When Shirley Bruno and her team at the Public Access TV Corporation began interviewing Great Neck’s World War II veterans, they knew they were documenting local history.
But they also got something they did not expect: a New York Emmy nomination, the first in the station’s 28-year history.
PATV’s documentary “World War II: Our Veterans Stories,” is up for an award in the Emmy’s Military Program category.
Edited down from 33 interviews with residents who served in World War II, the program captures veterans discussing their wartime experiences intercut with historical photographs.
“What you can’t see on broadcast television, you can see here,” said Bruno, the executive producer of the project. “There are so many stories to be told.”
The documentary originated out of what Bruno calls the “Veterans Project” - PATV’s plan to chronicle the stories of Great Neck’s veterans, beginning with World War II and moving through the 20th century’s wars.
But Bruno and her crew - producer Norman Hall, associate producer Mel Goldberg, director Erica Bradley and editor Matthew Hughes - quickly realized how many stories there were to tell about World War II alone and the project ballooned in scope.
Eleven episodes of three interviews were produced of what Bruno calls the station’s “signature project.”
“It came to life,” Bruno said.
The shorter documentary came together when Bruno and her team decided to edit a compilation of the interviews to screen at a ceremony honoring the veterans who took part in the project.
The interviews reveal a Great Neck with ties to many aspects of the war experience - from a local resident who worked in the building of the atomic bomb to people who took part in the Normandy landing on D Day.
“I got the idea that we would look at all of our footage and put it into a shorter piece,” said Bruno. “It says so much about World War II that you’d never get in a history book.”
The documentary will be going up against nominees from News 12 Long Island, NJ.com/The Star Ledger and WABC-TV at an awards gala April 14 in the Marriott Marquis Times Square Broadway Ballroom.
Bruno submitted the piece for Emmy consideration, but in the months of waiting for the announcement of nominees never expected to be recognized
“It’s the New York Emmys. New York is the hardest market,” Bruno said. “People always say it’s a thrill to be nominated. It truly is.”
What originated as a local program could now gain a statewide spotlight. But, Bruno said, the goal was always to inform the Great Neck community.
“People watch that and say that was my principal, I didn’t know he did that in the war,” she said.
The Veterans Project is not over yet. Calls from veterans keep coming in, and Bruno intends to keep documenting until the story is complete.
“I will finish with World War II when there are no more World War II vets in this area,” Bruno said.