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Telling the story of the Boston Marathon markers

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Published by:

Digital Team

Our seven-minute documentary about the creation of markers at the Boston Marathon bombing sites has now received award recognition.

It’s hard to pin down one favorite video among the many we’ve created. Just in the past few months, our Digital storytelling team has been hard at work highlighting the myriad of efforts happening across Boston as the City grapples with COVID-19. 

However, one video that is near and dear to our hearts is our “Re-Marking the Boston Marathon” short-form documentary, which has received a number of accolades since airing last October. If you haven’t seen it, you can check out the video below:

The seven-minute documentary details the delicate process taken to create markers at each of the two 2013 Boston Marathon bombing sites. Our goal was to show the unity between the victims’ families, the City, the sculptor, the glass artists, the construction managers, the Mayor, and the priest who served as the liaison to the victims' families. Together, they built a memorial that honored the lives of those lost, and all those affected by the bombings.

This was a story we never wanted to have to tell. Boston didn't want to experience this, and these lives should never have been lost. But the opportunity to tell the story of honoring those individuals — and the incredible resilience our City has shown — is one we will never take for granted.

How we did it

Like its intended goal of showing unity, this documentary came together through immense teamwork across the City of Boston. After the project leads at Property Management put together a team of contractors and unique artists to create these markers, the decision was made to document the process. The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) started mapping out filming ideas. Shortly thereafter, they reached out to our team. Together, staff from all three departments started collecting footage. 

To show the full scope and thoughtfulness behind the project, we started gathering video in February 2019. We continued to capture footage for more than eight months before the documentary was released. Starting with the first stones being laid in the floor during winter, all the way to the completion, where the families gathered to see the markers illuminated for the first time. 

One of the most important pieces of the project was finding the right narrative, delivered from the right voices. We traveled to two studios, one church, and Boston City Hall to conduct sit-down interviews with each of the main characters in our film. They turned an idea into a beautiful, tangible memorial. Without their thoughtful answers, this project would not have been possible. We also would not have met our goal of showing the unity that was ever-present throughout the project.

From there, we began a very large editing process. We spent hours transcribing, cutting, and organizing our content. We pulled footage from multiple sources and many people, making sure each edit was intentional in attaining our goal. We took our time with the narrative and let the speakers tell the story. We made sure not to let our own experiences get in the way of this important story.

After more than two months of editing — which included over 30 rounds of cuts and edits, audio checking, and color grading — we finally came to a place where we felt this piece accomplished what we had hoped.

A view of the Boston Marathon markers from the ground.

Award recognition

Since airing last fall, the documentary was nominated for many awards, including a Boston/New England Regional Emmy Award, honoring “outstanding achievement in television and news programming.” We were in the “Outstanding Sports Feature/Segment” category, alongside entrants like the Boston Celtics, WBZ, and WMUR. We also ended up winning a Gold AVA Digital Award and a Gold Telly Award. The Telly Awards celebrated their 40th anniversary this year as “the world’s largest honor for video and television across all screens.” We won gold in the “Non-Broadcast, Documentary” category, beating out notable television leaders, such as CNN and CBS Interactive. The Telly Awards received more than 12,000 entries overall, from all 50 states and five continents. 

A screenshot of the Telly Awards website.

We hope the Boston Marathon markers, as well as our documentary, continue to honor those affected by this terrible tragedy. These markers serve as a reminder that human kindness, love, and unity can lift all of us up in times of need.