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Communications junior to speak at TED2016 conference

Cinema and television arts major Jonny Deaton ’17 will screen his film, “Joining the Conversation,” and kick off a discussion about nuclear weapons during the opening day of the annual conference held in Vancouver, British Columbia. 

Cinema and television arts major Jonny Deaton ’17 will discuss the topic of nuclear weapons at TED2016, one of the world’s largest technology conferences. Photo courtesy of Deaton

​A few hours before acclaimed television producer Shonda Rhimes – best known as the brains behind ABC hits “Grey's Anatomy” and “Scandal” – regales audience members at the opening night of the TED2016 conference, Elon University junior Jonny Deaton will be among event’s presenters, addressing the topic of nuclear weapons and their role in today's society.

The cinema and television arts major drew an invitation to one of the world’s largest technology conferences thanks to his four-minute film titled “Joining the Conversation,” which examines the relationship between millennials and their knowledge of nuclear weapons and development. He will travel – all expenses paid – to Vancouver, British Columbia, for the opening of the five-day event, slated to run Feb. 15-19, 2016.

After directing and producing the film in summer 2015, Deaton and his project captured first place in the student category of the Nukebusters 2015 Short Film Contest, hosted by Physicians for Social Responsibility, a physician-led nonprofit organization working to protect the public from nuclear attacks. The contest was also supported by a grant from N Square, a multimillion-dollar initiative investigating how to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons.

In an attempt to spark dialogue about nuclear weapon awareness, N Square secured an early presentation session at the TED2016 conference and selected Deaton to serve as its opening presenter. The Elon junior will screen his film and then lead a short discussion highlighting his experience creating the video, what the project’s goals were, how he’ll address the issue going forward, and what his experiences were working with Physicians for Social Responsibility.

It’s been a fortuitous run since Deaton decided to participate in Physicians for Social Responsibility's film contest, especially when one considers he wrapped up his final cut just minutes before its due date.

Deaton admitted he only entered the competition because of the constant persistence from his sister, Kathryn, a one-time intern for the nonprofit. “My sister was vital in obtaining the best information to use throughout the film, and I really credit her for its success,” he said.

​Likewise, Deaton lauded the film’s crew, which included Elon alumnus Will Lee '15 as the project's director of photography, for their hard work and expertise. He noted, “The film would not be what it is without the efforts of my crew in Los Angeles.”

During last fall’s Nukebusters award ceremony at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C., Deaton had the opportunity to network with several PSR and N Square representatives. Those connections and his film eventually led to an impromptu call in January to travel to Vancouver – on N Square’s dime.

For the first time in TED conference history, the opening night’s lectures and presentations will be screened live to hundreds of theaters nationwide. (Deaton’s session is scheduled during an afternoon block and will not be part of the theater broadcast.) Three Greensboro venues are scheduled to screen the Feb. 15 tech and innovation celebration. 

Tommy Kopetskie,
2/12/2016 10:45 AM