Thad Ciechanowski ’98 is a father, filmmaker, and full-fledged fan of Edgar Allan Poe. The former communications management major is a two-time Emmy Award winner. He’s adapted two Poe stories — “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Raven” — into short films for classroom instruction, each has been honored with regional Emmys for educational programming. Find out more at poemovies.com.
How did you discover Poe?
My high school English teacher introduced me to literature, and the value and the power of storytelling. “The Cask of Amontillado” is dedicated to him at the end of the credits.
Which story’s your favorite?
One of my favorites is “The Gold-Bug.” Poe invented the detective genre. It looks crazy, supernatural, but he comes in and does his detective work, and there’s a rational explanation. I like it because it’s a very early mystery novel.
How are the films financed?
“The Cask” I pretty much paid for myself. “The Raven,” we got a grant from the Heinz Endowments, but I still put some of my own money in it.
Which one are you doing next?
For our next one, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” we’ve ramped up the budget significantly. Not that the first two weren’t great productions — we’re really proud of them — but we want to make it a lot better. So we’re asking for more money, and the conversations are more serious when we interact with potential funders.
Anything about Poe you’ve been surprised to learn?
Allan’s not actually his middle name — it’s a second last name. He was adopted by John Allan. He was an orphan so he took the name Edgar Allan Poe.
These films demand a lot of time, effort, and financial resources. Why are you so committed to it?
I’m a filmmaker at heart. It’s tantamount to a musician making music. It’s a pressing internal desire that needs to be satisfied.
How’d you get into filmmaking?
I had no idea what I wanted to do until my senior year at Robert Morris, when I took audio production and TV 101. I had two really good teachers who basically helped me decide I wanted to do something like this for a living. And they pronounced my name right the first time.
What’s your 9-to-5?
I work at Apple Box Studios, an ad agency in Pittsburgh. I’m an editor, director, and camera guy.
Outside of Poe, any hobbies?
I’m a husband and father of three, so outside of films, that’s my time. Spending time with my family is something I really enjoy, so I make sure I keep that a priority in my life.
Words to live by?
“Chance favors the prepared mind.” That’s one of my favorite quotes, from Louis Pasteur, and it’s proven true over the years. You tend to be lucky if you’re prepared.