Category Archives: SP18-Ex4 Professional Practices

PROFESSIONAL DOPING PRACTICES

I attended a screening of a documentary called ICARUS at the Bijou theatre with a post-Q&A with the cinematographer, Jake Swantko. The documentary starts off with Bryan Fogel conducting an investigation on illegal doping in sports today. He’s referenced to the former director of Russia’s national doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov. Rodchenkov was a student-athlete and ran long-distance in track, and he doped during his time as an athlete, he even went on to state that even his own mother would help inject the drugs into him. Rodchenkov sets up a doping plan for Fogel to take performance-enhancing drugs that will bypass drug tests, to prove that modern testing isn’t sufficient enough when it comes to anti-doping. As Fogel continued his doping plan, Rodchenkov disclosed Russia’s secret state-sponsored doping program that he is in charge of. Rodchenkov flew to LA because he was afraid of dying from a “heart attack” when in actuality it would have been because of an assassination. The two of them brought the information of Russia’s state-sponsored doping practices to the attention of the U.S Department of Justice, and The New York Times saying Russia has been doping their athletes and cheating in the Olympics for years. They explain the convoluted, yet very impressive, way of obtaining and replacing the dirty urine for the clean urine at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. ICARUS is an amazing documentary that I highly recommend everybody should watch because it really goes to show, just how much the world loves sports. The movie shifts the main focus from Bryan Fogel to the origin of Grigory Rodchenkov and his redemption.

Post-Q&A with cinematographer; Jake Swantko

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Once the documentary had ended, its cinematographer who is also an alumnus University of Oregon, Jake Swantkos, conducted a 30 minute Q&A. He explained how certain shots were taken such as the scenes during the bike race. He told us that while he was filming the bike shots he was sitting on the back of a motorcycle (sometimes in the pouring rain) he had a special waterproof camera (I can’t recall the name of it) with a special attachment on it that would allow for him to turn the camera to the side without turning his entire body and becoming unbalanced. He spoke to us about his relationship with Grigory, and told us that they have continued to work with his lawyer to ensure his safety, even though he is under the witness protection for fear of being killed by Putin’s goons. Unfortunately, it’s believed that Russian agents are targeting Rodchenkov and may be close to finding him.

I personally really enjoyed this screening, especially the Q&A afterward. I had already seen this documentary about a month ago but that was at 5AM after 24 hours of watching documentaries back to back. So rewatching this with a fresh pair of eyes and seeing it on a big screen, along with being able to meet the cinematographer afterward was a plus. Overall I loved doing this assignment, and highly recommend that all of you watch it, by far my favorite documentary.

 

Professional Practice: The Art of Directing with Chloe Zhao

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For my Professional Practice assignment I decided to attend U of O’s “Art of Directing series” that they tend to hold from time to time. In this series of talks they bring in independent director’s from all over the globe in order for them to give their insights of the filmmaking process/the film industry if they have it at all to give. They held this one on May 1st at 4 PM in the Gerlinger Lounge at the UO campus.

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Outside of the Gerlinger Building at UO Campus

This time it was with Director Chloe Zhao director of independent films such as Songs That My Brothers Taught Me (2015) and more recently The Rider (2017) which has won awards such as the C.I.C.A.E. award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for 4 awards at the Film Independent Spirit Awards (Best Directing, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, and Best Feature).

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Chloe is a director from Beijing, China who initially went to school at Mount Holyoke College which is a liberal arts college where she earned a degree in political science. After realizing that getting actual work in US politics wasn’t really what she wanted to do she worked odd jobs for a while, mainly as a bartender for about 3 years before deciding to attend New York University Tisch School of the Arts in order to study filmmaking.

The talk itself didn’t have much order and went all around so based on the notes I took I’m going to try to organize it all into different sections.

She told us how from a young age she was always interested in telling stories, originally being super into Japanese Manga to the point of even wanting to make her own. But feeling not very confident in her abilities when it came to art she ended up not pursuing manga creation.

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Chloe Zhao (right) with Forest Whitaker (left) who produced Songs My Brothers Taught Me.

She wanted to tell real human stories about different and cultured people, finding the romanization of a culture more toxic then finding their real human struggles that we generally don’t see on film, which is mainly what both Songs My Brothers Taught Me and the Rider deal with. Songs mainly dealing with Native American’s and their culture and the everyday struggles of the characters in that film and the Rider dealing with cowboy/rodeo culture which takes the real aspects of the main actors life and fictionalizes parts of it.

Chloe always saw community theater and people engaging with community theater to be super interesting due to getting different people with different backgrounds and different cultural experiences really being able to put their all into their performances in interesting and unique ways. She also said that she sees audience interaction with a film/the screen to be something that she loves. Engaging with people who engage in the work you end up putting out is super key to her.

In regards to her crew she talked about how it’s a good idea to find people you trust very well and that you know you can work well with for a smaller production that you have more personal control over. If you have someone who’s wishy washy with you or that you don’t particularly work well with, then there will be clashing and problems that are bound to happen, especially on such a small production. She also said to make sure you take special care of your crew. She would always cook breakfast every single day for her crew.

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I think I got a pretty decent shot of the chair Chloe sat in! Wasn’t a gigantic fan of the lighting overall in there for pictures honestly.

When it came to writing she said that no matter the size of crew every single part of the shoot/film all comes from the script. If a part doesn’t work while shooting Chloe said to just rewrite it and that’s a benefit you can have while on set. For the production of Songs, she wrote 30 drafts with a 10 page treatment which made the movie take about 3 years overall to write, while the Rider ended up only taking about a month to write comparatively. Money was also a factor as Songs didn’t really have much funding due to nobody wanting to back a first time asian female director making a film about Native Americans.

Chloe also made it a point to emphasize that it’s good to not be too bombastic or crazy with your first film as in a way your first really applying everything you’ve learned and you’re going to bump your head. It’s best to work within your budget/limitations and be realistic/reasonable with how you end up going about it all. First films, even if they’re not perfect or have problems or flaws can end up being calling cards to bigger films, even if they’re just a small short film! It’s all about learning the process, networking and getting your name around and out into the filmmaking world/community. You never need a lot of money to get your foot in the door somewhere or to open doors to better opportunities.

An interesting quote from her that I really enjoyed was when talking about budgets for films, she ended up talking about the Budget for the Rider and how it didn’t really matter. To her “Production Value/Budget doesn’t really mean much, $80,000 in South Dakota can be $5,000,000 in New York, it’s far more about the talent of your cast and crew during the production itself.”

We were told that creatively you have more advantages when small over working for a big corporation. When small you have way more leeway and far less studio intervention. She also suggested staying small if you’re an indie creator, as studios can end up taking notice of you and wanting you on bigger projects, or wanting to fund more of your work if you impress them.

Another quote I quite enjoyed was her saying she was from the “Terrence Malick school of filmmaking”.

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Terrence Malick

Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life, Knights of Cups) is pretty well known for filming primarily outdoors, often relying on natural lighting for his productions, focusing on philosophical subjects, mixing well known actors with non actors and trying to get real true raw reactions from them.

Her two movies really do follow these pretty well, dealing with real subject matters/philosophical angles, tending to lean towards using unknown actors, shooting outside most of the time and really trying to get real, raw and personal reactions and stories. It was honestly fairly inspiring to me as someone who wants to create/help create meaningful and philosophical media and art that tackles interesting subject matter.

What added to this was how she told us how she didn’t film using a monitor, or just sitting behind the camera all the time. She really tries to get engaged with her actors, letting them know exactly what she wants the actor to convey and really getting that across effectively. And the advice she gave of telling us to humble ourselves to the nature around us and that it will have the chance to surprise us while filming. She experienced this on the filming of the rider as they worked quite a bit with horses (specifically the main actors horse) which tended to wander around and do it’s own thing from time to time which ended up leading to some beautifully constructed shots for the film.

She ended off mainly by talking about big studios and telling us to stay true to ourselves, but to compromise on certain things and cooperate to what the studio wants as well if you are working with a big studio. She had been given offers for bigger films and is even working on a new movie funded by Amazon soon enough which to me is fairly cool and exciting to hear her going from a no name unfunded film like Songs to the success of the Rider at festivals to being funded by Amazon. It’s inspiring and shows that even small creators can really make it.

Before leaving, I first stopped by the catering provided by UO catering which was pretty great!

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Great job to the catering staff!

And then I got a chance to introduce myself to Chloe and ask her two questions.

The first being about what she exactly looks for in an editor for her films, as I have an interest in and want to become an editor for films/media.

Her response was she does the first rough cut of the film herself and then she looks for someone who could work the best with constantly changing/adapting content. Someone who can adapt to scenes they may have finished needing to be tweaked/adjusted/changed completely when needed. As when a film develops things can change due to reshoots/script changes and what not.

The second question I asked was about what she suggests for an editor trying to get their foot in the door/in the industry at large.

This probably wasn’t the greatest question since she’s a director so she didn’t have a ton of advice to give from her personal experience, but she did say that her editor on the Rider came from and looked into Sundance labs and editing fellowships which since talking to her I’ve began looking into. These supposedly put you with real professionals who analyze and critique the work you give them and teach you how to improve your craft, as well as matching you up with directors who need editors for their work. So I definitely want to begin looking more into this if I personally can.

Overall, I’d say my experience with this professional practice was fairly positive and I’m definitely going to try to be on the lookout for more events that the Cinema Studies program at U of O puts on from here on. I ended up going to the Icarus showing they put on yesterday too and it was pretty great! Learned quite a bit from that cinematographer who showed up there so they definitely have some very valuable discussions and showings for people who are interested.

Exploring the work of Ai Weiwei…

For this particular project I felt like the window was wide open with different opportunities to take advantage of. In all honesty, I had a hard time choosing what exhibit to visit versus if there was someone I wanted to interview because there were some people I had initially reached out to but instead I decided to go to the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. After walking around the museum I had viewed exhibits I’ve already seen such as the “Don’t Touch My Hair: Expressions of Identity and Community” (Which is insanely beautiful by the way) I decided on taking the road less traveled and look more in depth on what is around the perimeter of the museum.

I found an exhibit called the Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads which is a series of a reinterpretation of the twelve bronze animal heads that represent the traditional Chinese zodiac. Created by the internationally acclaimed artist Ai Weiwei these bronze statues were insanely intriguing! Originally designed in the eighteenth century by two European Jesuits serving in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), the twelve zodiac heads originally functioned as a water clockfountain in the European style gardens of the Old Summer Palace. These specific heads created by Ai Weiwei have been displayed in over forty international venues making this exhibit quite the spectacle. Weiwei’s overall goal with reinterpreting these sculptures is to bring attention to the questions of looting and repatriation. Looking at these bronze sculptures, they relatively brought me back to a time in high school in my honors world studies class where the entire year all we learned about was chinese history. Mind you, this was my freshman year so it was quite a while back but since that year, I haven’t really learned much more about Chinese history. It has always been something that’s intrigued me whether it is sculptures, paintings, poetry, film, etc. there is a sense of grace woven within the culture. Just the most recent fall term at the UO I took a comparative world literature class where we explored a little bit of poetry and art within Chinese culture. We briefly talked about Weiwei and his work but didn’t go as in depth as I would’ve hoped especially after finding these bronze heads.

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Ai Weiwei is one of the best-known contemporary artists in China. Being not only an artist but an architectural designer, curator, and social activist, Weiwei has all sorts of artwork and designs all over the world. He also was the artistic consultant on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics. One of his most notable pieces is titled “Sunflower Seeds” located in the Tate Modern art gallery in London, where over one hundred million hand painted pieces of porcelain sunflower seeds representing the vastness of China and the conformity and censorship of the communist party.

Overall, Ai Weiwei is not only an internationally acclaimed artist with a large amount of backstory and depth to his artwork but he is also an activist and is very relevant within the Chinese community. The Zodiac Heads are his first major public sculpture project and quite the success as well.

Primary Polyethylene.

The “Primary Polyethylene” show case was apart of the Krause Gallery in Lawrence Hall at the University of Oregon. The main purpose of the gallery was to “deeper explore the wonders of the imaginative and colorful landscapes of childhood.” To begin, I want to break down the title of the exhibit “Primary Polyethylene.” The word “Primary” means  “of chief importance; principal,” and “Polyethylene” is a “tough, light, flexible synthetic resin” that is used to make things like plastic bags. Now that the name of the exhibit is better defined, It makes understanding the art much easier, in which the majority of the things from our childhood was made from this synthetic material, thus making it the primary substance from our youth. Each piece was composed of this plastic-like material, along with other substances like felt and cotton. The exhibit gave off an 80’s vibe, which suited the materials well. The patterns used along with the texture of the art pieces brought back instant memories from my childhood. I think what I liked most about this exhibit were the use of colors and textures in each piece.

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A piece I thought looked like giant “Pixie Stix” by Ariel Stach.

Moreover, The simplicity of the art was a perfect representation of the state we are in as children. For instance, there was one piece (pictured above) that looked like a bunch of huge pixie sticks. I’m not quite sure if that was what the artist was trying to convey, but she fulfilled her purpose, in which  my first thought was one about my childhood when I looked at it.  It took me back to a time where my only worries were getting all the sugar out of the little plastic tubes, a time that was stress-free in all reality. To add, every piece withheld its own unique “weirdness.” There was a piece in the exhibit that was literally just a canvas painted in yellow (not pictured), and directly to the right there was a large textured canvas that was drenched in yellow glitter (pictured below). I found this particularly interesting because the use of the color yellow drew me back to my earlier education days. I immediately thought of a yellow school bus, a ruler, or a yellow desk used in grade school. It was an exhilarating feeling of being in the past again, in my youth were nothing made sense, but all at the same time everything made sense just like this exhibit.

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A Piece by Ariel Stach.

Moving on, throughout the exhibit there was an odd fire-hydrant looking thing that was spilling out this “Polyethylene” material in all sorts of colors. This particular art piece reminded me of the days in gym class when I was in elementary school, when we would play with the giant parachute, the one where everyone would lift it up and then go under and tuck it under your butt. The “fire hydrant” was lit up as if it was a time machine that was spilling out items from our childhood. I genuinely enjoyed this piece because my adult mind associated it with a fire hydrant, but if I were to think like a child I would think of it as an imaginary friend. An imaginary friend that was made up from an inanimate object and then brought to life. Overall I really enjoyed the youthful tone the gallery set off. It made me think of my childhood in depth, and it pushed my mind to  explore the imaginative landscapes of childhood as an adult, which was an interesting experience.

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The piece I though looked like a “Fire hydrant Time Machine” by Ariel Stach and Luna Sansone.

 

Animating Life

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For my professional practice assignment I took a drive up to the big city and attended Portland Art Museum’s Animating Life: The Art, Science, and wonder of LAIKA.  The exhibit was nothing short of incredible.  As I walked into the front foyer of the exhibition the lights were low and the walls were black.  A towering 18-foot model skeleton from Kubo and the Two Strings stares down, arms outstretched like it’s ready to grab you.

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After getting over the sheer amazement of the size and detail of this huge skeleton I walked into the main exhibit.  It’s hard to describe how wonderful it was.  There was a zoetrope – a circular viewing box to show how motion in animation is achieved by adding photos on top of each other with slightly different body positions and spinning it – particularly Coraline running.  Every which way I looked was something equally impressive in creativity, skill, and patience.  At this point I realized there was a small theatre room where a documentary about the animation studio Laika was showing.  I decided to go sit and watch the film before diving into the rest of the exhibit.  I’m glad I did this because it was a perfect introduction into the massive endeavor each of these productions are.  There were interviews with the CEO of Laika, the puppet designers, animators, costume designers, and more all speaking of the prospective jobs and the teams it takes to makes each story come to life.

Then it was time.  I walked into the exhibit and the first thing to catch my eye was the huge set of Coraline’s Garden in the center of the room.  It was probably 15 feet by 10 feet and just beautiful, with bright blues and pinks and oranges, flowering trees and cobblestone paths. There were tiny lights in flowers and pumpkins and in the tops of the trees.  I would have been embarrassed if someone were watching me because I’m sure my mouth was agape the entire time.  I mean, just look at this:

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Well, I have covered the large, yet still very detailed sets and models, so now I should talk about the tiny, crazy detail that is in the props, puppets, and costumes as well.

Hanging in shadowbox frames were these such things.  A tiny teddy bear, hammers, shoes.  Itty-bitty keys and wrenches, all the little knick-knacks from the movie The Boxtrolls… 

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and each tiny, little costume from Coraline as well…

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I took so many photos of this exhibit, I wish I could share them all without overwhelming one blogpost.  Something I really liked about it, is how it showed certain aspects of this art, step-by-step.  From the making of the character models mechanisms to the pouring of the rubber for its body.  How each facial expression is actually a separate mold which is interchanged throughout the picture-taking process to create fluid movement in the face.  Also, interactive models show how the illusion of water is made:  with hand cranked pulleys and paper painted like waves and boxes with motors moving wires around underneath a blue sheet.  This is an incredible process involving artist and engineer alike.

I really think Animating Life: The Art, Science, and wonder of LAIKA helped solidify my interests in animation, but it has also humbled me.  I realized to go into this industry I better start practicing the art of patience.

 

 

Art Walk on Main Street

On Friday, April 27th I chose to attend the weekly art walk on Main Street in Cottage Grove. Though I’ve lived in this town my entire life I’d never gotten around to going, so when I heard our assignment was to cover a local art show I utilized my opportunity.

Coincidentally this was the first artwalk this year so that had me a bit excited but at the same time I felt a bit discouraged the of the event because at the time we were experiencing heavy rain. A part of me feared that the event would be cancelled and I’d have to come up with a last minute solution but luckily upon arrival my fears were settled. The entire art walk is an indoor event and the various shops that occupy the downtown Cottage Grove area which, for me, was a sign of relief.

I began at the business called Frame It. Yes they had an art gallery in a frame shop. If that’s not a successful business model I don’t know what is. But, to my surprise, a majority of the art on display in this particular business were not paintings. Instead we were treated to a variety of various alternative forms of art such as sculptures and embroidered furniture. To no one’s surprise the most popular area by far was the area around the food and alcohol. To quote the host “ whats an art show without wine”. Can’t argue with that logic. Though impressive in its own right, the art on display here was not particularly what I’d come to expect. I’d come to observe and possibly buy locally done paintings, so when the extent of the art on display was not that I felt a bit let down.

This was only temporary. Upon entering the next building all prior skepticism and dread quickly subsided. Within one of the downtown antique shop was all the local paintings on display. Some were great, some were not (to put it kindly) but they were all made with purpose. My favorite was a portrait of a native American group gathered around a fire with a pink sunset in the background. I wish I could have found out how much the person paid because this was a piece that was truly spectacular. Several others caught my eye as well including various portraits of waterfalls, pictures people had taken in exciting locations, and a wide variety of portraits done in non traditional art styles.

Last but certainly not least I visited the second antique shop displaying art in town. As far the art went it was the most interesting of the three. Among a few painting were art pieces made of who knows what. Very interesting pieces were on display here using recycled materials, and whole array of materials. Tin men made from tin cans, various nature symbols made from sticks, stones, and leaves and of course of a section of things I guarantee the shop owner was trying to push out while the people were in the doors.

Though I walked away empty handed I was glad to have experienced this local event. My own opinions aside, I always appreciate getting the chance to witness people expressing themselves through the many artistic forms.

On Friday, April 27th I chose to attend the weekly art walk on Main Street in Cottage Grove. Though I’ve lived in this town my entire life I’d never gotten around to going, so when I heard our assignment was to cover a local art show I utilized my opportunity.

Coincidentally this was the first artwalk this year so that had me a bit excited but at the same time I felt a bit discouraged the of the event because at the time we were experiencing heavy rain. A part of me feared that the event would be cancelled and I’d have to come up with a last minute solution but luckily upon arrival my fears were settled. The entire art walk is an indoor event and the various shops that occupy the downtown Cottage Grove area which, for me, was a sign of relief.

I began at the business called Frame It. Yes they had an art gallery in a frame shop. If that’s not a successful business model I don’t know what is. But, to my surprise, a majority of the art on display in this particular business were not paintings. Instead we were treated to a variety of various alternative forms of art such as sculptures and embroidered furniture. To no one’s surprise the most popular area by far was the area around the food and alcohol. To quote the host “ whats an art show without wine”. Can’t argue with that logic. Though impressive in its own right, the art on display here was not particularly what I’d come to expect. I’d come to observe and possibly buy locally done paintings, so when the extent of the art on display was not that I felt a bit let down.

This was only temporary. Upon entering the next building all prior skepticism and dread quickly subsided. Within one of the downtown antique shop was all the local paintings on display. Some were great, some were not (to put it kindly) but they were all made with purpose. My favorite was a portrait of a native American group gathered around a fire with a pink sunset in the background. I wish I could have found out how much the person paid because this was a piece that was truly spectacular. Several others caught my eye as well including various portraits of waterfalls, pictures people had taken in exciting locations, and a wide variety of portraits done in non traditional art styles.

Last but certainly not least I visited the second antique shop displaying art in town. As far the art went it was the most interesting of the three. Among a few painting were art pieces made of who knows what. Very interesting pieces were on display here using recycled materials, and whole array of materials. Tin men made from tin cans, various nature symbols made from sticks, stones, and leaves and of course of a section of things I guarantee the shop owner was trying to push out while the people were in the doors.

Though I walked away empty handed I was glad to have experienced this local event. My own opinions aside, I always appreciate getting the chance to witness people expressing themselves through the many artistic forms. 

 

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Meeting With Attic Media

Attic Media

 

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In previous terms when I have had professional practice assignments and have not used them to their full potential. This term I decided that it would be different. A couple weeks ago I emailed Attic Media, a local media production company here in town. I knew very little about them, but regardless I decided just to ask if I could interview them about their business. I sent out an email, and to my surprise they got back to me within a day.  We arranged a meeting meeting for April 27th at 11:00am.

I arrived to the meeting around 10:40, their office is on the 6th floor of The Minor building in downtown. It was a very clean and professional space with a very simplistic deign. It seems like what I would imagined a workspace that a media company would operate from. I walked in and introduced myself to Jessica. She is the editor there and came to meet me as Ryan, the owner and who I had been in contact with was out of the office at the moment. It turns out that Jessica was actually a Lane graduate from the Multimedia Production program. She was really easy to talk to and very personable. We walked around their office where she showed me their schedule which was organized in a way that made a lot of sense to me. They had their client, then which agency they were working through with that client, who was in charge of the project, and when the project needs to be done by. I really liked how simple and concise it was, while still supplying good info. Jessica told me about how important understanding After Effects is for her job, and how it is a program I should absolutely know coming out of school. Jessica and I talked for awhile longer until Ryan arrived, and he joined us. We sat in their entry / meeting space and talked. The mood was very casual, and they both made conversation very easy. Ryan did most of the talking, which was great because he had so much to share. Some of the biggest tips he gave me were, “Be somewhat of a jack of all trades” He said that you should have a specialty but if you want to direct someday you should know enough about each unit that you can speak the language and know what you are looking for. “Be a people person, even if you don’t like people.” according to him relationships are at least half of the industry, and if you can foster good relationships with your clients and with others in your field then you will find yourself being much more successful. “Hone your craft on the little things.” Ryan is very passionate about short form and commercial work, and one of the big things he said was that you have to lean how to use your tools on the projects you would rather not do so when the time comes for the project of your dreams you are ready. In addition to all of great information that Jessica and Ryan shared with me, they are were a hilarious pair. I found myself laughing almost half of the time I was there, which really contributed to my time there.

Attic media is a very professional company with great people, and a fun environment. Meeting people who are working in the industry is an amazing experience. Seeing what they are doing is both encouraging and exciting. I can’t wait to get out there and join people like them soon.