Asbury Students Score Nominations at NATAS Awards – Asbury University
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Asbury Students Score Nominations at NATAS Awards

July 2, 2019

Ask anyone in the film industry and they’ll be quick to tell you that excellence is a hallmark of Asbury University’s Media Communication program.

So it’s no surprise that Asbury Media Communication students impressed at this year’s National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS- Ohio Valley Chapter) Student Production Awards, being nominated for a record number of awards.

NATAS, the gatekeeper of the prestigious Emmy Award, announced its 2019 award nominees on June 15, and will announce winners during a ceremony on Aug. 10 in Louisville, Ky.

Seven Asbury students were nominated in five categories. See below for a full list of award nominations.

Many of these student films were also presented at Highbridge Film Festival and demonstrate the incredible talent within the Asbury Media Communication program.

Asbury is also represented in the Ohio Valley Chapter’s 55th Regional Professional Emmy Awards with several nominations. MFA student Joe Pritchard’s “Soul Purpose” was nominated in the Documentary: Cultural category. Pritchard is the first Asbury student to be nominated for a professional Emmy award; he also took home the award for Best Graduate Documentary at Highbridge.

Retired professor Doug Smart and Sarah Owens ’18 were also nominated for professional Emmys for their work on sitcom “Friends Like You.” 

Among the Student Production Award nominees were Kari Brown ’19 and David DeMena ’19, who collaborated to create “The Date Debate,” a musical comedy which follows two students with opposing political views as they fall in love. Brown credits their success to the production experience she gained in her courses.

“My time at Asbury has done everything to make me the filmmaker I am today,” Brown said. “I came into Asbury with some broadcast journalism knowledge from my high school TV program, but I didn’t know anything about making a short film. This film wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for all the incredible professors that taught not only myself, but everyone else involved in the production. Asbury truly is a special place that created opportunities and memories I will hold onto for the rest of my life and making ‘The Date Debate’ was definitely one of those!”

For DeMena, being nominated in the Short Form Fiction NATAS award means joining a larger Asbury legacy.

“I’m so honored that NATAS watched it and liked it enough to nominate it for an award,” DeMena said. “And I’m really honored to join the long list of other Asbury students who have been recognized by them over the years.”

For Oleksandra Shuliahina ’20, being recognized by NATAS serves a bigger purpose.

“My film is very Christian, it is literally based on biblical text, so I find it twice as exciting that the Word is still relevant and Christian media can be critically acclaimed on the same ground as secular media,” Shuliahina said.  

Keagan White ’20 was nominated for his work on two Asbury-produced films and is thankful to all of the students who collaborated on the projects with him.

“I’m blessed to be a part of a department with students and faculty who have helped make both films a reality,” White said. “The award nominations go to the incredible cast and crews of these two films who made them in collaboration with me. The casts and crews of ‘A Light in the Darkness’ and ‘A Brutal Test’ represent some of the best cast and crew members the media and theatre departments have, and I’m happy the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences saw and liked our work.”

In addition to the Asbury University undergraduate nominees, former ImpactU camper Ian Sears was nominated in the High School Writing category for a script he wrote during a camp with Professor David Whitaker.

Join us in congratulating all of our students who were selected for this high achievement.

Learn more about Asbury’s Media Communication program by visiting

Student Production Award Nominees – College/University:

Short Form-Fiction

The Date Debate, Asbury University 

Kari Brown, David deMena ‘19

Short Form-Non-Fiction

Adventures with Burma, Asbury University 

Robin Gericke ‘19, Matthew Pertz ‘18, Delaney Tufts ‘18

Animation/Graphics/Special Effects

A Light in the Darkness, Asbury University 

Keagan White ‘20


Psalm 19, Asbury University 

Oleksandra Shuliahina ‘20


A Brutal Test, Asbury University 

Keagan White ‘20

High School


The Tragedy of Tony Digiorno, Capital High School Student/Asbury College Summer Film School (Charleston, West Virginia) 

Ian Sears

Ohio Valley Chapter’s 55th Regional Professional Emmy Award Nominations:

Director – Live or Recorded Live

Friends Like You Episode #1010 “The One After 909”, Asbury University

Doug Smart

Writer – Program

Friends Like You Episode #1010 “The One After 909”, Asbury University

Doug Smart

Set Design

Friends Like You Episode #1010 “The One After 909”, Asbury University

Doug Smart, Sarah Owens ‘18

Documentary – Cultural/Topical

Soul Purpose, Asbury University/Salvation Army

Joseph Pritchard