Hanover College Professor of Mathematics Nancy Rodgers, left, and Instructor of Communication Elizabeth Winters pose for a portrait in the editing bay where they put together the documentary “In the Footsteps of Newton,” which will air on WFYI in Indianapolis. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Hanover College Professor of Mathematics Nancy Rodgers, left, and Instructor of Communication Elizabeth Winters pose for a portrait in the editing bay where they put together the documentary “In the Footsteps of Newton,” which will air on WFYI in Indianapolis. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
A documentary featuring Hanover College students on a study trip to England will air on Indianapolis public television on Jan. 30 and later that same day on the college's campus channel.

The film, "In the Footsteps of Isaac Newton," was filmed by five Hanover students who followed a group of math students from the college across England as they investigated the life and works of Newton.

Nancy Rodgers, chair of the Department of Mathematics, said the film follows seven students traveling to England for her history of mathematics class.

The students explore different areas of interest - including theology, chemistry and physics - that coincide with one of Newton's interests.

"He was into lots of other things," Rodgers said of Newton's studies.

The famed discoverer of gravity and inventor of calculus also studied astronomy, alchemy, Christian theology and economics.

"We divide the world into these disciplines - into chemistry, into physics, into theology, but Sir Isaac Newton was great because he found the connections between those," said Elizabeth Winters, a professor in Hanover's Communications Department who oversaw the documentary.

"(Rodgers) came to me, and I was teaching a class on documentary production, and we were already going to shoot a short documentary in England. She wanted us to also shoot her class," she said.

Winters said she asked some of her best students to participate in the project. Most of the filming and all of the interviews, Winters said, were performed by students.

"I held them to professional standards. I used to be a television producer for Florida public television, so instead of holding them to student standards, we ran a professional shoot," she said.

Each morning began with a production meeting. Students also took turns producing and participating in other aspects of the shoot behind the scenes.

"Now, of course, in any documentary shoot, you plan, plan, plan and it's real life, right? Things don't always turn out in real life like you're expecting, and you have to troubleshoot all the time and take different approaches. And we always did it as a team," Winters said.

"It was very much a learning process for them while also a professional experience," she said.

Because they agreed to distribute the documentary for free to educational organizations, the documentary crew was given access to several landmarks in England, including Newton's boyhood home and Westminster Abbey.

Shooting in Westminster, where Newton is buried, almost didn't happen because the group was requesting to shoot there two weeks after the royal wedding of Prince William and Katherine Middleton.

"You're not allowed to take pictures there," Winters said. "So, we had to really work to be allowed to not only take pictures but also take video."

At Newton's home, students saw a descendant of the famous apple tree from Newton's gravity discovery, and explore where Newton developed some of his earliest theories.

"It was really a very unique experience to be up there in little Newton's bedroom, where he was getting all these incredible ideas about our universe - and we were the only ones in there," Rodgers said.

"The students got to experience the whole journey in a way they wouldn't have if we hadn't been shooting the film, because we would have been in there with a mob of tourists."

After the trip, Winters wrote the final draft of the film and had a student do the initial round of editing before she did the final edit.

The film has been screened at the Utopia Film Festival, MathFest, the Kentucky Mathematics Meetings and the National Convention for the Mathematical Association of America.

"Our response was so good from people who don't even like math," Rodgers said.

Winters said she is planning another student-driven documentary project with another class traveling abroad.

"I'm always trying to find something that's really going to challenge our students and also give them resume portfolio pieces that are really going to stand out," she said.

The documentary will air at 7:30 p.m. on PBS in Indianapolis. It will then air on Hanover Campus Channel 22 at 8 p.m. The documentary will also be available online at http://www.wfyi.org/programs/in-the-footsteps after the premier.