Oliver Smith ’22, Tripp Hill ’22 reflect on internships promoting ‘The Rising Hawk’ action film

The School of Communications juniors teamed up with Elon alumnus Nathan Moore ’02, the film’s producer, to create content for promotion and social media in advance of the VOD release of the Ukrainian-American historical action film.

As part of his internship promoting “The Rising Hawk,” Oliver Smith ’22 created a variety of content for social media and online use, including this graphic highlighting the film’s availability on VOD platforms. Image courtesy of Smith.

Elon junior Oliver Smith admitted some trepidation before accepting his remote internship, which had him creating promotional content for a new action film titled “The Rising Hawk,” available on VOD platforms and digital retailers.

Smith stands outside the iconic Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah. He was one of 21 Elon students to attend the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, the nation’s largest independent film festival. Photo courtesy of Smith.

The cinema and television arts BFA major said there was a lot to process considering he’d be living in Elon, working a continent away from his supervisors in Los Angeles – and they’d be promoting a Ukrainian-American film. In hindsight, Smith explained that he shouldn’t have been concerned, thanks largely to Elon connection Nathan Moore ’02, the film’s producer.

“I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to get much out of a remote internship, but I definitely feel like part of the team and well informed about everything going on, even though I am on the other side of the country,” Smith said. “Nathan has been fantastic! He told us from the beginning that he wanted to have us be as engaged as possible. Everyone says that, but Nathan has actually delivered.”

Smith interned with fellow Elon student Tripp Hill to promote “The Rising Hawk,” in advance of its North American release in early October. While it is new to the United States, the film has garnered plenty of buzz overseas and was nominated for seven 2020 Ukrainian Film Academy Awards, winning three.

The Elon students said they grew comfortable working virtually with Moore and director John Wynn because of their supervisors’ professionalism, willingness to answer questions, and the mutual respect they showed one another. Hill explained that he appreciated that expectations were clearly laid out in advance.

“Nathan’s very accommodating, definitely flexible and is clear with what he expects, and schedules around our availability,” the journalism major said. “He’s been very good to work with.”

Like Smith, who stayed on campus, Hill interned remotely while living in his home in Massachusetts. Via Zoom calls, the two students helped create materials essential to the marketing and publicity of “The Rising Hawk.” While producing the promotional content, Smith said he gained a “far deeper understanding of Photoshop then I ever had before.”

Prior to his internship promoting “The Rising Hawk,” Elon junior Tripp Hill (pictured) participated in the Through the Lens of ESPN course offered in Winter Term 2020. The Global Education class visited several sports media outlets during its travels in Argentina and New York City, where Hill and the class spent an hour with Russell Wolff, executive vice president and general manager of ESPN+.

Hill wrote extensively to promote the film, and kept an eye on what viewers, critics and blogs were saying about the movie online. The experience has left an impact on him.

“I have a much bigger appreciation for what goes into the film industry and how many moving parts go into making and releasing any type of film,” Hill said.

Following the film’s Oct. 2 North American release, Smith and Hill have assisted the production team on other film and TV projects in development and pre-production. This has included Smith handling script coverage and presenting notes during pitch meetings.

Smith couldn’t help but express excitement for his added responsibilities, noting, “Last week, I gave notes on a pitch for a show that went in front of executives the next day.”

Smith first became aware of Moore and “The Rising Hawk” during his Winter Term class, The Sundance Experience, which attended the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Accompanied by J McMerty ’00, director of the Elon in Los Angeles program, 21 students – including Smith – attended film screenings, interacted with alumni at wisdom sessions, and gained an up-close view of the festival. Another added perk? The class received an early screening of the English version of “The Rising Hawk.”

Moore, who studied musical theatre at Elon, had previously connected with McMerty regarding student internships, and the Elon in LA director recommended that Smith pursue the opportunity. Those discussions eventually led to a productive Skype meeting between Smith and Moore – and an internship.

“J. McMerty has built a really exciting foundation of working alumni in Los Angeles who are now able to reach back and help the next group of graduates gain traction all the way on the other side of the country. And in the case of ‘The Rising Hawk’ to make connections across the world on an international production,” Moore said.

Elon alumnus Nathan Moore ’02 (right) and John Wynn, director of “The Rising Hawk,” were photographed together while attending an event for fellow Elon alum Daniel J. Watts ’04. Photo courtesy of Moore. Photo credit: Guillermo Proano.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the film’s theatrical run was canceled in favor of a digital release. For those interested, “The Rising Hawk” is available on iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu and Fandango. So far, the response has been quite popular, per Moore, with a hat tip to Smith and Hill for their efforts.

“Strangely enough, having remote interns for a digital release works really well,” Moore said. “Most people are hearing about the film through different online sources, so what better way to learn to connect to those audiences than have interns who share that digital exposure first. It’s like having a well-informed, talented test audience.”

Moore commended his Elon interns, and noted he fully expected them to succeed.

“I’ve had the great pleasure of working with some really talented Elon students in the past,” he said. “For us, it’s entirely about getting to work with passionate and dedicated people. Thus far, we’ve had nothing but good experiences. We look forward to many more in the years to come.”

About “The Rising Hawk”

A collaboration between American and Ukrainian filmmakers, the 2019 action film “The Rising Hawk” tells the story of a village in the Carpathian Mountains that fights against the Mongol Empire army in the 13th century. The movie is based on the 1883 novel “Zakhar Berkut” by Ukrainian author Ivan Franko. It was nominated for seven 2020 Ukrainian Film Academy Awards, winning three.

To watch the official trailer of “The Rising Hawk,” click here.