Shelling Indiana to Hollywood
Erin Newell remembers the day during her freshman year when a telecommunications professor called her a “production princess” and challenged her to take her skills to the next level.

The only female in the class, Newell quickly rose above her male counterparts, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications in 1997, and toiled in Hollywood for a decade. She now heads Film Indiana, an organization committed to bringing movie production to the state.

Dr. Maria Williams-Hawkins told me I needed to work harder to prove myself in this industry,” she says. “I was taken aback but determined to carry the heaviest equipment and get dirty—anything to prove that I was as tough and determined as my male counterparts. It’s an empowering mindset that I still carry today.”

That determination is serving Newell well as she is working to convince Hollywood that Indiana is the perfect destination for its productions. Newell spent the 2009-10 academic year working with a group of Ball State students and legendary film director Robert Mugge, the Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball endowed chair in telecommunications, to create short promotional videos that are being e-mailed to Hollywood movie moguls.

The videos promote the rolling hills of southern Indiana, the bustling business district of Indianapolis as well as the beaches along Lake Michigan. The campaign is designed to bring production crews to shoot films in a state far less costly than southern California but with an abundance of telecommunications professionals—many educated at Ball State.

“Ball State has been an incredible resource in helping market and spread the word about Film Indiana,” she says. “We are striving for a similar goal in bringing more film, television, and commercial production work to Indiana. I also see emerging media opportunities coming to the state that will create jobs for our graduates.”

Years after a fresh-faced youngster left the campus, Williams-Hawkins still keeps a photo of Newell in her office as a reminder.

“I only called Erin a princess to spur her on and she is a great example of what you can do if you work hard. She always gave me her best and listened to every suggestion I had,” Williams-Hawkins says. “When she called to tell me that she had gotten her dream job with Film Indiana, I wasn’t surprised. Erin was born to succeed.”