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Industry Professionals Encourage Students to ‘Take Big Swings’ at Academy’s Careers in Film Summit

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ held their inaugural Careers in Film Summit Saturday at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The daylong panel discussions, in partnership with Overbrook Entertainment and President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, gave students from the Los Angeles and Compton Unified School Districts, and the local community the opportunity to learn about careers in the motion picture business and hear from industry professionals both above and below the line.

The day kicked off with the Above the Line panel — actor Adam Rodriguez, director Tim Story, writer/director Tina Gordon Chism, and producers Effie Brown, Debra Martin ChaseCaleeb Pinkett and Shelby Stone shared stories about how they got their starts in the industry as well as challenges they faced navigating the business.

Rodriguez, who recently starred in “Magic Mike XXL,” talked about the challenges he faced in finding a good role as a Latino actor.

“Until we take control and ownership and decide to really take the reins and showcase people the way we want to see ourselves, the way we really are in real life — not the way we’re perceived to be,” he said, “It’s a big thing.”

He continued, “The reality is that there’s a long way to go for that, you take the roles that you can get and you make the most with those things and you try to build upon that little by little and hopefully you’re able to sustain and have a career where twenty years into it, you can be sitting up here on a panel playing roles where one day you can say, ‘I was proud to do that.’”

Chism, who co-wrote “Drumline,” talked about the inherent advantages of being a young filmmaker. “That’s the one thing I would say to young people. When you’re young you can take big swings and people will want to help you.”

She went on, “Because you’re young, if you make a mistake you can be, like, ‘Hey, I’m eighteen. Help me anyway.’ Take advantage of this period because you’re in this place where you can take big swings and don’t worry about failing.”

Pinkett, a producer on “Annie” and “After Earth” and brother of Jada Pinkett Smith, gave some concrete advice on how students could go for the entertainment jobs they covet.

“Read who is the production designer. Don’t just say, ‘I want to be a production designer.’ Investigate!” he said. “Find out who are the best people in the industry and reach out to them. You will be surprised how many people will call you back.”

He concluded, “Because you know what? People in this industry, we actually like to talk about ourselves. You’d be surprised how many people will actually talk to you.”

At the conclusion of the hour-long discussion, students in attendance were able to ask questions of the panelists.

Randy Haberkamp, the Managing Director of Preservation and Foundation Program for the Academy, summed up the message: “You get a job by really being forceful, being prepared and taking an opportunity when it arises.”

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