Category Archives: Sp15-X4 Informational Interview/Professional Practices

Two Aspects from Hollywood


I attended a Q & A session at Lane Community College hosted by Acting Coach Leigh Kilton-Smith, and Film Director Omar Naim.  The event was held on the bottom floor of the Media Arts building on April 24th 2015 at 11am.  I don’t usually attend events such as this and it was an interesting change for me.  Both Leigh and Omar are from Los Angeles, California and have been involved in show business most of their lives.  It was good to actually hear from people with a lot of professional experience and insight.  The event lasted about an hour and a half and was being filmed and photographed by several people, students I assume.


Leigh Kilton-Smith is a professional acting coach, who has been involved in many major productions, and coached many well known actors such as Jennifer Aniston, Sam Rockwell, John Leguizamo and others.  She has a very spunky, in your face personality that is both charming and at times off putting.  She told a story at one point, of a particular actor who was having a very difficult time nailing the shot.  She grabbed him, slammed him up against the wall saying, and I quote, “I am gonna fuckin’ nut punch you!”  Her methods are unconventional, her styles are unique, and her attitude is compelling.  She also mentioned that her and her husband own an orphanage in Tijuana which I thought was wonderful.  I liked this woman almost immediately and I can see how her personality and beliefs have made her successful at what she does.


Omar Naim is a Hollywood Jack-of-all-Trades it seems.  He is best known for his screen writing, having written and directed the major motion picture “The Final Cut” starring the late Robin Williams.  He has had his hands in many films at different levels, such as:  Cinematographer, Director, Gaffer, Photographer, Sound Designer, and Producer.  Though not near as fiesty as Leigh, Omar has a very pleasant and intelligent personality.  He is very passionate about what he does and enjoyed sharing the methods of practice he used with the audience.  He is obviously a very patient, and focused individual shown by the fact that his current film is on it’s 30th revision.  As I listened to him I began to see a very creative man, full of ideas and holding the knowledge to express those ideas craftfully.  He highly recommends storyboards, noting that some of the best directors of our time are adamant on building solid, detailed storyboards.

After the two had introduced themselves and laid down some of their background, they opened the floor to the audience.  I’ve never heard Crickets indoors before but at that moment I swear I did.  Apparently, they have both seen this before and immediately started calling on people.  Though unorthodox, it was quite an effective way to stir the pot and get things cooking.  Leigh gave some insight into what it’s like working with actors.  She describes them as being extremely generous, loving, all around awesome people which isn’t what I expected at all.   Both Leigh and Omar believe that 90% of acting is all body language, though Omar also noted that good lines are extremely important for a film.


I admit, a lot of the information I heard was unfamiliar due to my lack of knowledge and experience.  However, I was able to glean some useful facts simply from observing their demeanor’s and attitudes.  The universally known fact is that show business can be tough.  Making a name for yourself takes time and perseverance.  Getting ahead may mean toughing up and not letting anyone take advantage or walk all over you.  Watching these two showed me a good example of how to conduct oneself in the business.  I enjoyed listening to their stories, and would definitely attend a similar function in the future.

Informational Interview with Mel Stark

Aud 120 Poster

I chose to speak with Mel Stark for my informational interview because I’m interested in audio production and after hearing Mel speak in our class, I knew she’d be a great resource for information.  I wasn’t wrong.

I had a list of questions ready for this interview, but after sitting down and just talking with Mel for a few minutes, I abandoned my formal interview track and went for a more informal, “What do I need to know to be successful” type of discussion with her.  This just felt right to me, and I feel like I learned more than if I’d stuck with my carefully worded questions (which I did seem to get answered in the course of our discussion).

One question I did ask was what skills or qualifications does someone need in this field.  Mel turned the question back on me and asked what kind of audio production I’m interested in.  The answer to that question, “I’m not entirely sure, I’m still trying to figure it all out,” led us into a discussion of all the different avenues open to someone pursuing audio and the different skills necessary.  Since my only real experience with audio is voice-over work, that’s where I’m leaning, but I’m also fascinated with sound for motion pictures and foley work.  Having this as a starting point, we talked about Mel’s Audio 120 (Audio Production) class (which I’m planning to take Fall term) and the things I’d learn there.  It was very clear, after talking with Mel, that she loves teaching and is very invested in her students’ success.  But as with all things, the student needs to be willing to work hard and bring their best to each class and each project.  I can’t think of better advice for anyone pursuing a career in any field.

Being familiar with computers and software is a critical part of audio production and engineering and so anyone pursuing this field will need to continually improve their skills and comfort with technology.  I appreciated Mel’s reiteration that for her audio classes, especially the introductory ones, she is invested in helping her students get comfortable with the equipment and tools necessary to complete their work.  Having this kind of support is invaluable and we’re foolish if we don’t take advantage of it.  Like all the instructors here, Mel is preparing us to be successful, but we have to take responsibility for our own futures and our own knowledge and skill sets.

When I asked Mel what events should I attend or what kinds of things should I be participating in to help me in this field, she reminded me of the huge range of audio and visual events going on around Lane County, such as film and music festivals, art performances, and Future Music Oregon at the University of Oregon.  She also mentioned a local audio producer who offers voice-over workshops as someone I should get to know. I’m hoping to take one of his workshops later this year to hone my skills and connect with others in this part of the industry.

One other thing Mel mentioned about being successful, and I believe this goes for any pursuit, is to be yourself.  One of the great benefits of a career in the arts is that we get to infuse the projects we work on with our own personalities and individual ideas.  Being true to the work means being true to ourselves and pushing ourselves to learn a bit more, stretch a bit further, and try new things.

I’m glad I took the opportunity to speak with Mel for this project.  I came away with a renewed sense of excitement for audio production, and my eyes are open to avenues other than just voice-over and film sound.  I hadn’t considered dipping my toes into audio engineering for music, but with Mel’s suggestion to look in at the audio studio in Building 6, I think some classes in audio engineering may just be in my future.  Thanks, Mel!