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Careers in Film Summit

Careers in Film Summit
Razor's Edge, Careers in Film

Samuel Goldwyn Theater
8949 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Free parking at 8920 Wilshire Blvd. (corner of Wilshire and LaPeer, entrance on LaPeer)

On Saturday, October 17, the Academy presented its first Careers in Film Summit for the general public, open to current high school and college students. Industry talents in a variety of major fields spent the day with the local Los Angeles community discussing the paths to finding rewarding work in the film industry, illustrated with a wealth of illuminating clips.

Six separate panels were part of the event, which was split into morning and afternoon sessions. The Academy partnered with Overbrook Entertainment and President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to bring in students from the Los Angeles and Compton Unified School Districts, as well as the local community, with guests including many Academy members, filmmakers and special guests.

The crowd was welcomed upon arrival by Randy Haberkamp, the Academy’s Managing Director of Preservation and Foundation Programs, Overbook Entertainment COO Jana Babatunde-Bey, COO, and Mike Muse, SBA’s My Brother’s Keeper Millennial Entrepreneur Champion. The first panel, “Working above the Line,” consisted of a 90-minute discussion moderated by Muse with producer Effie T. Brown (Dear White People, “Project Green Light”), writer-director Tina Gordon Chism (Drumline, Peeples), producer Debra Martin Chase (Just Wright, Sparkle), producer Caleeb Pinkett (After Earth, Annie), actor Adam Rodriguez (Magic Mike, Magic Mike XXL), producer Shelby Stone (November Rule, Bessie), and director Tim Story (Fantastic Four, Ride Along). The realities of the business were discussed from those who appear prominently in front of and behind the camera, with topics including the demands of the market, the representations of minorities, and the creative instincts that compel people to, in the words of Chase, “take the risk; don’t be afraid.”

Next came “Lights, Camera, Action: Production,” a peek at life on the ground level of day-to-day film production featuring hairstylist Pierce Austin (Men in Black, Seven Pounds), cinematographer Gabriel Beristain (Iron Man, Street Kings), costume concept artist Phillip Boutte, Jr. (The Divergent Series: Insurgent, The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 1), set decorator Jan Pascale (Argo, Anchorman 2), gaffer Jim Plannette (The Artist, The Gift), and casting’s Robi Reed (Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X), moderated by entertainment reporter Shaun Robinson. Numerous clips were screened to illustrate how much hard work and dedication goes into pulling off every frame of film, which goes through multiple hands even in front of the camera long before audiences ever see it.

What happens after the director calls it a wrap? That’s what the audience found out in the third segment, “Get It in the Can: Post-Production,” with panelists including supervising sound editor Andrew DeCristofaro (Unbroken, Spy), visual effects supervisor Sheena Duggal (The Hunger Games, Iron Man 3), music composer Richard Gibbs (Doctor Dolittle, “Battlestar Galactica”), music supervisor Pilar McCurry (Love Jones, The Karate Kid) and film editor Michael Tronick (2 Guns, Straight Outta Compton), also moderated by Robinson. Here they revealed the craft of putting that necessary polish and shine on a film can be in terms of both sight and sound, with every choice ranging from a single cut to a note of music having an impact on the final product. As Gibbs put it, “My job is to make everybody else look good!”

When you’re making a film, how do you make sure you get the talent you want and have all the pieces to make something people will want to see? That was all revealed in “The Reps: The Dream Team,” featuring public relations representative Greg Longstreet of Polaris PR, agent Cameron Mitchell of CAA, manager Eric Pertilla of Mosaic Media Group, entertainment attorney Todd Rubenstein of Morris Yorn Barnes Levine Krintzman Rubenstein Kohner & Gellman, and agent Brad Slater of WME, moderated by Muse. The process of negotiating with talent, legally clearing all of the assets needed for a film, and properly representing the interests of everyone involved were the center of discussion here for a look at how every meeting counts when you’re putting together a film with hundreds of jobs on the line.

Once the film is done and everything’s in place, you still have to get it out to the public and make everyone aware that your title exists. That process was uncovered in “Putting It All on the Table: Marketing and Distribution,” with exhibition executive Nikkole Denson-Randolph of AMC Theatres, journalist/film critic Pete Hammond of Deadline Hollywood, marketer Laura Kim of Participant Media and digital executive Sanjay Sharma of All Def Digital, moderated by entertainment journalist Amy Elisa Jackson. Everything from a trailer to a poster to every social media platform can play a part in how the public perceives an upcoming film, and it takes a keen understanding of your audience to get the message out loud and clear as this examination of that delicate process demonstrated.

Finally the art of “Animation!” and its many guises took the spotlight for the final panel, moderated by Haberkamp. Stop motion animator/director Musa Brooker (Elf, “Robot Chicken”) explained how he became part of the “rare breed” of stop-motion animators and loves the “rough edges” that give the medium its character, while university relations manager Grazia Como (Eight Below, The Croods) discussed handling mentorships and training programs to use video conferencing and face-to-face teaching to encourage the next generations of film artists. Senior VP Production Karen Toliver of 20th Century Fox Animation showed how she balanced a passion for storytelling since childhood and a career path through the film industry, while the craft of modern computer animation was explored by character designer Dan Haskett (Toy Story, Waking Sleeping Beauty), animation inker/artist Antonio Pelayo (Frozen, Big Hero 6), story artist/animator Tom Sito (The Lion King, Shrek), and animator Liron Topaz (The Croods, How to Train Your Dragon 2), whose personal story led from a start with a Sci-Tech internship with the Academy to the previous day’s completion of work on Kung Fu Panda 3.

By the end of the day, the young audience had been treated to a once in a lifetime journey through the moviemaking process with clear paths to follow for a rich and productive career. As Toliver said of her own craft but with equal relevance to everyone on the stage, “Everybody puts themselves into these movies-- and you see how much everybody gives and gives, and it shows up on the screen.”

October 17, 2015