Our UT Grad guests at last weeks "Where Are They Now" panel were quite an inspiring lot. None have been out in the "reel world" for more than 5 years, but they've all got major professional accomplishments under their belt and they had great advice to share with us anxious soon-to-be graduates.
One major theme that came out of their conversation was the importance of persistence, casting a wide net and going above and beyond what is asked of you. When production designer Ashlyn Fielder met someone she wanted to work for he told her, "keep emailing me, it's not going to bug me" - so she did and ultimately she got an internship on his feature and then got consistently hired by the featuere's production designer on all her subsequent projects. Editor Robin Schwartz said her first paid film job also came out of an internship: "I would show up and stay way later than I was supposed to and I would work on the weekends - which I still do - and he eventually hired me." Similarly: "anything that came my way I said 'sure!'- free, paid - 'I'll do it!,' said Producer/Director Carlyn Hudson (and Women in Cinema co-founder).
When asked what they wished they had known as a student, many of the paragon panelists encouraged us to take advantage of the free equipment (and labor) that is more readily available.
In terms of the value of Film Graduate School Robin wisely put it: "I don't think it matters whether your an undergrad or grad student in film, you can get the same benefits from both as long as you know what you want to do." As for most important thing she learned at school, Carlyn quoted our fearless faculty advisor Kat Candler as teaching her to "be nice, work your ass off and don't sit down."
And the power of the student-teacher legacy was echoed throughout the evening. Screenwriter and elementary school teacher Alex Thomas recommended finding work through your professors who are active filmmakers. DP/AC Kate Steinhebel stressed the importance of "keeping in touch with everyone you can" and "giving back" to the next generation. Alex is doing just this as she passes on her love of film to her students and introduces them to local film as much as possible.
A poignant closing message for filmmakers of all ages and at all stages was Carlyn's perspective on ambition: "so I shoot for the moon and I make it to the stars, that's pretty great."