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Friday, September 29, 2023

Three UF alumni captured the story of a community's support, a family's resilience and a special child's love for baseball in a seven-minute short film titled "Jacob's Turn." 

One of them also captured an Emmy along the way.

Nick Nanton, along with co-director Amardeep Kaleka, won the award in the Director Post Production category.

Nanton, along with fellow UF alumni Lindsay Dicks and her father, J.W., collaborated on their first film after spending years in the marketing industry. Their cinematic effort took them to the small, rural, all-American town of Floyds Knobs, Ind., where baseball is a way of life.

It's common for a Floyds Knobs 4-year-old boy to teeter up to the plate, swinging a bat too big for his young arms.

Patricia Titus took her son Jacob to his first Tee Ball practice, worried he would have to carry a weight much heavier than that.

Jacob has Down syndrome.

"The most important thing to me was that the story got told really well," Nanton said. "Apparently, we did."

The production team accompanied Nanton to the 47th annual Ohio Valley Regional Emmy Awards, held at the historic Seelbach Hilton hotel in Louisville, Ky.

The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences holds special ceremonies for non-Hollywood productions, recognizing local news networks and grassroots productions.

The 63rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be televised Sept. 18 live from Los Angeles.

However, a night of red carpets, tuxedos and television stars couldn't have been further from the start of the project that got Nanton the Emmy.

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The executive producers took a plane to Indiana in May 2010 and headed straight to Floyds Knobs' ballpark, where they met the Tituses. Two days later, the team of producers had become part of the town and had Jacob's story on tape.

A year earlier, Nanton, who is an entertainment attorney and celebrity-branding guru, sat in a crowded Chicago airport listening to Jim Titus talk about his son.

"We just started talking, and he found out I was in the entertainment business," Nanton said. "He asked me if I knew anybody that could help."

What could have just been a nice chat forgotten by Monday's office meeting became the catalyst for a new way of thinking for the Orlando-based lawyer and his colleagues that make up the nonprofit company Marketers For Good Inc.

For the next six months, Nanton would use his marketing connections in the field and his own production skills, something he developed at UF as a student producer for Gator Growl, to make Jacob's story viral on the Internet.

The social media campaign and online launch of the film last year brought Jacob's smile to millions of viewers. Thousands of people "liked" and re-posted the message on Facebook and Twitter to help raise awareness of children with special needs.

Donations from viewers will go to help other children with Down syndrome.

Though they received an Emmy for their first film, the three Gators give credit where credit is due.

"There is this structure to business and even to the film that we learned and loved in college," said J.W. Dicks, who graduated from UF in 1971.

Marketers For Good Inc. is in the process of creating three new productions, which at heart are just a slice of American life, like Jacob's story.

"I think we all just feel very honored for this project to be recognized," the younger Dicks said.


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