One hundred twenty students across the United States entered last spring’s National Association of Broadcasters’ Freedom of Speech PSA contest. But only Nathan Firn ’12 came out on top, with a $3,000 scholarship and an opportunity to air his work on national television.
Firn’s prize-winning PSA, It Is, follows the history of the First Amendment and points to its significance today. The film includes images of John Lennon, Martin Luther King Jr., and others, contrasted with images of soldiers and civilians, all fighting for the right of free speech. Firn spent over a week animating the 30-second spot with Adobe After Effects.
“I wanted to keep it really simple. I want them to take away the idea that freedom of speech is a right that a lot of people have fought for and that America is blessed to have.”
He discovered the contest through FastWeb.com, a website that provides customized scholarship results for students. The Freedom of Speech competition was exactly what Nathan was looking for. “I didn’t want to do any essays, so I was looking for scholarships that had to do with video,” he says. He entered the contest in March and was notified of his win in late July.
As a Post-Production major at Emerson, Firn has served as director, cinematographer, writer, and producer for several short films. He has an active life outside the classroom as well, playing as a forward on the College’s basketball team. Nathan’s plans for the future include screenwriting, producing, and directing. “I like it all,” Firn says. “I’m not really sure what I will focus on, but that’s why I’m here—to figure it out.”
In addition to winning the scholarship, Nathan’s PSA will be distributed to television stations for possible airing during Freedom of Speech Week, October 17–24. It will also be showcased in Las Vegas during the Society of Professional Journalists’ annual conference on October 4.
Nathan hopes a more general audience will benefit from his work as well. “I wanted to keep it really simple,” he says. “I want them to take away the idea that freedom of speech is a right that a lot of people have fought for and that America is blessed to have.”