A director who filmed a series of shocking public service announcements at the DuPage County morgue to raise awareness about the dangers of texting while driving has won a regional Emmy for his efforts.
Now John Cuneo of Chicago is hoping that the award he and his business partner, Derek Devine, received last month from the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences leads to all three commercials being shown nationwide.
"I hope that this award creates an impetus for more states to adopt these spots," Cuneo said Tuesday.
Cuneo, who co-owns PUNCH Films with Devine, last year came up with the idea of using dark humor to give motorists the jolt they need to get their eyes off the cellphone and on the road. Texting while driving is against the law in Illinois.
In the award-winning commercial, a "coroner" talks to a teenager in a body bag who is still busy texting. The boy is trying to text a girl after slamming his car into a light pole. "I knew she liked me," the boy says as he thumbs away on a cellphone keypad. "Not anymore," the coroner replies before grabbing the phone and zipping up the body bag.
Cuneo said he wanted the ads, which also feature a deceased "mom" and "guy," to be different.
"You see yourself in them, and that's the point," he said.
When a client rejected the original idea for the commercials, Cuneo and Devine decided to produce and fund the project themselves. Once the scripts were done, they hired local actors and started rehearsing.
All they needed was someplace to film the commercials.
Cuneo said a site scout suggested that Cuneo contact DuPage. Representatives of former DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett "loved" the idea of filming at the morgue in Wheaton, according to Cuneo.
"They were extremely accommodating," he said, adding that all three commercials were shot in a single day.
Birkett and Secretary of State Jesse White unveiled the commercials in September 2010. At the time, White said the ads might help change people's behavior.
But while the commercials have been aired in Illinois and Minnesota, other states don't have the funding to run the ads because of budget cuts.
"I'm just a little frustrated," Cuneo said, "because I want to get them out to more states."