Ernie Pyle biopic to be developed by media school film students: News at IU: Indiana University

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Students at Indiana University’s Media School will develop a biographical feature film based on the life of IU alumnus and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ernie Pyle this fall. Students taking the IU Stories course will work collaboratively as they research, write, and learn the filmmaking process in hands-on experience.

“My students will write potential draft scripts on spec if their aspirations are to be screenwriters,” said Austin Francalancia, assistant professor at the Media School and course instructor. “It’s a long process, but when we get the story locked down, we’ll hire a talent and a filmmaker to film our feature.”

Francalancia is familiar with film production. He was part of the teams behind two recent Primetime Emmy Award-nominated productions, working as a consulting producer on the Hulu documentary “Changing the Game” and as a field producer for “The Lost Class” commercial. His past projects include production work on “The Dark Knight Rises”, “Django Unchained”, “Spotlight”, and “Borat Later Movie Film”, among other notable films.

“Our goal is to create an entertaining, globally accessible feature that can be distributed theatrically or on a streaming service around the world,” Francalancia said. “I believe Ernie’s story is the perfect one to show the world what a driving force IU Media School can be in the entertainment industry.”

Students will do extensive research on Pyle’s life as part of the project.

“We will make full use of Ernie Pyle’s letters and correspondence from Lilly Library from 1929 to 1945, as well as other public domain intellectual property to be as historically accurate as possible,” Francalancia said.

Indiana-born Pyle studied at Indiana University more than 100 years ago before becoming a national folk hero. In his junior year in 1921, Pyle became city editor and editor of the Indiana Daily Student, the student-run publication established in 1867. Later, Pyle became editor of the summer edition of IDS.

During his years at IU, Pyle developed the straightforward storytelling style that became his trademark as a popular columnist and traveling reporter for the Scripps-Howard chain of newspapers.

He wrote human interest stories on the battlefronts of Europe and the South Pacific as a war correspondent during World War II. Often befriends his military colleagues and military leaders, like People. Omar Bradley and Dwight D. Eisenhower, Pyle advocated for conscripts in his articles. He often wrote from the perspective of soldiers rather than just telling facts, which humanized the troops and made his stories relevant to millions of readers. Life magazine wrote that “Pyle’s gentle, friendly prose succeeded in bridging the gap between soldier and civilian where written words usually fail.”

In April 1945, Pyle was killed by Japanese fire while traveling with the US Army’s 305th Infantry Regiment. Americans mourned the death of one of their most beloved storytellers, including former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and President Harry S. Truman, who both paid their respects. Pyle’s collection of war stories can be found in his books “Here Is Your War” and “Brave Men”.


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Donnie J. Milburn