High school students and members of the community attended a recent BAFA Creative Circles Forum focused on Behind-The-Camera Careers In The Arts earlier in November. Presented by the Burbank Arts For All Foundation (BAFA), the forum was moderated by Leon Silverman, General Manager, Digital Studio, at Walt Disney Studios.
Panelists included feature film director and editor Mark Helfrich, President of Fringe Talent Debra Blanchard, cinematographer Steve Gainer ASC, Project Manager at Seven Design Works and BUSD alumna Amanda Ragan and BUSD Arts For All Coordinator Peggy Flynn.
Ragan emphasized patience and persistence when first entering the entertainment industry. “[Leave] arrogance and entitlement at the door.”
She also stressed personal skills such as “organization, follow through and follow up.”
“Networking and mentorship are key aspects of success in this industry,” added Ragan.
“If you want to be a filmmaker – make films. If you want to edit – then edit a lot of stuff with your personal editing equipment,” said Helfrich. “Everybody nowadays has the ability to shoot and edit their own films. Our phones have video cameras. Our computers have editing software.”
“Keep doing what you want to pursue. Learn the technical aspects of the job. Learn the editing software,” he also said. “Technical knowledge is an advantage in the work field. So is practical experience. There will be a place and time when you’ll be asked to show what you’ve done and can do.”
Helfrich also emphasized networking, “meet and stay in contact with people who are in the field you want to get into. This is a town where who you know may get you your next job… and that’s not just when you’re starting out — that’s throughout your career.”
There may be intern programs to help students and those starting out in the entertainment industry. Helfrich mentioned the ACE Internship Program for editing. More information on that internship program can be found here: https://americancinemaeditors.org/internship/
“If you do get some sort of opportunity to work, be prepared to work for nothing at first,” he added. “Volunteer to help out on productions to get your foot in the door. In summary: do and keep doing. Meet professionals and keep in touch.”
“Guests always leave our Creative Circles Forums inspired and excited,” said Trena Pitchford, BAFA Executive Director. “Our goal is to host these rare opportunities for our community to gather and work together to support the future of not only our students, but perhaps the entertainment and media industries in Burbank as well.”
“It’s up to all of us to ensure that our students have the resources they need to succeed in life and our Creative Circles Forum is just one way the Foundation brings the conversation in full circle.”
About 30 students, mostly from Burbank High’s media arts and theater technical education classes, attended the forum, along with another 70 adults.
“We were fortunate to be able to offer free tickets to high school students thanks to a Disney VoluntEARS Community Fund grant,” Pitchford also said.
BUSD Board of Education members, Roberta Reynolds and Steve Ferguson, attended the forum along with Burbank City Treasurer and Board member of the Verdugos Workforce Investment Board, Debbie Kukta.
Helfrich’s editing credits include Rush Hour movies, X-Men: The Last Stand, Red Dragon, Hercules, Scary Movie, Showgirls, Predator, Rambo: First Blood II, and many additional feature films. He has also directed the movie Good Luck Chuck and episodes of Bones and Prison Break. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Directors Guild of America, the Motion Picture Editors Guild, and American Cinema Editors (ACE), where he is also an Associate Board Member. Helfrich’s first job in the motion picture industry was as an assistant editor on the Roger Corman produced Rock n’ Roll High School.
Blanchard started her career in animation at Warner Bros. TV where she worked in production and as a writer on the Emmy award winning series, Tiny Toon Adventures. She joined Industrial Light & Magic as a recruiting professional for episodes 1 – 3 of the Star Wars movies. and went on to head recruiting for DreamWorks Animation and Starz’s Animation Division. Currently, Blanchard runs Fringe Talent, an entertainment recruitment firm through which she offers her expertise in building studios and staffing artists for productions and studios all over the world.
A 2006 graduate of Burbank High, Ragan is the project manager for concert touring production and lighting design firm, Seven Design Works. She received a B.A. in International Relations and Italian from Cal State Long Beach. While attending school, Amanda began working at The Colony Theatre in Burbank as a show technician and member of the stage crew. She then went on to intern for a year at PRG Lighting in Los Angeles, which developed into a full-time position as an Operations Assistant and Production Coordinator for the concert touring division of the company. After 3 years at PRG, Ragan joined Seven Design Works and currently assists in the operations and organization of the company, whose client roster that includes Beyoncé, The Weeknd, The 1975, Jennifer Lopez, Skrillex, Deadmau5 and FKA Twigs.
Flynn has worked in education for more than 20 years and currently serves as the Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator for the Burbank Unified School District. She holds a degree in Fine Arts and worked in the design publication and entertainment industries before finding her passion for teaching in 1992. Flynn is a Board Advisor to the Burbank Arts for All Foundation and has served on the Burbank Cultural Arts Commission since 2010.
Gainer has also shot hundreds of music videos. A member of the American Society of Cinematographers and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences, he now shoots feature films, tv series and commercials. He won a Daytime Emmy in 2013 for his TV show Awkward, and has since directed two episodes. Feature credits include Bully, Mysterious Skin, Punisher War Zone, Super and Everly.
Silverman oversees the Digital Studio Services team at Walt Disney Studios, which provides on-lot digital infrastructure, post production, digital platform distribution services and workflow expertise as part of Studio Operations. Prior to joining Disney, Silverman was President of LaserPacific Media Corporation, which was acquired by Eastman Kodak in 2003, where he additionally served as Director of Strategic Business Development, Entertainment Imaging Services and a Vice President of Entertainment Imaging for Kodak.
For over 35 years, Silverman has helped to introduce new post production technology, services and workflows to Hollywood’s creative and studio community. He is President and a founder of the Hollywood Post Alliance, an industry trade association focused on the post production industry. He serves as Governor at Large and served two terms as Governor – Hollywood Region of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, where he was named a Fellow of the Society in November of 2003. He is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, an Associate Member of the American Society of Cinematographers and an Affiliate Member of the American Cinema Editors.