First, it was a friendly nudge about five years ago from fellow past Indiana Memorial Union Board member Christian Carroll. Carroll, a member of the John Whittenberger Society Board, urged Jerald Harkness to get back into supporting Union Board through involvement in JWS. Later there was a breakfast in Indianapolis with Indiana Memorial Union Executive Director Hank Walter. Finally, a meeting with IMU Assistant Director of Administrative Services Bob Musumeci in 2017.
What connected those events? A collective recognition that Harkness was the perfect choice, as an experienced, award-winning maker of documentaries, to capture the history of IMU in the visual format of this place Harkness calls home. It didn’t hurt that Harkness got his start in filmmaking volunteering on Union Board’s Video Concepts group and making videos for Union Board TV.
“Christian reached out and said I needed to get back involved with Union Board, and on a side note, that with IU’s Bicentennial coming up, he’d love to see a documentary come out on the Union,” Harkness recalled. “Then later I had breakfast with Hank and saw right away he was the perfect leader for IMU and Union Board. Then he brought up the idea of a documentary, and I said, ‘I’m all-in’.”
When Musumeci informed Harkness that IU Bicentennial special grants were available and that IMU and Union Board could match those funds, the production whistles started going off in Harkness’ head, and in November 2018 work began on “The Indiana Memorial Union Story: The Heart of the Campus.”
“I saw this project as a home movie and knew that anyone who was or had been associated with Union Board, well this was really going to be for them,” said the 1991 IU graduate. “I didn’t see this as a ‘get it out to the masses’ kind of project. And for me, it was a chance to get back involved with Union Board and, while it sounds corny, a great way for me to say thank you.”
Harkness loved film before he ever arrived at IU in the late 1980s. He describes his parents, Jerry Harkness and Judy Harkness, both of Indianapolis, as his first film professors. He still remembers the weather on the day his father took him to see “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” at Lafayette Square in Indianapolis.
“It was snowing and I was probably in third grade. I saw that movie and it was love at first sight,” he said. But it wasn’t just science fiction and action films that Harkness was treated to. “They’d take me to ‘Chariots of Fire,’ ‘The Verdict,’ all kinds of films. I think that’s what really got me interested in storytelling.”
Harkness said he actually felt some pressure to deliver on this project because of its personal importance. The feedback he got during filming from local historians from a preservation standpoint left an impression on him, and central to the project was capturing the essence of the Union Board experience: “That it doesn’t matter when you were part of Union Board because you’ll always be able to make a connection with that person.”
View the IMU documentary online now! bit.ly/imudocumentary