From ages 3-6, I lived off-base in Aviano, Italy. At the time, my father worked for the Air Force as an Electrical Technician for their television and radio shows. This is one of the first memories I can recall.
I was sitting on a swing, swinging slowly, as my father droned on and on to a lady he worked with. Of course, in reality it was only five minutes, but I was still pretty bored, and kept my head down as I watched my feet flop lifelessly above the ground I still could not reach.
I was so far away from them that I could not hear exactly what they were talking about, but I could tell that the lady was cooing at me from a distance. She thought me adorable. She actually thought me so adorable, that she asked my father for permission to put me into a commercial.
And the commercial was exactly that. Not any big production or anything, just a camera recording me swinging sadly on a swing by myself. This was my first experience in the entertainment business.
Now, granted, we left Italy before the commercial ever aired so I never got to see it, and apparently it ended up being one of those PSA’s that said something along the lines of “…Do you know a child that is suffering from neglect or abuse? Call this number.” However, it fascinated me, and getting into the film industry has interested me ever since then.
Now I’m a Senior in college at The University of Texas at Austin as a dual major in Radio, Television & Film and Advertisement. Since I have moved from Italy to
Texas, and now that my father is retired military, I haven’t had too much more exposure to the film world. I decided early in my college career that I would spend one summer with the UTLA program, a semi “Study Abroad” session that sent us to mecha of all filmmaking itself: Los Angeles.
When the time finally arrived to go, I was trembling with excitement. Did the drive
through West Texas douse my anticipation immensely, with it’s nine hours of
nothingness? Considerably. But it was well worth it: I was able to take some excellent classes filled with great lectures and guest speakers, I had the opportunity to get firsthand experience in the industry through various outings and trips, and I learned a great deal from the two internships I was able to grab a hold of upon arrival.
Allow me to begin on the reflections of my experiences there by first giving a small
description of the LA lifestyle that stood out to me and ultimately effects how Hollywood works: For one, traffic ruins my life; two, parking ruins my life; and three, trying to park in traffic ruins my life. The lesson learned from this should be quite obvious: It’s time to get a motorcycle. Also, if a car must be taken, god forbid, to leave an entire 2 hours before you have to be anywhere. I jest, but the traffic here is something to be wary of, especially if you’re meeting some important people.
Taking the UTLA classes here was a much more delightful experience. I took two
classes, “How Hollywood Works” and “Introduction to New Media and Gaming,” while also auditing a third, “Inside the Music Industry.” The instructors were not only knowledgeable in the subjects, but lived it as their primary career.
From the “How Hollywood Works” class, I received a wealth of information about titles, positions, and the current news in Entertainment. I also gained a thorough
understanding of pitching a project to someone. Things such as making approximate budgets and how it will translate later into profits, how to pick the cast by their current box-office holdings, and how the most important thing about selling a pitch is to 1) Have a great story and 2) Have endless amounts of passion for your project.
The speakers the instructor brought in, which were people ranging from all types of professions within the industry, were among some of my favorite classes. A particular favorite of mine was Rick Parks, who was a lively writer that had been apart of some of my favorite movies (Such as It Takes Two and Ever After) and was a joy to listen to. What was most exceptional about him was his sense of morality, and how he wasn’t willing to stand down on certain issues just to get the job.
The “Introduction to New Media and Gaming” class was an extremely good supplement to a class I had taken the prior semester, “New Media Planning.” It reiterated all the different types of new media platforms available to us but in a way that was relevant to video games and film. Through the lectures I learned about how the endless depth and interactivity of stories can really contribute to a franchise, some of the most successful examples being Harry Potter and Star Wars.
The speakers were, once again, absolutely delightful. For every themed lesson the
instructor had for the class, he brought in a well-accomplished professional that worked in that niche field (who, by nature of ‘new media,’ were often the originators). The one speaker who stood out among the others was Natasha de Soleil, who taught us about mobile applications in-depth with enthusiasm and great instruction. She’ll be the one that I hope to stay in contact with until my return to Los Angeles.
Auditing “Inside the Music Industry” was a move on my part to get all the information but not have to pay the tuition, otherwise I would have been honored to be a student. It was a fun class with many memorable moments and instructors that really had a passion about what they were doing. They were honest about their own limitations and forever humble about what they had accomplished so far. From them, I gained a wealth of courage and inspiration to go out and just start doing whatever I had wanted to do, and just learn what I could on the way.
One of the instructors, Michael Clark, will become a big help to me later on. While he and the other instructor were outside of the class, all of the rambunctious students decided to draw on the white board, myself included. After returning to the class and laughing about it, Michael pointed to my drawings and asked if I did any animation. Of course I do! So now I’m doing a short animation for his documentary, and he was adamant about my keeping in touch with him, because he has so many great connections in the animation industry. All-in-all, auditing that class might have been a good decision turned great.
Outside of taking college classes, I was also able to manage enough time for two
internships. The first one, Generate, is an experience I’ll hold dearly. The second, 23D Films, wasn’t half as good to me as the other, but was still a great internship.
My supervisor at Generate was an UTLA alumni and took great joy in introducing me to people at the office as another Longhorn associate. The replies givens were often those of camaraderie, for they were too UT alumni, or huge sighs, for the company was overrun by UT graduates. That being said, it was a great place to work! I always looked forward to going in the mornings, despite the hour-long traffic, to help out with whatever they needed that day. What I found to be especially notable was the care they took in making sure that I learned something new everyday I was there, whether it be about the business or book-keeping or production or post-production.
While at 23D Films, I worked upstairs with the “Kaiju Empire.” We were busy building a new social networking game that’s top-secret, so I can’t elaborate on it more than that. I was really hoping to do some stuff in concept, or art direction, or even flash or maya, but none of that ever happened. This internship was based mostly off of doing research for all of those people, but I never got the reward of actual learning the trade. It was still a good experience for me however, and I’m glad for it in some ways.
So how does all that I’ve learned, through classes and internships, explain my
understanding of “How Hollywood Works” in relation to my future career in
entertainment? To put it simply, the biggest lesson I took away from my stay here is that I need contacts to help get me jobs, places, gigs, etc. This whole industry is an exclusive community in which I need to elbow my way into and start to grow from there.