The program has ended. I no longer have to get up at 5 a.m. for a Warner Bros. shoot. I no longer get to spend long days in the School of Cinematic Arts' basement in the Avid editing labs. I no longer have to get up in front of 20 people to pitch a television show.
For now at least.
And I’m certainly going to miss it.
Over the last several weeks, I've been sharing some of my experiences while taking a summer film program at the University of Southern California. I made the trip out from North Carolina to spend six weeks learning whatever I could about the craft that entertains us through so many media like movies, television and more.
And I learned a lot.
The group project I produced and shot on the Warner Bros. backlot, “The Social Worker" was chosen out of the 50-plus films our class produced during the session to represent our class in the “End of Program Screening" event. Most of the cast showed up, and our film was well received by the audience. Afterward there was a reception in the courtyard where we got to hang out with actors and fellow filmmakers to say one last goodbye: it was nice to finally breathe a sigh of relief after six weeks of non-stop work.
Now, I return home and prepare for my final year of high school and college applications. Fortunately, there will be lots of opportunities to continue to work on projects, especially with my new student media specialist and media producer positions at school. I also plan to work on several shorts, more videos for local music, documentaries and many school projects.
Regardless, I’m going to miss Los Angeles. It’s a tough environment. It’s kind of scary thinking that there are thousands just like me who are vying for the same job, but at the same time, it motivates. If I'm not trying my absolute hardest, I'm not going to make it. Realizing that made me step it up. I have never been more focused and dedicated about making movies than at USC.
I’m really going to miss the people as well. Everyone at the program was kind and collaborative with each other. They were willing to help out on each others films, and there was an inspiring sense of camaraderie in the knowledge that we were all here to do one thing; produce quality films.
Getting to listen to and learn from industry veterans was another highlight of the program. Many successful individuals in the industry are willing to help new aspiring filmmakers if they are simply passionate and inquisitive. You have to realize, everyone was once an intern, assistant, grip, or lower level position, and so most try their best to be considerate and helpful to the up and coming generation of filmmakers.
Before the column ends, I want to share some of the key things I learned this summer. I do not intend to give the impression that I know it all. The things I am sharing are things that I have learned from people who have spent decades in the industry and have been fortunate enough to make a career out of filmmaking. I am merely trying to pass on what I learned.
- When you start working in the industry, realize that you may be getting coffee, or doing grip and assistant work for a while. If you are sure filmmaking is your passion, be resilient, and you will most likely eventually make it.
- Be confident and diplomatically headstrong. Success is often based off of initiative taken by the aspiring filmmaker, not by interest taken in the filmmaker by others. If you see an opportunity, take it.
- Find industry mentors that can critique your work and give you advice as you seek to further your abilities or career.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. By simply being a “sponge” and absorbing stories and advice from those who have seen success in the industry, you will learn a lot of helpful information.
- Build a network of industry connections. Stay in contact with those you meet, write to them, foster relationships with them. These people, combined with your reputation in the industry, will be one of the primary determinants in your success.
- Be hardworking and be passionate. Do everything to the best of you ability. Be reliable. Whether it be getting coffee for a boss, or directing a feature film for a major studio, approach it with determination and a rigorous work ethic.
- Show respect to everyone; whether they are your boss or an unpaid intern, treat them as you would want to be treated.. you never know when the roles could be reversed.
- Filmmaking is not a 9-to-5 job, it’s a job built around deadlines. Be prepared to do whatever it takes to get the job done on time.
- Whatever you have scheduled, be on time. I’ve once heard it said: “If you want to quickly burn bridges in the entertainment industry, show up late.” Plan to be early, create a large cushion of time (especially in places like L.A. where traffic is awful).
- Finally, I’ve learned you have to be able to compartmentalize. Being the distracted, teenage-brained individual that I am, I often struggle to focus and see something to completion before jumping onto another task. There were times where I felt overwhelmed with work, but I got through it by focusing and dedicating myself to each task, whether it be editing my film or writing an email to my teacher.
For me, my stint at USC is over. It would be easy to reminisce in the past and day dream about the future, but I have taken what I’ve learned from USC, cherish the experience, compartmentalize, and move on to the next task (this being senior year).
Will I make it out to L.A.? Will I get into USC? Will I be able to have a career in the industry? It’s easy to get distracted with these questions, and in the end, only time will tell. But even after going through the six-week program and seeing how hard and draining the career field can be, I have also seen how rewarding it can be. And more than ever, I am excited about pursuing a career in film and television.
As someone at Warner Bros. said to me, “It will be the most demanding job you will ever do, but it is all worth it.”
In closing, I've realized no matter what you're passionate about, whether it be filmmaking, graphic design, or fashion, all the way to physics and chemistry; do what you're passionate about and do it wholeheartedly. It will probably more challenging than a normal job, and sacrifices will have to be made, but it will be the most rewarding thing you will do.
You can follow me on twitter @AdamBnard.
Photo: Shooting on the Warner Bros. backlot with Adam Barnard, Biancha Klimp, Eric Paul Erickson and Dan Usher. Courtesy of Don Stephens Jr.
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