Opportunities for college students to interact with professionals in their chosen fields are important steps into their future careers. And for cinema students, the chance to talk to successful alumni and visit the mecca of the film industry is priceless.
That was the impetus behind a Spring Break trip, when a small group of cinema majors traveled to Los Angeles to get a sense of how the film industry works. The students, accompanied by cinema professor and chair Marc Wiskemann, visited art academies, museums, and studios. They also networked with alumni in filmmaking careers.
“Trips like this can be transformative,” says Wiskemann. “For a first-year or sophomore to go on a trip like this and engage with really successful alumni who are working professionally in the film industry hopefully provides a slightly different context for the work they do at Denison.”
The group visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Academy Museum, Warner Bros. Studios, and The New Beverly Cinema. They explored other things that Los Angeles had to offer, visiting Chinatown, Santa Monica, and Grand Central Market, and attended a special film screening.
Cinema major Meshach Malley ’22 was glad to explore different career opportunities in a place where cinema is highly regarded and visible. “There are a ton of graduates from the program working in the industry. Getting a sense of how they got to where they are today is inspiring, informative, and important for us to plan the trajectory of our careers.”
Dinners with alumni were a highlight of the trip. “We would spend hours talking about their time at Denison, what they learned, and how it got them to where they are today,” says Malley.
“We discussed everything from how to succeed as a writer in Hollywood to how to do your taxes as a freelance filmmaker.”
One of those alumni was Dan Ewen ’96, a writer in the Californian cinema industry who shared a very blunt and honest story of his career.
“He talked about his journey to become a screenwriter and how he was able to balance a full-time job to pay the bills while pursuing his dreams. It was a very inspiring story and showed that it is possible to do the work you want to do,” says Malley.
Malley appreciated the connections he made on the trip, as well as the general sense of camaraderie.
“They love movies; they love deconstructing them and figuring out why they tick. While there is much that I find issue with the Hollywood machine, the passion that people have for the art they wish to create is astounding. I learned that it is possible to make a living by making movies. That does not mean it is easy, or it is a normal career path, but it can be done. If you really want to make movies, you can do it!”
Wiskemann agrees. “It’s not just the class, the project, the grade; it’s about realizing that everything you do at Denison is part of something much bigger. What you do here is building the foundation for your future, for your life.”
“It’s a perspective that we, as faculty, can try to ‘teach’ in the classroom but for a student to talk to someone who was in their shoes five, ten, or twenty years earlier can really resonate in a profound way.”
“There are a ton of graduates from the program working in the industry. Getting a sense of how they got to where they are today is inspiring, informative, and important for us to determine how we wish to plan the trajectory of our careers after graduation.”