This year, three individuals from the College of Communication, Information, and Media (CCIM) received Central Great Lakes Chapter Emmy Awards: Producer and director Ben Yonker and recent Department of Media alumni Faith Denig and Peyton Monnell.
Denig and Monnell were in the Sports Link program when they created their documentary, “Thy Will Be Done: The Trey Uetrecht Story.” Their documentary gives a glimpse of the strength Ball State Football’s Trey Uetrecht gained through the support of his friends and family. Uetrecht’s story is about overcoming adversity through faith and rediscovering his spark and excitement for life, and he worked on the documentary with Denig and Monnell as co-producer.
Yonker was also recognized for his work on “Sunny Days — meet the Founding Mothers of Ball State PBS.” His piece focuses on community members’ perseverance in bringing PBS to Muncie. Led by a group of four women, these individuals created the foundation for a 50-year legacy that lives on today.
“Thy Will Be Done: The Trey Uetrecht Story”
Trey Uetrecht was on his way back to Ball State when he hit a patch of ice and lost control of his vehicle. He was severely injured and expected to lose his life.
The documentary “Thy Will Be Done: The Trey Uetrecht Story” takes the audience through not only the difficulty and hardship that Uetrecht faced, but also through the joy and passion that he found on the other side of recovery.
When she heard Uetrecht’s story for the first time, co-producer Faith Denig could clearly see the impact he had on so many people, and she was thrilled to be able to share it with the skills she had been honing in class and extracurricular work. Denig has a passion for storytelling and feels honored and proud to create films that have the ability to impact a wide variety of individuals.
Denig had always dreamed of winning an Emmy, and the more she and Monnell learned about Uetrecht, the more inspired they became.
“(Faith and I) looked at each other, and we were like, ‘This could win an Emmy; this is a big deal,'” Monnell said. “Our goal from day one was to win that award, to tell Trey’s story, to make sure he made an impact, and to make sure his family felt good about the story that was told.”
Today, Monnell is a creative director of 4th Floor Creative, a production company in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he edits films and continues to pursue production. With him in Cincinnati, he has his dog, Bently, and his fiancé, Hunter, who also graduated from Ball State.
Immediately after Denig graduated, she went to work in collegiate athletics, but she now travels as a freelance videographer and drone pilot.
She lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where she also works as a marketing assistant for local restaurants.
Denig said she constantly has people messaging her about how much they loved the documentary and how they showed their classes, youth groups, or families.
When her and Monnell’s initial instincts are confirmed and people explain the impact watching the documentary and learning Uetrecht’s story had on them, Denig said it makes her proud and reminds her of the lasting impression it will leave.
And even though they have since graduated from Sports Link, Monnell said not a day goes by where he doesn’t think about how much the program helped him in the 3.5 years that he spent there.
“If it wasn’t for (Sports Link), I wouldn’t be in the role I am now,” Monnell said. “It helped me with that passion and the drive that I have for my job.”
Sports Link has continued to be an incredible resource for Monnell, and he encourages current students to take advantage of everything the university and college have to offer.
“Ball State is full of resources and people willing to help you get to the next steps in life, but nothing is given — it’s earned,” he said. “Take control of your future and do anything in your power to make your future great.”
He added that students shouldn’t “be afraid to take that leap that you may not have” outside of CCIM.
“Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions,” Monnell said. “Storytelling is about finding those true stories and the deeper meaning behind them.”
“Sunny Days — Meet the Founding Mothers of Ball State PBS”
In honor of the organization’s 50th anniversary, the documentary “Sunny Days — Meet the Founding Mothers of Ball State PBS” was created to recognize those who were so passionate about the education of their children that they worked tirelessly to bring PBS to Muncie.
Producer and director Ben Yonker sat down with each of the “founding mothers” — Gretchen Huff, Kay Stickle, Linda Needham, and Sunny McFarren — to explore how a small group of women seeking access to “Sesame Street” for their young children built the foundation for the Ball State PBS we know today.
At the time, the only way for children in Muncie to gain access to programs like “Sesame Street” was to have a local station, so the women fought tirelessly to raise awareness and gain support.
Through their efforts, they brought together mothers, other community members, and organizations — including Ed Ball and Ball State University — and rallied them behind this cause.
The process of sharing this particular story was a bit unique for Yonker.
“For this one, I actually didn’t have a vision going in,” he said. “I just wanted to hear what the key players had to say and see where the story took us. It turned out to be a pretty interesting history lesson.”
Yonker started working at Ball State PBS in 2011. He developed a love for photography and videography at a young age and is passionate about visual storytelling.
In 2015, he won his first Emmy for “Cook and Belle’s Playhouse,” a music video show that aired for three seasons, and in 2022, he received a nomination for his work on a piece titled “The Bob Ross Experience.”
Even with that previous success, however, he wasn’t prepared for the attention his most recent nomination would bring.
“When I found out I was nominated, my initial reaction was nervousness; I don’t like being in the spotlight,” Yonker said.
Still, he was honored to be recognized and found comfort in the company of CCIM’s history of success.
“As far as the recognition goes, I don’t mean to be dismissive, but we have such a great program here at Ball State with so many talented people,” Yonker said.
Yonker said he uses every project as a learning experience, whether that means working on improving his lighting skills or simply learning from his mistakes as he goes.
Because he didn’t know the origin story of Ball State PBS before filming, Yonker said his experience making “Sunny Days — Meet the founding Mothers of Ball State PBS” was “very similar to someone watching it for the first time — just a bit more drawn out.”
“That’s actually one of the most rewarding things about working in film and television,” he said. “You get to meet interesting people and be exposed to the things they’re passionate about. And most of the time, those are things you wouldn’t normally get to experience yourself.”