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Students capture libel, scandal, suicide

POSTED OCT. 29, 2007 AT 10:55 P.M.

Facts are stranger than fiction – at least in Miami – according to Josh Miller and Sam Rega, two seniors who have created a documentary about the Arthur Teele saga.

Teele, for those who missed the media frenzy two years ago, killed himself in the lobby of The Miami Herald building in the wake of money laundering, wire and mail fraud charges. Shortly before his suicide, Teele called Herald reporter Jim DeFede, who was consequently fired for recording the conversation without Teele’s knowledge.

When DeFede came to campus in 2005 to discuss his firing, “it really peaked our interest,” said Rega, who is a Miami Hurricane columnist. “It was a huge Miami story.”

Rega and Miller, then sophomores, began researching the subject immediately and have been working on the documentary for nearly two years.

Rega, a motion pictures and philosophy major, explained that Miami’s “dark side” has been fictionalized in movies and television shows for years.

“This [the documentary]is the real story of Miami’s underbelly,” he said.

Miller, a motion pictures and criminology major, added that he was attracted to the Teele story because it has inherent controversy. “It’s a story about good versus evil.”

Rega and Miller explained Teele did many great things for the community, but he seems to have been involved in corrupt activities.

The pair say they do not aim to judge Teele in their documentary.

“We’re just telling the chronological story of bizarre events,” Miller said, adding that he hopes viewers will make their own judgments from the information presented.

Their goal is to unite, in one comprehensive documentary, all of the information available from various media reports. Their principal source was the newspaper, but they also gathered information from interviews, which Miller said was difficult.

“We have a list of more than 30 people that said they wouldn’t talk to us,” Rega said.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” Miller added. “No one wants to touch it. It made everyone look bad.”

After learning of the documentary, Teele’s widow threatened to sue Miller and Rega for libel. The situation was resolved with the help of UM professors, including Assistant Professor Samuel Terilli.

Terilli, former general counsel to The Herald, had met Teele several times. As a result, he was able to use his connections to put Miller and Rega in touch with a variety of sources.

“I really enjoyed working with them,” Terilli said. “I think they’ve done an excellent job.”

Miller and Rega took on the contentious topic because “we wanted our own independent project,” Rega said. Although the project is funded by the School of Communication, it is very much their own endeavor. They researched, wrote, directed and edited the documentary largely by themselves.

“It’s been a great learning experience,” Rega said. “We’ve grown a lot as filmmakers.”

“I’ve seen more of and understood Miami better than I would have just being a regular student,” Miller said. “We’re sheltered here in Coral Gables. It’s opened my eyes.”

Both students emphasized the importance of taking advantage of what UM offers in addition to transcending the immediate resources.

Rega stressed the value of a project like theirs in terms of networking: “It’s opened up a lot of opportunities and relationships.”

Miller and Rega hope to complete the documentary, which will include dramatizations and dialogues taken directly from police reports, by the end of winter break.

Jorge Valdez-Iga, a UM graduate and professional director, was hired as the cinematographer for the dramatizations. Miller and Rega are still looking for an editor to help with after-effects work.

Pat Cunnane may be contacted at p.cunnane@umiami.edu.

October 29, 2007

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.