Grad Kieran McGirl ’15 is NESN’s Next Producer
“Ever since I was a little kid, it was my dream to be a filmmaker,” says Sacred Heart University graduate Kieran McGirl as he recalls the formative experience that inspired his dream: sitting in an airport with his Uncle Shaun, the actor, watching Charlie Chaplin on a portable DVD player.
“I was enamored by the fact that these old silent films were still relevant, still engaging, still beautiful. From that day on, I knew I wanted to do this. I wanted to tell stories and entertain people—to make people happy, and even make people sad.”
Now in 2015, McGirl—winner of the NESN Next Producer contest—is living that dream. McGirl credits the individualized attention of professors at Sacred Heart for helping him along the challenging road of becoming a filmmaker. “The professors actually cared about each student’s success,” he says.
Two professors in particular had an impact on McGirl. Professor Greg Golda served as McGirl’s adviser in the Communication & Media Studies department. “I feel that he took me under his wing throughout my time at Sacred Heart. He was really my mentor.”
McGirl remembers a time in Golda’s class when he wasn’t paying attention. Golda sent him an email after class, informing him that if he saw him on Facebook in class again, he would fail him. “He told me that I could be great at this if I just paid attention and applied myself.”
So that’s exactly what he did, getting involved with the radio and TV stations at Sacred Heart, where Professor Golda was adviser. There McGirl was able to think creatively, come to understand the media as a whole and learn how to be a filmmaker.
Professor Andrew Miller also particularly impacted McGirl, offering him concrete opportunities to become a successful filmmaker. In fact, it was Miller who introduced him to the New England Sports Network’s (NESN) film contest. Once a football player at Sacred Heart, McGirl says, “I knew firsthand the drama attached to sports and knew that I would be able to make a film that told a compelling story.”
“Kieran was one of the most ambitious and motivated students in the Department of Communication and Media Studies. We thought he would be great fit for the NESN contest, and we were not surprised that he was able to apply what he had learned at SHU and produce a successful video project,” Miller says.
The contest would be showcased as a television show on NESN, with a grand prize of $20,000. Each contestant had to make a film. McGirl decided to enter.
“Figuring out what I was going to do my film on was definitely the hardest part of the process, but after a lot of thought I realized I had an awesome story right in front of me.” That was McGirl’s high school friend and ice hockey phenom, Johnny Gaudreau.
Drafted by the Calgary Flames while still in high school, Gaudreau also won a scholarship to play ice hockey at Boston College—where he won the Hobey Baker award and was known as college hockey’s best overall player. McGirl respected the way his friend had overcome significant obstacles to achieve his dreams. And McGirl knew that this Boston College player would make a great subject for NESN’s target audience.
Through a series of interviews and travels around the country, McGirl indeed found his story: enabling his audience to see the NHL phenom as the relatable, 20-year-old young man he himself knew.
But it wasn’t easy. Nor was it lacking its own share of drama. Now on television and rubbing elbows with such filmmaking giants as Academy Award-nominated director Darren Aronovsky and Hollywood legend Tom Werner, McGirl needed one piece of the puzzle: the rights to Gaudreau’s first NHL game.
When the NHL Network’s offices wouldn’t return his calls, McGirl took Tom Werner’s advice not to take no for an answer. “I walked down to the NHL offices and stood in the lobby and said I would not leave until someone responded to my call or came down to see me.“ He got the rights. And he finished his film—“The Rise of Johnny Hockey.”
McGirl’s journey culminated with the finale of NESN Next Producer. It was down to McGirl and the team of Kaley Roberts, Christina Beiene and Brittney Badduke from Boston University. Unexpectedly, the judges split the prize, giving the BU girls the $20,000 grand prize and internships, while offering McGirl a job.
McGirl now works at NESN as an Original NESN Entertainment Producer. He is currently working on documentary-style features on members of the Boston Red Sox. So far he has worked with RA Dickey, Tim Wakefield, Blake Swihart, Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz, among others.
Throughout his time making the film, amidst its many creative and logistical challenges, McGirl incarnated a dream he had conceived early in his life—his success buoyed by his time at Sacred Heart, where talent and passion met formation and opportunity.