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APSU professor, endowment honor student lost during filming of award-winning video

Dr. David von Palko, professor of mass communication at APSU, took first-place in video commercial or PSA March 10 at the National Broadcasting Society/Alpha Epsilon Rho National Convention in Los Angeles.

Although the award for the project, titled Sorry, bears only von Palkos name, he is quick to point out that the public service project on drunk driving was a labor of love for many.
Dr. David von Palko, professor of mass communication at APSU, took first-place in video commercial or PSA March 10 at the National Broadcasting Society/Alpha Epsilon Rho National Convention in Los Angeles.

Although the award for the project, titled “Sorry,” bears only von Palko's name, he is quick to point out that the public service project on drunk driving was a labor of love for many.

It also turned out to be the final project for APSU student Nic Ernsberger, then 20, a gifted videographer and digital video editor who was to be the lead videographer during post-production for “Sorry.”

Ernsberger and his best friend, Ian Farley, a fellow APSU communications major and member of the production team, were working on the project at von Palko's home when Ernsberger began to have difficulty breathing. Farley drove his friend home, and Ernsberger's father took him to see a doctor. The doctor could not find a cause for Ernsberger's discomfort, and he was sent him home. The next day, he died of sudden heart failure. True to his nature, Ernsberger was working on his computer when he passed away.

In the midst of what von Palko calls an extremely “difficult, painful situation,” Farley was forced to face the tremendous challenges of completing the project without his best friend and stepping up to replace his friend as lead editor. Von Palko describes Farley as being “courageous for his determination to continue the project and absolutely professional in his work.”

“Sorry,” a powerful video warning teens of the consequences of drunk driving, originated with the Western Tennessee Chapter of Youth in Action, an organization affiliated with MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). When the high school group approached a production company about producing the script, written by student Jason Hinson, they were told it would cost $50,000. That's when they contacted APSU's communication and theatre department.

Seeing the project's potential, von Palko agreed to direct and produce the video with the help of students involved in APSU's student-run video company, Clean Cut Productions. For their work, Clean Cut Productions is to receive a $5,000 contribution from MADD Youth in Action to be used for student scholarships. The funds will be used as “seed money” to begin an endowed scholarship in video production in the name of Nic Ernsberger, according to von Palko.

APSU theatre major Sarah Perigen, herself a former member of the Western Tennessee Chapter of Youth in Action, and another former YIA member, Tyler Powell, star in the production. At the end of the video, we realize what we've seen are the snapshot memories of Sarah, now jailed for Tyler's death as a result of her choice to drive drunk.

The video has been submitted to MADD's national headquarters to be placed under consideration for national distribution. Distribution to Tennessee high schools is expected.

Proceeds raised from the distribution of “Sorry” will be used to establish the Nic Ernsberger Scholarship for students studying videography.

According to von Palko, a host of people and businesses contributed to making the production a success, including APSU President Sherry Hoppe; Jostens, which loaned caps and gowns to the cast; Stewart County, which allowed the use of its courtroom for filming; and Kenneth Selph, of Nave Funeral Home in Erin.

Dr. Gregory Wolynec, assistant professor of music and director of bands at APSU, and Andrea Brown, assistant band director at APSU, led their respective bands and recorded musical performances integral to several scenes.

In addition to his win for “Sorry,” von Palko earned first-place in audio commercial or PSA (for “The Crisis Call Line”) and both first- and second-place honors for audio news, sports or public affairs (for “The Burning Home Fires” and “Winter Fire Safety,” respectively).

For more information, telephone von Palko at (931) 221-6364.
—Rebecca Mackey