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A&E Film Fest Student Life

SCAD alumni open up about their careers

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Photos by Andrea Six

Pharrell William’s “Happy” music video, behind the scenes videos for Beyoncé, short and feature-length films, Levi’s commercials in Japan – these are just a few projects Derek Carter, Brent Kiser, Alex Hammer and Jett Steiger talked about with film professor Michael Chaney at the SCAD Alumni Panel.

Each one of them had a different path.

While Hammer went off to New York to find a job and work as a production assistant, Kiser went to Lincolnton, Georgia with a friend, where he got to help work on a fishing show, which took him to Costa Rica. He then headed to Atlanta and after working on Adult Swim, went out to Los Angeles and became a sound editor, for which he received a Primetime Emmy in 2011 and a Golden Reel Award in 2012.

“It’s really important when you move to New York or LA that you initially reach out to people that you want to work with in the future, because that becomes your whole world,” said Jett Steiger, a Sundance Creative Producing Fellow. “If you just take that crummy job with people that you don’t respect, that becomes the people you end up working with.”

Emmy Award-winning sound designer and owner of Unbridled Sound, Brent Kiser advises students at the SCAD Alumni Panel.

Emmy Award-winning sound designer and owner of Unbridled Sound, Brent Kiser advises students at the SCAD Alumni Panel.

An internship opened Steiger’s work world up, which later led to work on Pharrell’s 24-hour music video, “Happy,” while Hammer worked as a production assistant in New York. Hammer continued to work on films, contributing to graduate projects.

“Every project I was ever on, I’d try to learn something from it,” said Hammer.

The smaller projects turned to bigger ones and gave him the chance to work on a behind the scenes video for one of Beyoncé’s photo shoots.

“From there I had to prove myself,” Hammer said.

This opportunity led him to work on other projects, he said, he never saw himself doing, including performance and fashion pieces, live shows, interactive media and music videos for Beyoncé. He even ended up winning the “Best Editing” MTV Video Music Award in 2012 for her Countdown music video.

“Don’t discount anything that comes your way,” said Hammer. “Don’t not do something.”

Derek Carter, the general manager at the Angelika Film Center, encouraged students to evolve projects into something they want to do. Whether that’s commercials or small video projects, they all have the ability to move a recent graduate forward.

“Every project can be cool if you pour enough love into it,” Steiger said.

Plus they can fund other side-projects.

“You make commercials to make money, which you use to fund creative endeavors,” said Steiger. “Commercials are awesome.”

Kiser pointed out that a lot of Youtube stars are making even more money than he is on their videos. And it’s the short videos and films that students should be making, not 20-minute features.

“You have to make things shorter, because you have to learn how to tell a story,” said Steiger. “Your 20-minute senior project is unprogrammable in any film festival across the country.”

Film professor Michael Chaney prompts the panel share their career secrets and advice to current students.

Film professor Michael Chaney prompts the panel share their career secrets and advice to current students.

He explained that all of the shorts getting into Sundance are less than 10 minutes long, because they can fit more in the program that way. Making a great short that’s only a few minutes long shows a mastery that a 10-minute film doesn’t have.

And don’t forget about people’s attention spans.

Students are trying to get their work seen and they’re going to want to get right to it, said Hammer, because no one’s going to sit down and watch their 20-minute film to see if they’re good. But they will watch a three-minute short.

And once it’s made, send it to a film festival.

“Send it to a film festival, and don’t just send it to Sundance and Cannes, send it to every film festival,” said Steiger.

There is a place for every film.

“If you’re into horror films, there’s horror film festivals, if you’re into avant-garde, there’s avant-garde,” said Kiser. “So tailor it to where you’ll be accepted and well presented.”

Senior projects are not the end.

“It’s just the beginning,” said Carter.

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