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On the big screen: student-produced commercial to run nationally at Regal theaters

As part of the 2018 Coca-Cola and Regal Films student film competition, an Elon team received $15,000 to produce a 35-second film highlighting the moviegoing experience.

As audience members across the U.S. settle into Regal Cinemas this fall, they’ll get a first-hand look at the cinematic talents of Elon University students and alumni.

Matt Simmons ’19 (center), the Elon team's director of photography, sets up a shot during the Atlanta shoot in January. Elon alumni also assisted on location, including Mitch Herndon ’17 (right), a video producer in the School of Communications. Photos courtesy of Caroline Brehman ’18

Beginning on Friday, Oct. 12 – and continuing through Nov. 27 – all Regal theaters will show “Movie Life,” a 35-second commercial made by an Elon team that was one of five finalists in the 2018 Coca-Cola and Regal Films program. The contest for young filmmakers consistently attracts submissions from the country’s top film schools.

As a contest finalist, the Elon contingent received $15,000 to make an entry that highlighted the moviegoing experience and the essential role that Coca-Cola and popcorn play when going to the movies. The entry was led by cinema and television arts majors Patrick Wei ’20, who wrote the script, and Hunter Strauch ’18.

The Elon University team poses on set at a Regal Cinema in Atlanta. The team filmed the commercial overnight from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m.

Wei, Strauch and co-producer Katie Shannon ’18 then compiled a team of Elon students, alumni and professionals to help them produce the project. In January, the crew traveled to Atlanta to film the commercial in an overnight, 12-hour-long shoot. Weeks of post-production then followed before a winner – Ithaca College – was announced at the CinemaCon conference in Las Vegas in April.

Alongside the students, Elon alumnus Wilson Hester ’15 co-directed the film with Wei, while Mitch Herndon ’17, video producer in the School of Communications, served as first assistant camera. Assistant Professor Youssef Osman mentored the project.

“Airing nationally is an honor the entire School of Communications deserved,” Strauch said. “I’m incredibly excited and proud of every member of my crew … their work speaks highly of Elon. So much hard work from every department went into those 30 seconds and I know that all of us came out as better professionals in our industry. You can bet I'll be cheering in theaters every time it comes on.”

Co-producers Hunter Strauch ’18 and Katie Shannon ’18 embrace while on set filming Elon's commercial. The pair worked closely and oversaw casting, budgeting, location scouting, catering, wardrobe and numerous other responsibilities. 

The contest’s competition was fierce and included entries from Columbia University, the School of Visual Arts, UCLA and the eventual winner, Ithaca College. But Wei felt Elon’s entry held its own against these film school heavyweights.

"For me, the Coke commercial proves that Elon is a place of talent,” Wei said. “That we are able to compete with graduate students from some of the best film schools in the county. I think it highlights that Elon has capable filmmakers and hard-working artists. Without any one of them, the commercial wouldn't be the same.”

The rest of the crew echoed similar sentiments, noting how pivotal each student and individual was in the creation of the final product.

"We worked countless hours and went through ups and downs for something we all love doing – producing amazing media,” said Jeff Leu ’20, a behind-the-scenes videographer on the project. “And now Coca-Cola Regal Films is giving us a chance to showcase our hard work and talent – it's surreal. I can't be thankful enough for the awesome cast and crew for letting me be a part of this experience.”

Now an alumna, Shannon credits the competition for providing her an opportunity to apply her skills in a professional setting months before leaving campus. It also allowed her to work with “some of the most talented students at Elon,” she added.

“The knowledge I’ve gained from this has stayed with me even after graduation,” Shannon said. “It was an amazing experience, and I’m so excited to see it on the big screen!"

Tommy Kopetskie,
10/11/2018 8:50 AM