Virginia Tech Magazine
Virginia Tech

Award-winning filmmakers shed light on the lives of NFL hopefuls

by CHAD O'KANE M.A. '11

Evan Marshall (communication '94) and Jim Nabti (electrical engineering '94)
Evan Marshall (communication '94) and Jim Nabti (electrical engineering '94)
What started out as a project to create short profiles for a handful of NFL hopefuls quickly evolved into a feature-length documentary for Evan Marshall (communication '94) and Jim Nabti (electrical engineering '94).

The film, entitled "Late Rounders," won Marshall, a first-time film director, the D.C. New Filmmaker Award at the 2011 Washington, D.C., Independent Film Festival. Despite the accolades, merely finishing the film, according to Marshall, was reward enough. "So many people like to say, 'I'm a filmmaker,' yet they've never finished a project," Marshall said. "So even if I never make any money from this film, I finished a feature-length project that actually won some awards." Nabti, who produced the film—which tells the stories of players expecting to be selected in the last rounds of the NFL draft, if at all—immediately thought of Marshall when he was first approached about the project by the agency representing the featured players.

The partnership between Marshall and Nabti, who both freelance full-time for television and film productions around the country, can be traced back to their days at VTTV, a station run by and for Virginia Tech students. Each credits his time at Virginia Tech with helping to shape his future. Marshall was quick to note that his Virginia Tech background was instrumental in helping him get his start in the entertainment industry. "My first job in TV out of school came from Tech connections," Marshall said. "It may sound cliché, but the VT community is something special. When you're in the club, you're in the club." And while engineering might seem like a far cry from the entertainment industry, Nabti couldn't disagree more. "I think the engineering degree at Tech is perfect for any career," Nabti explained. "My professors didn't teach me the answers; rather, they taught me how to find the answers myself."

As the film continues on the festival circuit, the pair hopes to sign on with a distributor, though Nabti has even higher hopes. "The awards and recognition are great, but I'm hoping we haven't had our greatest reward yet," Nabti said. "Like all great discoveries, we sort of stumbled into this. But we've found a niche and really think this would make a great TV show."

Chad O'Kane (M.A. communication '11) is a graduate assistant with Virginia Tech Magazine.

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Confessions of a 'chocoholic'

by CHAD O'KANE M.A. '11

Frances Park (psychology '77)
Frances Park (psychology '77)
When self-proclaimed lifelong "chocoholics" Frances Park (psychology '77) and her sister, Ginger Park, recently celebrated 25 years in their downtown Washington, D.C., boutique, Chocolate Chocolate, they penned a memoir recounting the experience, rife as it is with successes and challenges. Entitled "Chocolate Chocolate: The True Story of Two Sisters, Tons of Treats, and the Little Shop That Could," the book has received a great deal of attention—and they've heard from some readers who consider it a bible of business know-how.

The secret ingredient seems to be enthusiasm. "Our customers often remark that it looks like we're having way too much fun behind the counter," Frances Park said. "We never look at the clock and often find ourselves still in the shop an hour after closing time."

Park credits her father with her taste for fine chocolate, fondly recalling the time he returned from a business trip with a suitcase full of gourmet Swiss goodies. Following their father's untimely passing, Park, her sister, and their mother used the money from his estate to set up shop. "We lost a father but found a dream," Park said.

Park said they "taste everything out there and only sell what we love: the best local and global chocolates on the map." They prefer the smaller manufacturers, European or American, as the product is fresher upon arrival. Their house truffle, the one delicacy they produce in-house, is made daily and is almost always gone by late afternoon. While they are both fans of gourmet chocolate, Park explained that she and her sister are by no means chocolate snobs. "We have it all," Park said, "which I think is part of why we've been so successful. We have something for everyone."

A published writer since high school, Park observed that she lives in two worlds. "I balance writing and the store," Park said. "When I write, I'm completely isolated, sometimes for days. When I'm at the store, all I do is talk all day." Park continually finds inspiration in her college years. "With most of my writing, I draw heavily upon my time at Virginia Tech," she said.

Chad O'Kane (M.A. communication '11) is a graduate assistant with Virginia Tech Magazine.

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Commissioner champions agriculture in the commonwealth


Matthew Lohr (agriculture education '95)
Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
Matthew Lohr (agriculture education '95)
When looking for a commissioner for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), Gov. Bob McDonnell wanted someone for whom agriculture was both a way of life and a passion. Those criteria made Matthew Lohr (agriculture education '95) the man for the job.

Born and raised on the family farm he now owns in Rockingham County, Lohr has worked hard to bring the farm into the 21st century. What began as a purely traditional farm with beef cattle, poultry, and soybeans has grown to include agritourism, from a corn maze to pick-your-own pumpkins to hayrides. The farm welcomed 15,000 visitors last year.

"Agritourism gives the consumer a chance to experience life on the farm. It educates folks about agriculture," Lohr explained. His willingness to think outside the box and his love of service led him toward politics. After beginning in local elections, he won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. He served for five years, the majority of which he was the only elected farmer. This distinction enabled him to keep important agricultural issues on the table.

When McDonnell appointed him, Lohr was ready for the challenge. "We have just over 500 employees, and I oversee everything from marketing to keeping a safe food supply to making sure we have healthy animals," he said.

Most exciting for Lohr is consumers' new desire to "know their farmer." Interest in locally grown produce has skyrocketed. "We have doubled the number of farmers' markets in Virginia. There are now over 200," he said proudly.

Lohr cites his time at Virginia Tech as helping him to seize opportunities and expand his knowledge of his field. "Virginia Tech keeps innovating and researching to stay on the cutting edge of agriculture," he said. "I love whenever I get a chance to go back to Tech and work with students."

Hillary May, a senior English major, is an intern with Virginia Tech Magazine.


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Summer 2011