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Beatles documentary
by Northeastern students
hits film festival circuit

You might think everything’s been said about The Beatles already, but this group of Northeastern students is ready to prove you wrong.

Black and white fish eye photo of the Beatles.
The Beatles, pictured here before performing on March 20, 1964 in London, are the subject of a new short documentary done by Northeastern students called “The Beatles and Beyond-A Lasting Legacy” that looks at the band through a new lens. Credit: Icon and Image / MediaPunch /IPX

The Beatles are a crucial part of a cultural canon. But many Gen Zers are several generations removed from Beatlemania and the music that sparked the phenomenon. 

Rather than let this intimidate them, a group of students used their fresh perspective to their advantage when making a documentary on the Beatles as part of a summer Dialogue of Civilizations course. The documentary is now going to be featured in the Garden State Film Festival in New Jersey, a rare feat for a student film.

“The Beatles and Beyond-A Lasting Legacy” looks through the Beatles’ rise to fame chronologically and focuses not just on their impact on music, but their cultural impact as well and how they were the beginning of intense musical fandom as we know it today.

“When you watch our project, you are going through a musical journey,” said Daniel Rateau, a second-year music industry and communications study major who was a writer for the film. “We tried our best to give as much information as possible and present this story of how impactful they were, because they truly were (impactful). A lot of people … don’t realize the smaller, intricate aspects that really emphasize them being as important as they were.”

When presented with the opportunity to spend five weeks in London for a Dialogue of Civilizations course on English culture and documentary, the group had the idea to focus on something everyone loves — music — with the idea of looking at different notable British groups.

But as they began interviewing experts as part of their prep work leading up to the trip, they found they kept referencing one group: the Beatles. So the group narrowed its focus.

“People were so excited to talk about the Beatles,” said Clara McCourt, a fourth-year journalism major who was the film’s director and a writer. “We thought originally that everything about the Beatles had already been said. And yet people were still giving us fresh things. … We didn’t know because all of us were born from like 2002 to 2005. We’ve tried to kind of spin the documentary as a new generation taking on one of the world’s most famous bands.”

“We decided to focus on not just their history, but their impact on future bands and artists,” added Mimi Freund, a third-year psychology major who served as the film’s producer. “I did not really know too (much) about their history. It definitely took extra research, but it was something that we all really enjoyed.”

This included how they became one of the first touring acts, said Marisabelle Boschetti, a fourth-year business administration and communications major who worked on the film’s production. 

“No one had really done what they were doing before,” Boschetti said. “The amount of people they drew, I feel like nowadays it’s normal. … But they were the first big (fan base) at that time. No one else had that following.”

Upon touching down in London, they got to work filming. Their days were split between the two focuses on their Dialogue course. In the mornings, the class would come together for visits to cultural sites like the Tower of London. The afternoons were for documentary work. During this time, the students would go to record stores and gift shops dedicated to the Beatles.

Boschetti and Freund, along with Kaia Reed, a third-year communication and media and screen studies major who was a writer for the film, also spent a lot of time looking through archival footage of teenage girls “screaming their heads off” as Reed put it as a result of Beatlemania.

“At first, I was like ‘Oh my gosh, this was really serious,’” Reed said. “But when I think about the fandoms these days, it’s nothing crazy. It’s in the same vein … especially thinking about K-pop fandom and One Direction fans. It’s all the same and (the Beatles) were pretty much the start of that.”

The group was also able to get footage of Abbey Road studio through a stroke of luck. They woke up one day at 6 a.m. to take an iconic London red bus to film at the iconic crosswalk when they ran into a couple sitting on a bench, said Luke Medalla, a second-year media arts and communications studies major who was the film’s editor.

“I explained that we were making a documentary for Northeastern and we started chatting and it came up that the day before they had just been inside Abbey Road recording something,” Medalla said. “So they had like footage from inside the day before and were like, ‘Do you want us to send this to you so that you could include it in your documentary?’ We were only expecting the exterior, but getting inside is even better. It was a crazy turn of events that we could never have imagined.”

Now that they’re back in the States, “The Beatles and Beyond-A Lasting Legacy” is now hitting the festival circuit. It was accepted to the Garden State Film Festival, something that Michelle Carr, the principal lecturer who teaches the Dialogue, said is a testament to the quality of the students’ work. Both Carr and the students have submitted the documentary for other festivals as well and are waiting to hear back on admittance.

“It’s not common to get chosen,” she said. “Getting chosen for a film festival is actually very hard because they get thousands of applicants every year. It speaks to the quality of the work that the students did this semester. … They did an absolutely beautiful job. … Some people don’t accomplish making a documentary in three or four years, and they completed this process within five weeks.”