• Worth Watching:

The Communicator


Streaming debut next step in process for alumnus' documentary

Paddy Cotter profile picture
Alumnus Paddy Cotter produced, wrote and directed the documentary "16," about former Penn State men's lacrosse player Connor Darcey.

Paddy Cotter has seen the film he spent three years creating screen in theaters in recent months and draw a positive response from engaged and invested audiences.

When the film becomes available online worldwide as a streaming option this week, he’s excited for what’s next.

Cotter’s documentary, “16,” tells the story of former Penn State men’s lacrosse goalie Connor Darcey, who died in a car accident in June 2015. In the wake of that tragedy, the team somehow found a way to define itself, grow and thrive.

“This has been a long time coming, almost three years from envisioning it to now,” said Cotter, who earned his Penn State bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2020. He has high hopes for the reaction the film can generate. “I hope they take the idea that just because someone’s gone there’s a way to keep their legacy going, there’s a way to keep their story alive.

“What this team found was if they built their identity around a number that would create a tremendous amount of energy for years, and they’re hoping for decades.”

PODCAST: Paddy Cotter Documentary Debut

Cotter initially discovered the story while covering the men’s lacrosse team for The Daily Collegian when he was a freshman. As he broadened his interests and sharpened his skills, he felt a documentary was the best way to tell the story about commitment, determination, love and resilience.

He also learned a bit about himself during the process.

“In a way my first thoughts were selfish — I have to get this out there and this will help build the blocks for my career,” Cotter said. Somewhere along the line his perspective shifted. “It’s this big team effort and I feel like I’m distributing it with thousands of Connor’s best friends. We’re in the game together.”

The 68-minute film, which gets its title from the goalie’s former uniform number, grew from Cotter’s unfettered access to the team as well as his desire to tell the story in the most compelling way possible. Darcey’s family members, Penn State team members and people from his Boston community (where Darcey grew up) all participated in the project.

“What I found with documentary filmmaking, and I’m totally biased, is that you get to combine the true story nature and journalistic endeavors that come with writing with the emotion and impact and guttural feel you get with film.”

Paddy Cotter

Cotter produced, wrote and directed the film. He also composed its original music. In recent months his focus has been on the film’s distribution, marketing and related merchandise.

Whenever he was in doubt during the process, Cotter focused on people — building relationships to better tell the story or asking questions of those who knew more than him in order to find a way to make the project the best it could be.

“What I love about documentary filmmaking is it’s a human craft. You have to be having intimate conversations with people. You have to form real relationships, and I worked really hard at it,” Cotter said. “For everything I lacked, across the board, mistake after mistake, I never made a mistake [of forgetting] that these were people I was dealing with who had real grief and real stories.”