Last semester I decided to step out of my comfort zone and enroll in COMM 231 - Film & TV Production Concepts. My focus in communication studies has always been more centered in media and popular culture theory, never in the extensive film and production classes offered by the department. I always knew that this style of courses was available, I was just too insecure in my skills to ever bite the bullet. Finally, last semester, I decided to enroll in COMM 231. While the content of this course challenged me, I cannot deny how much I learned. In this class, I ended up creating my proudest project I have ever done here at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a video essay on a former UMass student, Maura Murray.
Planning Out The Video
An element of COMM 231 is a final project. This can either be an original video, screenplay, or video essay. Overall, this had to be an original project that applied the film and production concepts that we learned over the semester. Having very little video production knowledge, I decided to make a video essay since those are some of my favorite videos to watch on YouTube. Now that I had a format, it was time to think of what my topic would be. I started thinking about what videos I enjoyed watching. I wanted to produce something that I could not only be proud of, but I would find genuine enjoyment in creating.
Then it hit me, why not make a video on a missing person case? I have always been fascinated with true crime, especially in the extensive unsolved missing person cases that have left countless families without answers. I wanted to bring exposure to one of these cases since many of them quickly become cold and forgotten. I decided to stay local so I could have a greater impact on the UMass students I was presenting to. Digging through my archive of cases, I decided to focus on the case of Maura Murray. Maura was a 21-year-old nursing student completing her junior year at the University of Massachusetts Amherst at the time of her disappearance. Not only was this case local, but it has been unsolved for nearly 16 years. I knew this was the case I needed to cover.
Who is Maura Murray?
While there is extensive information out there on Maura and her case, I wanted to provide a brief rundown of who she was and what happened to her.
On February 9, 2004, Maura disappeared after crashing her car on Route 112 Haverhill, New Hampshire. Earlier in the day, Murray had emailed a work supervisor of the nursing school that she would be out of town for a week due to a death in her family; however, no one in her family had died. Shortly after, she telephoned her boyfriend and left a voice message promising him they would talk later, indicating her return. Soon after, Maura packed up her car, withdrew money from an ATM, and headed to New Hampshire.
In Haverhill, New Hampshire, Maura got into a car accident. A school bus driver returning home noticed the crash. Upon meeting Maura, he offered to telephone for help. She asked him not to call the police and assured him she'd already called AAA (who had no record of any such call). Knowing there was no cellular reception in the area, the bus driver continued home and called the police. When the police arrived, Maura was nowhere to be found. There were reports of a woman moving quickly on foot eastbound on Route 112 about four to five miles east of where Murray's vehicle was discovered. Since then, little regarding Maura’s whereabouts have been reported.
While many theories surround what happened to Maura that fateful night, there is sadly little evidence present to prove any of them, leaving the case cold.
What Made This Project My Proudest
This project was extremely important to me. Since Maura was a student here at UMass during the time of her disappearance, the case hit close to home. While I know the police involved have done their best, it is frustrating to think that this case is still unsolved and that the family is left with few answers.
I like to believe that, with time, Maura’s family will finally get the closure they deserve. While we wait for that day, I cannot stress how important it is to keep this case and others like it circulating. Keep talking about these cases. Keep sharing their photos. Keep the momentum going — that is what is going to help solve these cases.
Creating this video essay, even if it was only shown to a class of about 100 students, still helped put Maura’s name and face out there. Ultimately, while I loved that I was able to develop my skills in video production, I was honored to share Maura’s story with my fellow UMass students. That is what I am most proud of.