Music & Technology Alumnus Produces Bus Ride-Along Film Series with Trailways

8/19/2014

Nick Catania ’12 picked a great time of year to film a series about bus travel in America. Catania and film assistant, T.J. Giannetta, were commissioned by Trailways Transportation Systems to create a “Ride-Along" film production for a bus trip from New Paltz, New York, to the American Bus Association’s convention in Nashville, Tennessee, some 940 miles away. It was January 2014. The itinerary was set, arrangements were made, filming had begun, and then Mother Nature sent a polar vortex that would grip the Northeast in frigid, sub-zero temperatures for days on end.

But Catania and Giannetta took it in stride. “The itinerary for the original trip had to be changed from heading to Indianapolis and St. Louis – straight into the storm. With some quick thinking, and help from the bus companies, we were re-routed to Washington, DC. It just goes to show you how flexible the bus industry is. They have to always think ahead and find the best solution for their passengers," said Catania.

The result of this four-day film is the "Trailways Ride-Along Film Series" about modern bus travel in America, consisting of four 10-minute videos highlighting each day’s adventure and the new experiences for the two bus travelers. Recently, a fifth video has been added showing their “rest day” at Trailways Headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia. The videos include some Q&A sessions with bus riders, many of whom are longtime regulars. 

Catania, who earned dual degrees from Stevens in Music & Technology and Engineering Physics, has always loved operating in both mediums. A gifted musician, he got his first video camera at age 10 and has had a love for production ever since.

He was already set to attend the ABA convention with his tech-startup NickelBus, Inc., when Trailways, who was mulling over the idea of a bus film, heard about his skills as a filmmaker. They approached him and Catania was immediately sold. 

“Trailways wanted to create a YouTube film about modern bus travel in America from the viewpoint of young, tech-savvy travelers," said Tracey Simmons, Trailways Film Project coordinator. “We were very lucky to meet Nick. He was the perfect fit to create this bus trip film project. He exceeded our expectations. The bus trip was a big challenge: it took place during the worst winter in 60 years (the polar vortex of 2014). Yet Nick and T.J., his assistant, kept it fun and on course. Ultimately, they produced a great video series."

Catania fell in love with bus travel while at Stevens, often using buses as a way to travel on the cheap, since having a car in Hoboken can be a challenge and an expense. “I didn’t have a car while I was a student, so I reverted to buses to visit friends and family. Motorcoach travel is on-the-go, meaning that you don’t have to get to the depot hours before departure. There are no loud jet engine noises, and it’s cheaper, which allows you to travel more for less. Also, you get a chance to see America at the ground level," allowing a person to see parts of this country they would not see from the sky above, he said.

He’s taken many bus trips, but admits never one of this size. He made the video and the trip to explore a new opportunity. “I don’t want to just make a trip, I want to book the adventure," he said.

He may be doing that with his latest venture, NickelBus, a software service provider that allows a user to plan long-distance trips using buses. Its mission is to bring more travel opportunities to millions of people by creating an online booking agent for bus tickets to help travelers navigate throughout the U.S. Catania serves as president, and the company’s CEO is Ralph Mattiaccio ’12, M.S. ’14.

“The motorcoach industry plays an enormous role in moving people throughout the country, and I hope that our film enlightens future travelers about the benefits and opportunities that come with bus travel," Catania said.

Currently, Catania is working with Renewage, LLC, producing a video about their installment of a gravel wetland storm water system in the Village of Wappingers Falls, New York. The installation is designed as a green solution for water management, filtration and remediation.