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Comedy Duo Receives MACE

WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ–Phil Lord and Chris Miller, producers of “The Lego Movie,” “21 Jump Street,” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” received the Monmouth Award for Communication Excellence for their achievements in the film industry in Pollak Theater on the evening of Oct. 26.
“[The MACE Award] is a great tradition here at the university and it’s an opportunity to honor the finest in the communication arts today,” said Kenneth Womack, Dean of the Wayne D. McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Jim Hickey, Chair of the Communication Council, hosted the ceremony. Prior to the presentation of the award, Robert Scott, Specialist Professor of Communication, moderated a 45-minute discussion during which Lord and Miller answered questions in front of the audience.
“It was a thrill to be on stage with such successful, enthusiastic artists,” said Professor Scott, who composed the questions based on his research and recommendations from colleagues and students. “Our goal was to create a relaxed dialogue with entertaining and informative responses that would be relevant to an audience comprised of students, faculty, administrators and the general public. I think we achieved that.”

Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Kilian
Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Kilian

Lord and Miller spoke about their early work and how they started their partnership at Dartmouth College. Lord highlighted sharing a common sensibility with Miller that ultimately betters the quality of the work they deliver. Both advised students to actively create, even if the end product does not come out stellar.
“You need to work very hard and be open to what people tell you about your stuff,” said Miller. “Then you can make it.”
After the discussion, Marilyn Rocky, a member of the Communication Council and godmother of Miller’s wife, presented the MACE award to Lord and Miller. At the end of the ceremony, Lego artist Nathan Sawaya surprised Lord and Miller with MACE awards made out of the colorful toy bricks.
Tom Bernard, one of the founding members of the Communication Council and the co-president of Sony Classic Pictures, and Michael Uslan, producer of several Batman movies and shows since the 1990s, also made an appearance at the event.
Monmouth University President Paul Brown attended as well.
“The MACE Award ceremony was fantastic and the media coverage for Monmouth University is always nice,” said President Brown. “But for a student passionate about a career in film, direct interaction with industry leaders like Phil and Chris can actually be a life-changing event.”
Earlier in the day, Lord and Miller toured the campus and spent time talking, sharing ideas, and giving advice to students. The Monmouth Oral Communication Center worked with the Communication Council to set up a schedule of events for the day. Thanks to the producers’ visit, many students were indeed able to learn about the filmmaking process and how to take advantage of a college career.
Nick Carlascio, a sophomore communication major, was one of them.
“The fact that they met in college and began their career together there and we are in college ourselves,” said Calascio. “It’s very inspiring to see that they grew from their college experience, where we are right now, so that could be us one day.”
Lord and Miller also had a classroom discussion with two classes, “Screenwriting” and “Short Narrative Production,” and an interview with student media in the Hawk TV Studio.
“What makes this event so special is while we do have tonight’s ceremony,…they spent the day…giving students a chance to see the kind of opportunities that are out there for young filmmakers,” said Dean Womack. “That in itself is priceless and that’s very much part of our mission here.”
The Communication Council created the MACE award in 2004 to bring recognition to Monmouth and its Department of Communication. Maureen Bay, a member of the Council, came up with the designs for the award.
“The MACE award, which is the Monmouth Award for Communication Excellence, is an award that is given to people in the field of communication who have really succeeded exceptionally,” said Hickey.
Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Kilian
Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Kilian

Chad Dell, Associate Professor of Communication and former Chair of the Department, was the faculty point person for creating the event. He explained that Miller and Lord were chosen by the Communication Council because of their wide range of accomplishments at such a young age. The duo has done animation film, live action film, and television sitcoms, and they are constantly working on new projects, including the new “Star Wars” film.
The MACE award also gives students from any background the opportunity to interact with and learn from people who are successful in the field. This is, according to Hickey, in keeping with the Communication Council’s belief in a cross-sector curriculum.
Nick Simonelli, a senior political science major, confirmed that despite not pursuing a degree in communication, he was still able to get inspiration–and laugh in the process.
“They really gave me a lot of sound advice on pursuing your own ideas,” said Simonelli. “And they were hilarious, too.”