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Eric Hernandez ’16 named a finalist for Coca-Cola and Regal film competition

Following his selection as one of three finalists, the Elon University graduate received $15,000 to produce a 30-second film that captures the emotions of the movie-going experience. 

Eric Hernandez ’16 was selected as one of three finalists for the 2016 Coca-Cola and Regal Film Program, a film competition for up-and-coming filmmakers. Photos courtesy of Hernandez

Many of Eric Hernandez’s fondest childhood memories stem from trips to the movie theater with his father. In fact, the 2016 Elon University graduate still has many of his ticket stubs from the first Harry Potter film he watched again and again with his dad.

This premise, the impact of the movie-going experience on a young child, is the theme of Hernandez’s script entry for the 2016 Coca-Cola and Regal Film Program, a competition for up-and-coming filmmakers. The cinema and televisions arts major, who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, was named one of the program’s three finalists and received $15,000 to turn his script into a film. The contest's winner, which will be named in late September, will have his or her film screened nationally in Regal theaters.

While the Colorado native is currently living in Arlington, Virginia, he plans to shoot his 30-second film in Los Angeles in late July. He’s already enlisted the help of J McMerty, director of the Elon in Los Angeles Program, as well as several fellow Elon graduates and current students working and studying on the West Coast.

“I have known Eric since he attended our Elon in LA program in the spring of 2014, and he was an exceptional student with an eagerness to learn that pushed his peers,” said McMerty. “He’s produced several professional quality pieces during his time at Elon and this post-graduate film will be the culmination of his academic experience.”

In an effort to inspire young filmmakers, the Coca-Cola and Regal Film Program invited five institutions to submit student scripts this spring highlighting the movie-going experience. In addition to Elon, The School of Visual Arts, UCLA, Savannah College of Art and Design, and Columbia College all participated, with students allowed to submit as many script entries as they wanted.

The Coca-Cola and Regal Film Program invited five colleges to submit student scripts this spring highlighting the movie-going experience. Participating institutions included Elon University, The School of Visual Arts, UCLA, Savannah College of Art and Design, and Columbia College.

​Hernandez submitted five scripts; his favorite entry – and the one the contest selected – was titled “A Life’s Inspiration.” The half-page script depicts a father and daughter’s tradition of going to the movies, highlighting the moment the young girl was captivated and inspired by what she saw on the screen. The story then fast forwards to later in the daughter’s life when she's a working director.

“It comes full circle,” Hernandez said of the script’s theme. “It’s very similar to the experiences I had with my dad growing up.”

During the revision process, Hernandez worked with Bryan Baker, Elon’s director of sound and video projects, to tighten the script, which must tell a compelling story in less than half a minute.

“The scripts had to really concentrate on a movie-going experience, and Eric’s had so much potential from the start,” said Baker. “All of his entries were good, but I felt this one had legs. We just needed to shortening it up a bit.”

Added Hernandez, “Length was definitely the biggest challenge for anyone who applied. You had to keep it moving, and keep it succinct. I had to do several revisions because keeping it short and sweet was difficult.”

With filming set to begin in a few weeks to meet a mid-August deadline, Hernandez noted distance was another hurdle, having to communicate across the country to build his team. He’s already recruited several crew positions and hopes to fill the remaining spots with a mixture of Elon alumni, current students and friends. This includes several crew members who also worked on Hernandez’s BFA thesis film, “Unhinged.”

Hernandez’s BFA thesis film, “Unhinged,” was a psychological thriller that followed an undiagnosed schizophrenic who has his life turned upside down after a traumatic car accident. 

​“It is kind of daunting, especially because of the distance right now, but this is an opportunity that won’t fall into your lap too many times,” he said. “In my opinion, this is something I had to do. This is just another creative step for me.”

Hernandez noted that he appreciates that he can lean on his Elon connections to make this project become a reality. With an undertaking of this magnitude and the quick turnaround, the support will be crucial.

“Elon is really great because of its size,” he said. “So many of us get to work together and get to know each other during our four years here. Plus, the Elon in LA program gives me the opportunity to meet so many other alumni that I didn’t know, and I can reach out to them as well.”

McMerty commended Coca-Cola and Regal Cinemas for providing such a worthwhile opportunity to aspiring filmmakers like Hernandez. “The spirit of competition is an essential part of the film industry now and this program teaches our students this lesson in a real-world scenario,” he said. “I salute the folks at Coca-Cola and Regal for supporting the next generation of filmmakers.”

Hernandez’s selection came as no surprise to Baker, who recalled how the recent graduate could often be found in McEwen Communications Building talking with other students about film scripts, student television shows and documentary productions. His willingness to work and interest in improvement made him stand out from the beginning.

Added Baker, “Eric’s curiosity, creativity and work ethic are as impressive as any student that I have seen.”

Tommy Kopetskie,
7/11/2016 9:30 AM