Salisbury graduates nominated for multiple Emmy Awards
The Mid-Atlantic Chapter Emmy nominations have been announced and Salisbury alumni Rocky and Julia Urich, of Emmaus, have made the list.
Rocky, a 1999 graduate of Salisbury High School, and Julia (formerly Lischner), a 2002 graduate of Salisbury High School, are the masterminds behind the video production company FireRock Productions.
Rocky has been with the business for 10 years, and four years ago, Julia joined. Now, the couple has been nominated for an Emmy in the category of Human Interest Program Feature/Segment for FireRock Production's "Laughing At My Nightmare."
The 31st Mid-Atlantic Chapter Emmy Awards Ceremony will be held Sept. 7 at Sheraton Society Hill in Philadelphia.
The feature officially aired on WFMZ's television show "The Peak."
Emmy nominations for the 7-minute piece include Julia Urich, director; Rocky Urich, director of photography/editor; Ashley Russo, executive producer; Kenneth Szydlow, executive producer; and Shane Burcaw, producer.
The video recaps the story of Burcaw, of Bethlehem.
Burcaw, a 21-year-old Freedom High School graduate and now student at Moravian College, has spinal muscular atrophy. SMA is a genetic condition causing the muscles in the body to weaken and deteriorate.
Due to his physical limitations, Burcaw is in a mobilized wheelchair and needs assistance for the daily activities of life the majority of people take for granted. Burcaw has limited mobility of his hands; just enough to control his wheelchair and, of course, text on his iPhone. Even with this life-threatening disease, Burcaw keeps a positive and overly humorous outlook on his life, inspiring to those who cross his path.
Two years ago, Burcaw wanted to share his stories with the world and started a blog.
"I wrote stories about living with my disease," Burcaw said. "It became way more popular than I ever thought it would ever be."
Burcaw enjoys his interactions with people online.
Through the blog, laughingatmynightmare.1000notes.com, Burcaw and his friends eventually created a non-profit organization to "encourage individuals to overcome adversity through the use of humor while raising money for muscular atrophy research."
Burcaw didn't just want to stop there. "I wanted to tell people about my life and nonprofit; last year I asked for volunteers on the blog," Burcaw said. Sixteen-year-old Shannon O'Connor, from Florida, was one of those volunteers. Immediately the two became best friends and O'Connor now visits the Lehigh Valley very often.
Together, the two worked on an idea for a promotion type video and by the end of May 2012, the outline was ready.
Burcaw was originally going to use his GoPro camera for the shoot, but then called for some more professional assistance. He reached out to many different organizations to do the filming, but had no luck. In August, Rocky and Julia responded and wanted to take the project on. Since then, the collaborators have not looked back.
"We always said we wanted to give back," Julia said. "[This] was an awesome story and a cool kid. They were really well- prepared."
"They wanted to help us out," O'Connor said.
FireRock Productions, along with Burcaw and O'Connor, spent four days filming the video, which they entitled "Happiness is Always an Option."
At first Burcaw said he was hesitant, wondering if the Urichs would be able to capture his vision and if they would be able to convey what he wanted to say. But after seeing the final cut, Burcaw realized "Rocky's the man."
Burcaw said Rocky and Julia even spent their anniversary with them, filming for the video. "[They are] generous and awesome,"Burcaw exclaimed. Burcaw and the Urichs have mutual admiration for each other's talents and outlook on life.
The quartet quickly became good friends and decided to continue their work together. "It's a great partnership," Rocky said. "Shane is a talented human being… he has a positive attitude. [People tend to be] uncomfortable [around him] but he breaks that wall down and makes jokes about himself."
Burcaw's blog launched the video in February, with great results. Websites reddit.com, upworthy.com and wimp.com, all picked up "Happiness is Always an Option" and the video went viral.
"Humor requires you to push your own boundaries," Rocky said, "Shane has made us push our limits [with comedy]. When you show people who you are, they relate to that."
Burcaw enjoys his interactions with people online and their positive reactions from his blog.
"I got emails from all over the world," Burcaw said. "It's surreal. People recognize me all over."
"We're just really proud of it," Julia said.
Burcaw, now a local celebrity, gets recognized while out to dinner or rocking around at Musikfest.
Burcaw is continuing to film his experiences to present to the world and expanding his work with other filming companies.
Burcaw and O'Connor recently returned from an East Coast speaking tour. Burcaw, his brother Andrew Burcaw, and a coworker from Laughing At My Nightmare, Mark Male, of Charlotte, N.C., along with a film crew of five people, drove to Florida to pick up O'Connor. On the way back, they stopped at schools and academies for Burcaw to spread his message.
On the speaking tour, Burcaw promoted his philosophy that laughter can help to overcome the difficult times.
The first stop on the speaking tour was at a school for students with behavioral issues in Winston-Salem, N.C. It was this stop that had the greatest impact on both Burcaw and O'Connor.
In the beginning, the students were completely turned off. "It was a total transformation by the end," the Emmy nominated producer recalled.
The positive energy Burcaw exudes is contagious.
"They completely let loose with us," O'Connor said. Burcaw's story about his positive outlook with his experience appeals to not only those with different adversities, but everyone.
"People in wheelchairs aren't always mentally handicapped," Burcaw said, revealing many people are hesitant to ask him about his condition. "I wish people would ask, it's fun to talk about." Burcaw also spoke to Disney World employees inside Cinderella's Castle, and he recently spoke at the United States Military Academy West Point.
Along with FireRock Productions, Burcaw and O'Connor are currently filming a series of web videos to premiere for comedy weeks on Burcaw's blog starting in October.
"In October, we hope to have one week every month with a new video every day," O'Connor said.
"Rocky really has a vision for sharing people's stories," Julia said, adding her husband has a vision to take the stories of others and create a beautiful piece.
His talent has been noticed. Rocky has also been nominated for an Emmy under the Editor - Program category for Laughing At My Nightmare, Photographer - Program for St. Luke's Commitment to Education and Photographer - Program Gift of Music and Photographer, which were all produced by FireRock Productions.
The Urichs are nominated in the Human Interest Program Feature/Segment along with WHYY for "Band of Artists," Eagles Television Network for "Jeremy Maclin Life Story," The Comcast Network for "Maddie Loves the Phillies." For the Editor - Program category, Rocky is nominated along with Justin Krapf, of Comcast SportsNet, Cole Cullen, of Penn State Public Media, and Michael O'Connor, of the Eagles Television Network. In the Photographer - Program category, Rocky is nominated along with Brad Nau, of Comcast SportsNet, Douglas Interrante, of Eagles Television Network and Tom Kretschmer, of Comcast SportsNet.