”
Milik has been an activist for the special-needs cause for years. Her passion is evident during the film’s interview, especially as her son, who was told by doctors he would never walk, stands on top of a horse as it moves.
“This was a kid, about whom his parents were told nothing but ‘won’t and ‘can’t,’” says Wade. “Yet here he is defying all of that, doing something I don’t have the coordination to do myself. It really is just incredible.”
“Leo’s mom tells the story about how he’ll never walk, he’ll never talk,” says Thomas. “Then he gets up on this horse and it’s really amazing. I noticed, all of a sudden, the sky was opening up and there were these amazing clouds, and we grabbed our cameras. That moment showed up just when we needed it. Sometimes, stuff just happens when you’re in line with your goals and your vision.”
Wade and Thomas continue to collaborate on film productions. Wade is currently penning the script for a music video the two will create together, allowing him to gain further experience behind the camera and in the editing room. Thomas says, “If your heart’s in the right place and you believe in the project, magical things happen.”
By student writer Troy Kelleher ’16, English journalism major