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‘It’s a roller coaster’: Dodge alumni discuss breaking into the film industry

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(Left to right) Chapman alumni Daniel Jennings, Dan Duran and Nick Corporon give career tips for Dodge College of Film and Media Arts students. The May 8 panel discussion was moderated by film production professor Scott Trundle (right). Photo by Chris Hennigan

How do you navigate the first five years of a Hollywood career? What’s the best way to make a career move without burning bridges? How important are thank-you notes?

Three Dodge College of Film and Media Arts alumni answered these questions during “Bridging the Gap: Life After Dodge College,” a May 8 career panel geared toward current students in the Digital Media Arts Center.

“Filmmaking is not a vocational path, it’s not like I can do x, y and z to get to wherever I want to get to. It’s a roller coaster,” said panelist Dan Duran, a ‘13 television and broadcast journalism alumnus. “It’s not only who you know, but who knows you.”

Moderated by film production professor Scott Arundale, the panelists represented different careers in the film industry.

Daniel Jennings, a ‘14 alumnus who majored in film production, now works in marketing for Sony Pictures Animation, running social media campaigns, as well as filming and editing behind-the-scenes footage for “The Smurfs: The Lost Village” and the upcoming “The Emoji Movie.”

“It was nice for me, being in this place where I’m trying to figure out where I’m going to go,” said junior film production major Nick Marcum. “It was nice seeing people who were in my position and seeing what they’re doing now.”

Many students agreed with Jennings’ advice about using internships to improve software editing skills, taking advantage of the opportunities provided by temp agencies, making career moves without burning bridges and the impact of sending thank-you notes and emails.

“(The panel) was definitely super motivating,” said sophomore public relations and advertising major Catarina Lehner. “I’ve worked positions where I’ve had an internship and another thing was offered to me, and knowing how to transition that (without) burning any bridges, making sure that you’re able to compile and add onto your connections.”

Duran, who is a documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles, gave advice about taking risks and getting your foot in the door. He recounted working as a production assistant after graduating, after becoming accustomed to directing and being in charge in college. His success, he said, came from recommendations he received from people he worked with, as well as taking risks and working on projects that hadn’t yet been approved or received funding, but were ones that he felt passionate about.

Nick Corporon, a ‘09 film production alumnus who was also on the panel, is a writer, director and producer who makes feature films. Most recently, he worked on the 2016 drama film “Retake,” as well as short films such as “Barbie Boy.”

The room filled with laughter when Corporon discussed the process of casting reality TV shows. One day, he would be trying to schedule Beyonce, and the next he would be talking to “a meth-dealing fisherman from Portland,” he said.

“I liked how the three panelists were very different,” said senior film production major Federico Busciglio. “You had different experiences, from the corporate side to freelancing. This is pretty relevant right now, I’m trying to figure out my next step. You don’t always have time to figure out what you’re going to do after graduation with all the work you have to do.”

His thesis film, “Clarinet Club,” is a comedy about a boy who is pressured by his gynecologist father to perform a Caesarian section at a school talent show. It can be seen on Project HQ.

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