- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 04 November 2015
- Written by AMANDA GLATZ | ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR & KAITLIN KILIAN | CONTRIBUTING WRITER
The Monmouth Award for Communication Excellence (MACE) was presented to accomplished filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller for their work on projects such as The Lego Movie, 21 & 22 Jump Street, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs at Pollak Theater on Monday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m.
Lord and Miller join previous honorees such as Asbury Park Press publisher Jules L. Plangere, White House Correspondent Helen Thomas, and CBS sports commentator Jim Nantz in the University’s list of esteemed recipients. Jim Hickey, Chair of the Communication Council and presenter at the ceremony, noted that MACE honorees must possess the following qualities: “exceptional success in their chosen career, the respect of their peers, and, most importantly, the ability to be strong role models for Monmouth University students.”
Hickey was joined on stage by Dr. Kenneth Womack, Dean of the Wayne D. McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as Chair of the Communication Department, Dr. Aaron Furgason. The presentation featured a 45-minute Q & A segment with Lord and Miller moderated by specialist professor of communication, Robert Scott. Among the topics discussed were the origin of Lord and Miller’s partnership, the differences between working in film and television, and the inspiration behind their various creative projects.
Having developed a friendship while working together at the animation studios of Dartmouth College, Lord and Miller officially forged a partnership when Miller received an invitation to Walt Disney’s Animation Studios in California. He and Lord began collaborating on projects such as Clone High, an animated series that aired on MTV in 2002. From there, the duo contributed to shows such as How I Met Your Mother before directing the popular films Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street, and ultimately The Lego Movie.
“We share a common sensibility,” Lord said of the partnership. “The work is always better because you’ve got somebody else questioning those choices and challenging you to do better.”
Lord and Miller currently have several more projects in the works, including a Batman-centric sequel to The Lego Movie, a Star Wars installment featuring Han Solo, and a television adaptation of the popular podcast, Serial. The duo is also currently contributing to the FOX comedy Last Man on Earth and are continuing to develop ideas for a possible 23 Jump Street.
Both filmmakers stressed the importance of producing your own material, especially while in college. Miller explained that while the first projects may not always be very good, it is essential to persevere and maintain a good work ethic. “You need to work very hard and be open to what people tell you about your stuff,” Miller advised, “and then you can make it.”
After the discussion, Lord and Miller were presented with their awards by Marilyn Rocky, a member of the Communication Council and godmother to Miller’s wife. They were then surprised with Lego replicas of the award designed by special guest Nathan Sawaya, who created similar Oscar statues at the Academy Awards earlier this year. Other guests at the ceremony included Tom Bernard, one of the founding members of the Communication Council and the co-president of Sony Classic Pictures, and Michael Uslan, producer of the Batman movies.
Having Lord and Miller on campus gave students a direct glimpse at what it means to be a success in Hollywood. The producers, among participating in the Q & A, spent the day with students in the communication department, participating in a studio interview with members of the student media and attending discussions in classes such as Screenwriting and Short Narrative Production.
The Monmouth Oral Communication Center (MOCC) worked together with the Communication Council to set up a schedule of events for the day and gave Lord and Miller a special tour of the campus. Larissa Pfeffer, Vice President of MOCC, said, “Chris was very excited about seeing Wilson Hall, apparently he is a Annie fan.”
Womack noted that this one-on-one interaction with successful industry professionals was a unique resource for University students. “What makes this event so special is [that Lord and Miller] spent the day…giving students a chance to see the kind of opportunities that are out there for young filmmakers,” Womack said. “That in itself is priceless and that’s very much part of our mission here.”
Nick Carlascio, a sophomore communication major, said, “The fact that they met in college and began their career together there and we are in college ourselves... it’s very inspiring to see that they grew from their college experience, where we are right now, so that could be us one day.”
While the event was organized by the communication department, it held vast appeal to University students across all disciplines. Nick Simonelli, a senior political science major, said, “They really gave me a lot of sound advice on pursuing your own ideas and they were hilarious too, so it was overall a very good [event].”
University President Paul Brown, PhD, agreed that the event was very beneficial to students. “The MACE Award ceremony was fantastic,” Brown said, “and the media coverage for Monmouth University is always nice, but for a student passionate about a career in film, direct interaction with industry leaders like Phil and Chris can actually be a life-changing event.”
Scott, who helped to organize Lord and Miller’s interview with the student media as well as their discussion in Pollak Theater, confirmed that the goal of the MACE event is to create a dialogue that is relevant and useful to students, faculty, and the general public. “Chris and Phil were fantastic with our students,” Scott said. “While they are both knowledgeable and accomplished, they are also genuine, fun to be around and very amusing. Their humor and energy is contagious and I think that’s why students connected with them so strongly. More than anything else though, they inspired students, faculty and everyone that had an opportunity to be in the same room with them. We were fortunate to have them on campus for the MACE and related events.”
Photo couresty of Nicole Vizz