The Broadcast Education Association (BEA) is, according to its website, “the premier international academic media organization, driving insights, excellence in media production, and career advancement for educators, students, and professionals.” The BEA announced its winners for its 2021 Festival of Media Arts during a virtual event held March 29, and three COM faculty members–Dr. John McHale and Drs. Brent and Cheri Simonds–won prominent awards.

Dr. John McHale won the “Best of Competition” award in the Feature/TV Hour category of the Faculty Scriptwriting Competition. According to the BEA’s Frequently Asked Questions page, “There are no first, second, third place awards in faculty competition. The ‘best of competition’ awards are selected from within each competitive category by the judges.” In the Faculty Scriptwriting Competition, faculty could submit entries in one of three categories. In the Feature/TV category, McHale explains, “faculty entries had to be scripts that could be any narrative fictional genre that also could be live-action, animation, or a combination of these. Feature film writing is based on dramatic content, consistency in format and adherence to professional standards, and the approach to description, direction, and dialogue that reveals the idiosyncratic nature of each character.”

Dr. John McHale

Dr. McHale won the award for his screenplay, EcoFront, which is an action-adventure, sci-fi feature film script. McHale explained that the film follows Rocky, a multi-ethnic young female scrappy scavenger, in a chaotic near future ruled by marauding militias and an eco-devouring corporation. Rocky joins a group of eco defending freedom fighters as they protect their home and defend their neighbors.

“Winning this Best of Competition Award for a feature film script fuels my desire to work on the next project,” McHale said. “I was recently contacted buying astronomer from Cornell University who asked me to adapt his play about Edwin Hubble, the astronomer who discovered other galaxies and whose ideas culminated in the Big bang theory, into a feature film script. Being the recipient of the Best of film script Competition at BEA adds fuel to my desire to write the best script possible. I am grateful for all the support the university has given me, and I am grateful for my daughter, Maggie, who helped me hone the script.”

Drs. Brent and Cheri Simonds won the “Award of Excellence” in the Instructional/Educational category of the Faculty Film and Video Competition. As the BEA’s Frequently Asked Questions page explains, “The awards of excellence connote superior quality works, parallel in idea to the research acceptance for publication in a refereed journal.” The Faculty Film and Video Competition invites faculty to show off their own (i.e., not collaborative with professionals or students) film or video work that fit five categories. In the Instruction/Educational category, entries had to be solely focused on pedagogical matters that teach concepts, skills, techniques, or procedures to students.

Dr. Brent Simonds
Dr. Cheri Simonds

Drs. Brent and Cheri Simonds won their award for an instructional video entitled, Speech Evaluation Training. “The video explains the steps they used to create a systematic speech evaluation process,” Dr. Cheri Simonds explained. “Beginning with an evaluation form, decided on a criteria or level of expected performance for each skill, and developed models of expected performance for both the students and the instructors involved in the process. This entry is part of a sequence of training videos that course directors across the country can use to train their faculty.”

This video, being part of a larger project, has much value to add to for the teaching and learning in the basic speech communication class. “We will be continuing this sequence of training videos and are planning to create and produce entries on facilitating activities and accommodating students in a speech class,” Dr. Brent Simonds added. “Many course directors do not have access to their instructors for comprehensive training. Thus, a group of communication directors across the country will be adding video modules in other areas such as diversity training, classroom management training, and universal design for learning. Our training videos will serve as a template for future training endeavors.”

The BEA Festival of Media Arts is the premiere academic creative festival in the United States for both students and faculty. Dr. Brent Simonds explained that “an ‘Award of Excellence’ represents the top 20% of entries in a particular category, and the ‘Best of Competition’ award is the top entry in a category. This year the Festival of Media Arts drew over 1300 entries across all categories for both students and faculty.” The School of Communication is very proud of Dr. McHale’s and Drs. Simonds’ accomplishments and awards in this year’s prestigious BEA Festival of Media Arts.