Alumnus finds his documentary 'True North' makes personal impact for many

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Sometimes a good story gets even better, and filmmaker Tommy Caamano discovered that after he’d finished putting together the documentary he directed and produced about a two-time cancer survivor with one functioning lung who climbed mountains all over the world.

It turned out the compelling and emotional story of Sean Swarner, who survived Hodgkin’s disease and Askin’s sarcoma and completed the Explorers Grand Slam by reaching the highest summit on each of the seven continents as well as the North and South poles, paled in comparison to the real impact of the story.

Caamano, a 2001 Penn State film-video alumnus, discovered that impact at small-scale screenings of “True North: The Sean Swarner Story” with people affected by cancer.

“From emails and people we talk to, the film made them feel like their next day was better. A woman in a Colorado hospital told us, even after she had gotten horrible news about her health, that our work was important,” Caamano said. “That’s pretty special, and that’s how we’re judging the success of the film.”

“True North” will debut nationally on American Public Television in 2018. So far, reaction has been positive. A short segment about Swarmer aired on ESPN’s “SC Featured” and those smaller screenings for cancer survivors continually provide motivation.

Caamano is a director for The Worskhop, a multimedia production company with offices in Radnor, Pennsylvania, as well as Stamford, Connecticut, and Los Angeles. He paid his dues through the years with TV commercials and other projects. With Swarner’s story, he found a connection for his personal passion. That’s a passion that was fueled a bit by Penn State.

“When you look at THON and just the types of things Penn Staters do, I think that becomes who you are as well,” Caamano said. 

In an ever-changing media environment, with more and more outlets looking for quality content, he is excited about future opportunities.

“People seek out good content and because there’s a demand, we’re seeing better documentaries. It’s upping everyone’s game. All of that opens doors. Ten years ago to pitch a documentary series would’ve been an uphill battle,” Caamano said. “There’s more opportunity now, and that’s exciting — especially when you consider the chance to make someone’s next day better.” 

Last Updated January 15, 2018