Hollywood Comes to Ball State

My Name is Jerry is more than a comedy about a middle-aged man lifted out of his rut by befriending young punk rockers. For our students, it is real-world experience on the many facets of making and promoting Ball State’s first commercial film.

“We are learning things we did not even know we needed to know,” says Emma Koch Smith, '10, a telecommunications major with minors in technical theatre and marketing. “Learning this way makes your head spin, but after the dust clears, you have a better understanding of how marketing really works.”

Smith, who aspires to be a broadcast producer, is part of an immersive learning class formulating and executing a marketing plan for the award-winning film, now available on DVD (it can also be placed in the Netflix queue or ordered through Osiris Entertainment or Amazon). This class complements the efforts of a student team that spent summer 2008 working with Hollywood actors and other professionals on the filming in Muncie, Indiana.

“Making a movie is not about any single person,” says Rodger Smith, director of the Institute for Digital Entertainment and Education (IDEE) and Jerry's producer. “It is a group creative effort and every single element becomes critical. Whether gaffer, production designer, director of photography, actor or director, costumer, or production assistant, each job contributes to the quality of an art project called film.”

The Creation

Ball State alumnus Doug Jones, ’82, whose filmography includes Pan's Labyrinth, The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, and the Hellboy movies, stars in the title role.

“I’ve done a lot of movies in my career,” he says, “but never one that has involved an educational factor like this. Having so many students learning and gaining experience makes it really special for me. Affecting the lives of young people is very important to me. They’re fresh-faced, eager, and have an open mind. They’re absorbing and learning so much. It’s refreshing.

“As an experience goes, My Name is Jerry was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever worked on. They were able to create art in its pure form. I was so amazed with how fantastic the production turned out with these young minds working side by side with professionals.”

The audience might recognize additional Hollywood notables such as Don Stark (That 70's Show) and Allison Scagliotti (Drake and Josh). And the credits have Ball State connections. Director Morgan Mead, who wrote the script with Jones in mind, and David Hamilton, who wrote the final version of the script, are alumni. Rick DiGiallonardo, the university’s director of music technology, created the soundtrack.

The Promotion

The immersive learning class to promote Jerry is also benefiting from industry experts such as Jay Williams (mOcean), Richard Crist (Whitinger and Company), Bill Vergos and the Spy Filmz team, and Wil Davis (Ontario Systems, Ball State).

And just like a professional agency, the students must work within—and stretch—a budget, says Susan Powell Mantel, a marketing professor mentoring the class.

“While most other college classes have assignments where students develop a plan, this class will be actually executing their plan,” Mantel says. “They will have firsthand knowledge of how effective their plan is. This is the feature that makes this class so exciting.”

A key component of the promotion is social media, says Emma Smith. Fans can follow Jerry on Facebook, Twitter, My Space, and YouTube.

“The use of social networking and social media is changing the course of marketing for many organizations, companies, and services,” she says. “Both are inexpensive and extremely productive. Consumers/viewers have the opportunity to shape the course of a marketing effort.

My Name is Jerry, as an independent film, can take advantage of social media, and as a team we are being pushed to think in new and innovative ways.”

Related Links

Immersive Learning

Colleges, Centers, and Institutes

College of Communication, Information, and Media

College of Fine Arts

College of Sciences and Humanities

Miller College of Business

Center for Media Design

Institute for Digital Entertainment and Education

Majors

Advertising

Business

English

Journalism

Marketing

Music Technology

Telecommunications (TCOM)

Theatre

“As an experience goes, My Name is Jerry was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever worked on. They were able to create art in its pure form. I was so amazed with how fantastic the production turned out with these young minds working side by side with professionals.”

—Doug Jones, actor and Ball State alumnus, ’82