History came crashing down like a proverbial ton of bricks on at least one student during production of the documentary “From Normal to Extraordinary: Ball State’s First Century,” which premiered September 6, 2018, at Emens Auditorium as part of the official kickoff of Ball State’s Centennial Celebration.
It happened to telecommunications major Henry Tegeler when he interviewed former Ball State President John Worthen for the documentary inside Worthen Arena. The same thing happened again when speaking to former Vice President for University Advancement Don Park, ’61 MA ’63, in Park Hall.
“When I got into this project, I was like a typical student and didn’t know some of these people, but I knew the buildings or rooms named for them,” said Henry, a senior from Terre Haute, Indiana.
‘An incredible history lesson’
“It was an incredible history lesson to talk to people who shaped the University in the same buildings named in their honor. Dr. Worthen was so gracious speaking about his time as president and then I learn about Dr. Park’s family connection to the University. I didn’t know that five generations had graduated from Ball State.”
Henry was among 41 telecommunications and digital storytelling students who came together to work on the documentary covering Ball State’s 100 years of history. Music media production students produced the film’s musical score, which was performed live by the Ball State Symphony Orchestra at the Emens premiere.
“The kickoff was a great way to celebrate not only Ball State’s Centennial anniversary, but the students’ work,” said Chris Flook, a lecturer in telecommunications and faculty mentor for the documentary project. “They spent many long hours shooting, editing, and mixing to pull this off. I loved the fact that so many in the community turned out for it!”
Starting in Fall 2017, students from telecommunications, communication studies, music composition, music theory and history began work on the documentary through an immersive learning course led by Flook. Students conducted interviews with more than 50 people for the project, including professors, students, historians, Muncie locals, and alumni. In addition to the interviews, students filmed supportive b-roll video, animated historical images and graphics, sound effects, and other digital assets.
A story with many moving parts
The students produced two edits of the film: a full-length version and one that is shorter and broadcast friendly. This past Spring, students assembled all materials for a final edit and administration approval. Throughout the work, Flook said, students received experience in hard skills like lighting and camera and sound, as well as time-management and interpersonal communication.
“They also gained an understanding of what it takes to tell that story with so many moving parts,” said Flook. “How do you show Ball State’s history in an hour and make it fair and representative and factually accurate? For immersive projects like this, students have to be extremely professional, hardworking, skilled, and generally exude a sense of excellence and strive to achieve great stories. Not every student is capable — or capable yet — to do such a project, but the 41 students on this team were, and they did an absolutely amazing job.”
While most interviews were done on campus, seven students traveled to New York City in February to interview famed broadcast alumnus David Letterman, ’69, whose name is on the building that is home to the College of Communication, Information, and Media. Among those students was Amy Frye, a 2017 graduate in telecommunications and now a graduate student in digital storytelling.
“It certainly didn’t feel like we were interviewing a celebrity,” Amy said of Letterman. “It was incredible to listen to him talk about how the Ball State facilities have changed since he was a student and how his professors influenced his career. I think it was amazing that he took a public speaking class in high school that led him to enrolling in broadcasting at Ball State. He admitted he wasn’t the best student but his professors worked with him to developed his skills.”
With the theme “Beneficence: Proud Past. Bright Future,” the yearlong Centennial Celebration “honors the accomplishments of our faculty, staff, students, and alumni,” said Ball State President Geoffrey S. Mearns. “It also recognizes the enduring values our University is committed to — excellence, integrity, social responsibility, respect, and gratitude — as symbolized by our iconic Beneficence statue.”