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Students win trip to Hollywood to meet ‘Son of God’ producers

When Hollywood producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett reviewed video contest submissions by Liberty University students intended to promote the couple’s latest project, “Son of God” (opening in theaters nationwide on Friday, Feb. 28), they were so impressed by the quality that they spent hours carefully reviewing the videos and decided not one, but two were worthy of the top prize.

The team of 'Unwanted Girl' (left to right) Wes Reed, Austin Lewis, Hannah Riggins, Josh Messarge, Troy Nicely, Walcene Metayer, Jessica Friberg, and Mark Mijares, poses after learning that Roma Downey and Mark Burnett will be sending them to Hollywood for their winning video submission to promote the new film, "Son of God."

On Monday, a total of 10 students from two filmmaking teams learned that Burnett and Downey would be flying them to Los Angeles to meet them in person and attend a taping of the hit TV show “The Voice,” for which Burnett is the producer.

“I was speechless and in shock,” said junior Jessica Friberg, who learned that the video she and seven other students created, “Unwanted Girl,” was one of the winners. “I’ve never been to Hollywood, so I don’t know what to expect. There’s really no telling what the outcome will be for our future. It’s a great opportunity.”

Friberg’s team are all students at Liberty’s Cinematic Arts, Zaki Gordon Center, part of the School of Communication & Creative Arts. The center launched in 2012 and reaches beyond the traditional model of film education by offering an immersion program for juniors and seniors that includes experiential learning alongside professionals in the field. Students have access to world-class professional training facilities and equipment.

Seniors David “DJ” Judd and Tiernan McGrath won for their video, “Google Search.” Both are digital media and communication arts majors.

“I feel humbled and blessed that I get to do this,” said Judd, who said it took him 20 hours to edit his video, which takes viewers through the eyes of someone searching in despair on the Internet only to land on a trailer for “Son of God.”

David "DJ" Judd is surprised by Senior Vice President for Communications Johnnie Moore on Monday as he was told his video was one of two winning entries in the video contest sponsored by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.

“I’m so glad that they just narrowed it to Liberty for the contest but even then there were over 60 really good videos so I was really nervous,” Judd said. “I’ve been doing digital media since I was 11 when I volunteered at my church media group. I grew up making videos and I love it, and I was really excited that I got to do it not only through a camera lens, but to take a different approach and do it all on screen, which you don’t really see much.”

Burnett, a five-time Emmy winner credited with starting the reality television phenomenon, and Downey, the Emmy-nominated actress and producer best known for her starring role on “Touched by an Angel,” applauded Liberty's student filmmakers.

“When we launched this video contest, we assumed there would be some really good videos, but we didn’t know just how good they would be or how many would be submitted,”  Downey said.

Burnett added, “When it came time to judge a winner, we discovered that there were dozens of amazing videos! We were blown away! Roma and I spent hours toiling over which video to select for our top 10.  Selecting just one winner was simply too difficult. We HAD to open up an additional grand prize to a second filmmaking team — all eight of them!”

In addition to the 10 grand prize-winning students flying to Hollywood, they also announced that all top 10 finalists in the video contest would also receive VIP tickets to the Son of God: Music Inspired By concert tour, which will land in Lynchburg on April 12 as part of a 16-city tour. All contest participants will also receive a copy of the Son of God: Music Inspired By The Epic Motion Picture CD.

Students were given one month to produce and promote original "Elect Jesus on Feb. 28" campaign videos that creatively encourage people to experience “Son of God” in theaters. Videos were judged on originality/creativity, quality of filmmaking, brand effectiveness, and number of views on Liberty 's YouTube channel. Liberty received 65 submissions, and the Top 10 were chosen Monday morning, with Burnett and Downey narrowing the selections throughout the day and announcements being made on both the 20th Century Fox and Liberty Twitter feeds.

The couple announced the contest during a recent visit to Liberty where they were the keynote speakers for Convocation. Burnett and Downey are also the producers of the popular “The Bible” miniseries. Burnett has produced more than 2,400 hours of programming, which airs regularly in more than 70 countries. He has been named to Forbes’ list of the world’s 100 most influential celebrities.

Although the contest is officially over, the winning videos and Top 10 finalists will be featured on the Liberty University YouTube channel. The two winners will be featured on the official Fox Son of God YouTube Channel.

About 2,000 Liberty students will have a chance to view “Son of God” for free in a midnight showing in Lynchburg on Thursday. Liberty is joining churches and religious groups across the country for the opening and has booked all 14 screens at Regal Cin
emas at River Ridge Mall for the event.

"I think it's really amazing that the world's largest Christian university has partnered with two of Hollywood's most successful filmmakers to raise awareness of a major movie about Jesus,” said Johnnie Moore, Liberty’s senior vice president for communications. “What could be better than this for the next generation of filmmakers we are training at Liberty University? Liberty was the only university in America afforded this unbelievable opportunity. Not another 10 college students in America will have the opportunity to begin their film careers in such an amazing way — a trip to Hollywood, an opportunity to go behind the scenes of one of the biggest shows in America, and a personal session with the likes of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. I think that is pretty cool. Truly, there is no place like Liberty University, and there isn't a more generous couple than Mark and Roma."