From Promoting Kent State to Moviemaking: Kent State Employees Achieve Reel Success

Surrounded by movie posters, scale models and old filming equipment, Dustin Lee, ’07, and Jon Jivan, ’08, sit in their Kent Campus offices creating video content to promote Kent State University. This past month, Mr. Lee and Mr. Jivan, who are graduates of Kent State’s digital media production program, filmed and edited the university’s 2018 Super Bowl commercial.

Both video producers and editors with University Communications and Marketing, Mr. Lee and Mr. Jivan keep their cameras rolling after work hours to film and produce their own movies.

“We talk about all of our ideas and then go shoot with our own equipment on the weekends,” Mr. Jivan says. “Mainly, we compete in 48-hour film projects together.”

Mr. Lee and Mr. Jivan have made a dozen short films together since 2011. Five of their short films have won Best Film at the 48-Hour Film Project, a competition where teams write, shoot and edit an entire short film in a single weekend.

Some of their other films, such as 20th-Century Man in 2011 and The Astronomer in 2014, have been accepted into several film festivals around the country, including Ohio’s own prestigious Cleveland International Film Festival.

“We each have different areas of strengths,” Mr. Jivan says. “Dustin is almost always doing the writing and directing, while I primarily do the filming and editing.”

Currently, Mr. Lee and Mr. Jivan are working to produce a pilot episode of How to Be a Henchman. The episode follows a 20-something guy, recently dumped by his girlfriend and feeling at loose ends, when he stumbles across a classified ad for an office job working for a supervillain. Currently filming in East Cleveland, this dark comedy will be a cross between Office Space and superheroes, Mr. Lee says.

“If the pilot is successful, we are hoping to open up a Kickstarter to fund future episodes,” Mr. Lee says. “Ultimately, we want to start a web series.”

Mr. Lee and Mr. Jivan got the opportunity to film the episode after becoming a finalist at the Cleveland Indie Film Incubator Project, a script and video pitch competition that gives a grand prize of a crew, equipment rental and three production days to produce a narrative short.

“It takes a long time to organize and set up for filming,” Mr. Lee says. “It was a big help to get the equipment for free to have access to high-quality technology that we otherwise wouldn’t have.”

The majority of the filming crew for How to Be a Henchman graduated from Kent State’s digital media production program.

“It’s nice to have people familiar with Kent State’s digital media production program,” Mr. Lee says. “It’s always fun to joke around and talk about old times.”

Hoping to enter this pilot episode into film festivals, Mr. Lee says he wants to start the web series on YouTube with roughly six episodes.

Mr. Lee and several other Kent State digital media production graduates are known to have competed in film competitions over the years. For more information about their projects, visit

POSTED: Friday, February 23, 2018 09:24 AM
UPDATED: Tuesday, July 16, 2024 12:39 PM
Hannah Wagner