The Elon graduate, who works as a producer and director for Rocky Mountain PBS, teamed with fellow Elon alumni to create a public service announcement that provides a "symbolic journey through America's history of voting rights."
Not to spoil the ending, but Eric Hernandez’s new PSA emphasizing the importance of voting concludes with a message the Elon alumnus is hopeful will resonate – “It’s your Voice. It’s your Power. Vote.”
It’s a statement Hernandez felt compelled to share heading into the final weeks of the 2020 general election, and the final words of a project he’s spent the better part of two years bringing to fruition. While the 100-second spot has received limited broadcast on Rocky Mountain PBS in Colorado – where Hernandez works full time as a producer and director for the documentary series “Colorado Experience” – the announcement has earned strong traction online, garnering more than 41,000 views on YouTube.
In addition to widespread attention online, Hernandez’s PSA was named one of three winners in the Future Filmmakers Challenge, a collaboration between renowned filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan and the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris campaign. The #VoteByNight contest called on young filmmakers to inspire Americans to vote. Following the PSA’s selection, Shyamalan wrote a powerful note to Hernandez on Instagram. “It’s so hard to do emotion without leaving an audience behind,” Shyamalan wrote. “I was genuinely moved and teared up. Made me proud to be an American. We’ll have a great time talking about filmmaking together.” Obviously, Hernandez was moved by the filmmaker’s heartfelt response.
“As a filmmaker, I think that there are stories that we discover ourselves, and stories that find us,” Hernandez said. “This idea definitely found me. I was looking for a way to get more involved, and find a way to use my skill sets in an impactful way leading up to the election and this PSA struck me as something that I had to do.”
The PSA takes audiences on a “symbolic journey through America’s history of voting rights,” and features voiceovers from historical figures such as U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Lyndon B. Johnson, as well as civil rights leader John Lewis. The quotes are supported by historical images depicting pivotal moments in the country’s history.
While the PSA’s subject matter may be related to politics, Hernandez was intentional not to support or decry a particular party, politician or campaign. Rather, the PSA’s objective is to simply inspire people to take part in the democratic process – and vote.
“I knew from the beginning I wanted this piece to be non-partisan and so a lot of work was done trying to find speeches from a variety of political figures that all carried the same message – that voting is important and essential,” he said.
To help galvanize people and bring the PSA to life, Hernandez enlisted the help of several Elon alumni and friends. Under the umbrella of his new production company, Infinitus Pictures, Hernandez teamed with Isis (Malone) Sinclair ’15 (co-producer/1st AD), Jordan Roman ’15 (1st AC), Gabe Salvador ’18 (grip), Matt Simmons ’19 (VFX and color consultant), Brian Lorello ’16 (VFX assistant), Audrey Coates ’16 (marketing), Sam Costello ’15 (sound design) and Philip G. Anderson ’13 (composer).
While Hernandez wrote the PSA’s first draft more than two years ago, he really committed himself to the project in the late spring, working almost every day to wrap it up. Without the support of his creative friends, the project wouldn’t have been completed – or in the condition it is in, Hernandez explained.
In May, Malone joined the project as a co-producer and worked with Hernandez on how to plan and execute an exhaustive four-hour shoot. They also worked together to complete the research and editing process. Hernandez thanked his entire crew and singled out Anderson for composing an “incredible score” to support the PSA’s message.
“I’m fortunate that many of the friends that I made and worked with at Elon are still part of my creative circle, despite living several states away from most of them,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez also leaned on Assistant Professor Youssef Osman, whom he called “one of the most influential mentors I’ve had.” It is a relationship that developed on campus and has continued as Hernandez has progressed through the early stages of his career. And it’s been a strong start, as Hernandez and his PBS team have received nine Heartland Emmy nominations and two Colorado Broadcasters Association Awards of Excellence in recent years.
“Professor Osman has helped me workshop my ideas, go over my storyboards, review edits, etc. I’m fortunate to consider him a mentor, creative partner, and a friend,” Hernandez said.
The cinema and television arts major takes great pride in the fact that the PSA has been widely shared and has already influenced potential voters. He explained that the rights and privileges enjoyed by Americans have been taken for granted by some. But that it is imperative that every citizen understand and respect the voice they have in the democratic process.
“As John Lewis says in the piece, we have a moral responsibility to participate in the democratic process and my hope is that this PSA educates, inspires and mobilizes people to use their superpower, their vote,” Hernandez said. “We received a few messages from people who weren’t planning on voting, until they saw this piece. And that makes me very proud of the work we’ve done.”