Elon alumnus reflects on experience participating in the Coca-Cola and Regal Films Competition

Eric Hernandez ’16, a cinema and television arts major, discusses the support he received and knowledge he gained while competing in the contest for up-and-coming filmmakers.


While the script is his own, and his name is attached as writer and director, Eric Hernandez ’16 knows full well his entry in the 2016 Coca-Cola and Regal Films Competition was a team effort – a collaboration rich in Elon University connections.

A few days after the mid-October announcement of the competition’s winner – Ameer Kazmi, a 20-year-old student at New York City’s School of Visual Arts – Hernandez spoke about his own experiences in the contest for the up-and-coming filmmakers, circling back again and again to the overwhelming support he received during the project.

“Without a doubt, it was my experiences at Elon and the Elon community itself that helped me from the beginning all the way through the end,” said the cinema and television arts major. “Elon was pivotal to the success of the commercial, and I don’t know what it would have been without the support I received.”

Eric Hernandez ’16 (left) was selected as one of three finalists for the 2016 Coca-Cola and Regal Films Competition, which invited five colleges to submit student scripts highlighting the movie-going experience. Also pictured is Aurora Albi-Mercier ’16, who appeared in Hernandez’s film entry. Photos courtesy of Julia Boyd '15
One of just three competition finalists, Hernandez received $15,000 this summer to turn his script, titled “A Life’s Inspiration,” into a 30-second commercial that captures the emotions of the movie-going experience. This process included an ambitious one-day shoot in Los Angeles and several weeks of postproduction, with Hernandez enlisting the services of more than a dozen Elon friends and collaborators.

Hernandez’s script highlights a father and daughter’s tradition of going to the movies, which influences the young girl to become a film director. While the final product is not available for viewing, this behind-the-scenes video (also shown above) provides a glimpse into the production of “A Life’s Inspiration.”

Parallels certainly exist between the script’s material and Hernandez’s own life. In fact, the Hispanic filmmaker noted that growing up many of his fondest childhood memories stem from trips to the movies with his father.

“Why I’m so passionate about (the film) is because it is my story,” he said on the behind-the-scenes video. “I connect with it on such a personal level, not only in the content but with what’s behind it.”

While the story was Hernandez’s own creation, the commercial itself incorporated the help of many, including Elon alumnae Bia Jurema ’15, producer and editor, and Cappy Leonard ’15, first assistant director. Elon support came from a variety of directions, Hernandez said, noting the professional insight he received from communications faculty and staff members Bryan Baker, J McMerty and Youssef Osman, as well as Kelly Carlton, a member of the school’s advisory board.

Several other Elon alumni and current students were also involved, most notably Marty Lucero ’16, who assisted with sound effects, and Caroline Grell ’17, who facilitated finding a studio location. According to Hernandez, Grell reached out to her connections at her Wayfarer Entertainment internship, who then recommended CML Studios, where part of the commercial was shot. Hernandez compiled a “thank you” list, which is located below.

“It wasn’t just me, that’s for sure,” Hernandez said. “I got a lot of help from my Elon friends who were so helpful, providing advice and guidance along the way.”

Hernandez (center) enlisted the services of more than a dozen Elon friends and collaborators to help produce his 30-second film that captures the emotions of the movie-going experience.
​While there was a learning curve working with two prominent corporations such as Coca-Cola and Regal, Hernandez said he thoroughly appreciated the opportunity to produce a high-quality commercial and tell such a personal story.

“This competition gave us a professional opportunity to share our voice and stories with the world,” he said. “Coming in, it was a completely different world than I’m used to, where the creative control and say is completely my own. During this process, I learned to communicate and worked to achieve their priorities as well as mine.”

He added: “At the end of the day, this program gives students and recent graduates the opportunity to see how professional commercials are created and how to collaborate with not only your creative team but also the creative team of the company you’re working for. I’m so thankful I got to be a part of this.”

But like any creative person, with a few weeks of hindsight creeping in, Hernandez would relish a chance to improve on his final product, especially if he could extend the commercial just a bit. “If I could add 10 more seconds, we could have established more of a father-daughter tradition of going to the movies,” Hernandez said.

Additionally, he acknowledged a younger actress playing the young daughter might have pulled on the heartstrings a bit more. “I think it would have brought a little more innocence to the commercial,” he said. “Plus, people always connect with young children.”

Thank you

Hernandez called the following list “a combination of Elon students, faculty and outside supporters who were pivotal to the success of the commercial.”

  • Andrew Steinitz
  • Bryan Baker
  • Caroline Grell
  • Clay Stevenson
  • Derek Scully
  • Ethan Gaskin
  • Evan McGillivray
  • Ian MacGregor
  • J McMerty
  • Kelly Carlton
  • Marty Lucero
  • Matt Morris
  • Mei Bess
  • Michael Tahan
  • Sam Costelo
  • Tony Hernandez
  • Virginia Sanchez
  • Youssef Osman