Austin Francalancia, a 2005 Warsaw Community High School graduate, is now a four-time Emmy nominee. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University
Austin Francalancia, a 2005 Warsaw Community High School graduate, is now a four-time Emmy nominee. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University
A 2005 Warsaw Community High School graduate is now a four-time Emmy Award nominee.

Austin Francalancia worked as a consulting producer for the documentary “Changing the Game,” which was nominated this month for a Primetime Emmy in the Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking category. He served as a field producer on “The Lost Class,” which was nominated for a Primetime Emmy in the Outstanding Commercial category.

The two nominations were announced July 12. The Emmy Awards Show is Sept. 12.

Previously, Francalancia co-produced “The Mars Generation,” which was nominated for an Emmy in the Outstanding Science and Technology Documentary category in 2018. That same year, “UFC 25 Years in Short” was nominated for Outstanding Edited Sports Series, and Francalancia was an associate producer.

‘Changing The Game’

In a telephone interview Friday, Francalancia said, “For ‘Changing the Game,’ I helped create and develop that with the film’s director, Michael Barnett, who did my first documentary ... so he and I developed it together. I was kind of behind the scenes, helping them with getting subjects for the project. I was not the main producer, that was Clare Tucker and Alex Schmider, but I kind of shepherded it whenever we needed sales for selling it to a distribution platform.”

The documentary premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and UTA was on board to sell it. Ultimately, Francalancia said, it was sold to Hulu.

“So that was extremely exciting. It took a while for it to get the attention of Hulu, but they’ve been amazing partners on it and put us up for a ton of awards and we were nominated for a Peabody Award last month  and just recently the Primetime Emmy, which is phenomenal,” he said.

He knew a little earlier than other people about the Emmy nomination because it was in a juried category, so the filmmaker is usually told in advance.

“I was super proud that the journey of this project from 2018 to now is - that’s like a four-year process, and seeing it finally get an audience and attention and recognition is something to be really, really proud of,” he said. “The people that worked with and especially the subjects in our film, I love these people to death and they’re just phenomenal human beings. I’m so grateful, not just for myself personally, but for the entire team and everyone involved with it.”

According to a synopsis on mediaschool.indiana.edu, “Changing the Game” follows the lives of three transgender high school athletes.

Francalancia said, “It’s a very tough subject matter, but I think the thing that we did really well with the film was we made it as accessible and informative as possible, so that even if someone does have strong beliefs against trans rights, they can walk away from it and be like, ‘OK, I learned a lot, maybe there’s something I should be rethinking here.’ Because one of our main subjects in the film is one of the grandparents of one of the trans athletes and she is Baptist, ultra-conservative. She works for the sheriff’s department. She owns guns. All these things, and she’s like, ‘I read my Bible over and over and it says nothing about this in there and I just love these kids.’ It’s just really powerful to hear that.”

Find out more about “Changing the Game” at the website https://www.changinggamedoc.com/about.

‘The Lost Class’

“The Lost Class,” produced by Leo Burnett for nonprofit organization Change the Ref, was created as a public service announcement short film, Francalancia said.

“It was turned into a whole bunch of different things because Leo Burnett, the advertising agency, kind of had the general idea and they were working with an organization called Change the Ref, and they kind of figured out the idea and I think they molded it into a couple print and advertising things. At Cannes Lions, about a month and a half ago, they won the Titanium Award, which is massive, and then the Cleo Awards, we won 22 of those, which is out of control. They turned it into a commercial to be a part of the Emmy nomination program, and it got nominated,” he explained.

That Emmy nomination was probably the biggest shock for Francalancia because he didn’t know it was being submitted for that award.

He was brought late into the game on “The Lost Class” as the field producer to oversee production on the ground. It was filmed in Las Vegas.

“I was there with my team. I was field producing the second ‘Borat,’ but my team that I worked (with) on ‘Borat,’ we were asked to come on board and oversee some of the production (of ‘The Lost Class’),” he said.

The IU website states the “commercial advocates for universal background checks for firearm purchases by portraying former NRA President David Keene delivering a commencement address to a field of empty chairs. The chairs represent students who died of gun violence and will never graduate.”

Francalancia said, “It’s a very, very tough subject matter and the continued debate on gun control in America and especially the loss of life in schools, teachers and students. Sadly, it’s still very, very relevant and we didn’t think that we were going to make this and then change the world. We were just trying to show how many people are lost to gun violence every year and the true scale of it. We had 3,044 empty chairs in this giant parking lot in Las Vegas, and just to see that is really, really overwhelming.”

Even if Francalancia doesn’t win the two Emmy nominations this time around, he said he’s still proud of his work.

The website for “The Lost Class” is at https://www.thelostclass.com/.

Teaching At IU

An adjunct profession at Indiana University, he, his wife and their two children live in Bloomington now, moving there during the pandemic in July 2020.

“A majority of my work I can do remote, and that was kind of the big reason why you’re in a place like Los Angeles or New York City, and whenever that went away, I was like, ‘Why do we live here?’ And they’re like, ‘Let’s go somewhere we love.’ I had such a strong relationship with the Media School. I was advisor to the dean for the Media School at the time, and I did want to teach, so that was kind of like the added bonus of, ‘If we do move to Bloomington, which is a city I love, also the ability to potentially teach there would be amazing because it’s kind of like I get to pay it forward and teach students about how I started in the industry, the things I didn’t learn at IU that I think would be beneficial for them to know,” Francalancia said.

He started teaching at IU in fall 2021 and absolutely loves it. He started with a class called “Breaking Into the Entertainment Industry” where he helps students figure out how to apply for internships and assistant jobs, learn about script coverage and who are all the key players at studios, streamers and television networks.

“Kind of like all the things that whenever you start on day one, you should know about. And that’s something that has never been taught at IU, and I got incredible feedback from students and a couple of faculty members,” he said, adding that he’ll be teaching that again next school year.

Francalancia also has started something called “IU Stories.” He and his students are developing and producing documentaries and potentially scripted projects that are focused on IU past and present stories.

“So we’re going to be doing one on the very first Women’s Little 500, which happened in 1988. We filmed with those winners of that race a couple weeks ago here in Bloomington. All of them came back, so they came from Italy and New York and Texas. It was the first time they’ve seen each other in 34 years. So that was a really, really emotional, fun situation that we got to do with my students,” he said.

Francalancia said they’re also going to be developing a feature film on Ernie Pyle, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and war correspondent who died April 18, 1945, at Okinawa, Japan. He was born Aug. 3, 1900, in Dana, Ind.

“We’re hoping to develop a scripted feature film that we can commission a future screenplay and try to find the financing to make it here in Indiana because Indiana now has film and television incentives that we can piggyback on,” he said.

Dreams And History

After graduating from WCHS 17 years ago, Francalancia had hoped he would be doing what he’s doing now, but didn’t think he would be successful like he is, having worked on movies like “Nightcrawler” and “Spotlight.”

“I’m not like a big dreamer for myself. I’m more of a big picture, developing and storytelling. Working with teams. Working with cool companies. The first studio I worked for was MGM and that was almost right after college. And if I would have stopped there, or just worked there, for the rest of my career, I would have been happy. But I’ve got to do so many different things, and work with so many incredible filmmakers and producers and writers and actors and actresses and it boggles my mind every day that I get to do this for a living and I also get to teach about it, which is kind of crazy that I’m inspiring that next generation of filmmakers,” he said.

Everything Francalancia has been working on since about 2014-15 has been based a true story, other than “Borat.”

“I love history and I want to make history entertaining because I think that’s the best way to continue those conversations of our past: By creating it on a format that this generation or future generations can see and be like, ‘Ah, OK, that’s a really cool story. I want to learn more about that’ or kind of go down that rabbit hole. That’s what I always used to do as a kid,” he said. “My favorite class in high school at WCHS was David Hoffert’s history class. I think that was his first year or second year, and I was just obsessed with World War I, World War II, talking about Vietnam, all these things. I was just glued to just those conversations of our past and I would go home and just try to research on my own.”