With characteristic affinity for his alma mater, David Letterman returned to Ball State once again, creating special memories for guests who packed Emens Auditorium.
Letterman offered a donation to the university that cements an already-rich history and hosted a 90-minute discussion with two national newsmakers to boot.
The gift, known as The David Letterman Experience, will contain memorabilia from the television host’s career, including props and sets from his time hosting “Late Night” and “Late Show.”
“In his return home, we celebrate his national legacy as well as a new chapter of this storied relationship between Ball State University and David Letterman,” said then-President Paul W. Ferguson. “Important to both Dave and Ball State is his continuing legacy for Ball State students, who will learn from his example and impact on the entertainment and broadcast industries.”
The memorabilia, student scholarships he funds and his continued commitment to hosting conversations with iconic guests are just some of the ways Letterman stokes his commitment to the university.
“I’m so lucky to have been invited back. I want to thank everybody here, everybody on campus and the people who run this university,” Letterman said before introducing his guests.
“I’m excited because they’re here, and I’m a little scared because they’re here because it just doesn’t get any better than these guys,” he said as he welcomed filmmakers Spike Jonze and Bennett Miller onstage.
The discussion moved quickly, as both Miller and Jonze shared the successes and challenges they’ve faced over the course of their careers. The event opened with a montage of clips from blockbusters including Jonze’s “Her” and Miller’s “Moneyball.”
“Directing is hundreds of decisions a day, and each one of them is shaping the film,” Jonze said. “On one hand, it’s hard and grueling, and on the other hand, it’s a dream job.”
For his part, Miller added, “If you’re not exploring and discovering (the story), and searching through the thing that’s ethereal and in your gut, you don’t know how it’s going to manifest. … You have to be open to your plan not being perfect.
You have to show up and try it.”
Jonze is also known for his music video collaborations with Fatboy Slim, Weezer, Beastie Boys and Kanye West. He was a co-creator of MTV’s “Jackass.” He is currently the creative director of Vice Media Inc. and is part owner of Girl Skateboards, a skateboard company.
Miller, who has been nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Director, is best known for “Capote” in 2005, “Moneyball” in 2011 and “Foxcatcher” in 2014.
Earlier in the evening, the two spent time discussing moviemaking with students studying film, theater and acting.
Nearly two dozen students attended the event in the Strother Studio Theatre, where Miller and Jonze discussed their processes and inspirations.
David Merten said he and John Banes dropped everything to take acting lessons from the two filmmakers, when the two Ball State students were selected to re-create a scene from the movie “Cabin Boy,” a 1994 comedy directed by Adam Resnick with producers including Tim Burton. Resnick worked for “Late Night” in the 1980s.
Jonze and Miller were allowed to reconstruct the scene by working with seniors Merten and Banes.
“I can just say it was simply a whirlwind day because we didn’t know we were doing this until noon,” Merten said. “They are such interesting, down-to-earth people. They made us feel so comfortable.”