Last spring, sophomore Bible and religion major Elijah Neal felt a creative spark after attending a special cinema chapel on campus—he wondered what it would look like to create a group that brought light to Anderson through cinema and other forms of media.
He and a group of friends began to brainstorm what it would look like to make these visions become reality.
“We were inspired by what we saw. We thought, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we made something we’re all in?’ We’re not film majors, and we’re not people who have a bunch of skill. I made some stuff in high school, but it was just learning experiences then.
“We talked about what it would look like, and then it blew up from there,” he said. “It grew into something that had a better reason than just opportunity to create. It became ‘how can we better serve this community, and can we give more people opportunities to do that?’ And so we decided to make it club.”
The 2017 spring semester was devoted entirely to brainstorming.
“We went into the fall with the purpose of starting the club so we could make productions for people, to give them opportunities to create and to represent Anderson in a positive light as opposed to thinking about this place as garbage,” Neal continued. “A lot of times we see the city we live in or AU as maybe second, third or even fifth rate—just trash—whether it’s the food we eat at the MP, our classes or education, but regardless, there’s good stuff to all of it. So the club and the idea for the positive light just grew.”
From the beginning, Neal’s friend and fellow AU student Tim Haurez was on board.
“He wrote on our writing team, and he did some camera work for us,” Neal said. “He was really enjoying it, and he wrote two of the first three episodes of the series we’re trying to produce, called ‘A-Town,’ with me.”
Everything stopped for the newfound media club when, on Oct. 1, Tim took his own life.
“One of our trademarks that we hold to is community, and Tim really brought us together and also really broke us down,” Neal said. “We took a month hiatus after his suicide. His legacy went from a legacy of grief to a legacy of prosperity and growth because we found out who we were [through losing him].”
An executive council meeting for the media club had been previously scheduled for Oct. 1. Part of Neal’s agenda had been to rename the club.
“I was at Tim’s house that night, and I texted our vice president and told her to just pick a name for the club—they didn’t know he had died at that point— instead of my initial plan,” he said. “We needed a better name than media club, and that was the only thing I tasked them with. I eventually left Tim’s house that night and went to the meeting. They’d found out that Tim had died. They were in tears and were praying off and on. I joined the three of them at the table, and they said that they were thinking of honoring Tim by renaming the club in his name.”
Since then, media club has transformed into “Together In Media,” or T.I.M. Club.
“We got an identity,” Neal said. “Tim’s legacy is so big, so massive. His words are actually written down in some of those scripts. His words will carry on forever, and we can see how we can be part of something bigger. There is pain, but we have the opportunity to focus on the light. Tim did that really well.”
Emerald Guntle, club secretary, agrees that Tim’s legacy will live on through the club.
“His witty humor and bright ideas will live on through the acting of his written work,” she said. “Together In Media has come so far from where it started, and Tim has brought us even more reason and desire to spread a positive light through media, together as a club, to all of Anderson.”
Together In Media’s Vice President Micah Bryan also spoke of Tim’s legacy.
“He was so passionate about building community and using his gifts to serve others,” she said. “He was so vital to the team and the Anderson community, and his death truly did bring us together in the club. We want to spread that togetherness through the AU community.”
After taking a month hiatus to process and grieve, there was a renewed energy about the club’s mission to bring light to the Anderson community.
Currently, the team of creators is working on a project called “A-Town,” the same show for which Tim co-wrote two episodes.
The premise behind the show is to follow college students as they discover their purpose. In the process, characters deal with trials of varying degrees.
“The first episode of our web series is titled ‘Life’s Not Fair,’” said Neal. “The main character, his parents stopped paying for school, and that’s why he thinks life’s not fair.”
The video web-series will consist of seven or eight episodes when it is finished, each varying in length from four to nine minutes.
Additionally, Neal hopes to create a docu-series highlighting positive aspects of the Anderson community, such as Mounds Park and The Christian Center.
Guntle shares Neal’s vision for bringing light to the community.
“We aim to highlight the positive attributes of the Anderson community by the A-Town series through humor, friendship, real life and community,” she said. “I have heard tons of negative qualities mentioned about Anderson, but not as much positive ones. It is important to show others that Anderson is a safe, inviting place of opportunity with loving, caring, humorous, talented people who care about the community and want to spread some joy, love, peace and care into people’s lives.”
As Together In Media work to bring new spirit to the community, Neal hopes to extend a hand to anyone who might be interested in the community, regardless of skill or experience.
“Together In Media is for everyone,” Neal said. “It doesn’t matter how busy you are, as long as you can come to a few meetings, you’re welcome. You don’t have to have a lot of experience. You could walk across a camera and be an extra and be welcome in the family.”
For information about Together In Media, email Elijah Neal at firstname.lastname@example.org.