Zach Byrd, 2019
Plan B Entertainment
Zach Byrd, 2019
Even though I always knew I wanted to make film and television one day, I honestly had no idea how I would go about doing that. Actually, I still didn’t believe that I would somehow see my path unfold before me when I was accepted into the Hopkins Film trip to LA. How wrong I was! On the first day of the excursion, it felt as if the entire world of the industry was not only visible, but feasible to break into. We met with writers, directors, studio executives, and many other players in the industry who all gave us their time, unique perspectives, and advice. There’s also an alumni panel where the students on the trip get to meet with alum from Hopkins who have made the trek to LA to start their careers. In fact, it was at this event that I made a connection that led to an internship at Plan B Entertainment—yes, I met Brad Pitt—that very summer. There’s almost no chance that I’d be able to put that on my resume without this trip. The trip’s duration was only a single week during Intersession, but the connections I made and the lessons I learned will last a lifetime. Currently, I’m living in Los Angeles developing a television show and feature-length screenplay and prepping for pitch meetings. Hopefully that all goes well. Fingers crossed!
Susan Shopmaker Casting, New York, Summer 2017
My internship for Susan Shopmaker Casting was one of the most informative and enjoyable experiences of my professional career. I spent seven weeks in her office this past summer, and the time flew. My duties grew over time as I demonstrated my work ethic and competence, until I was a valuable part of the office’s everyday operations.
When I began, I was assigned clerical work such as sorting through cast lists, reviewing documents to make sure every actor’s audition was uploaded and noted, and sorting audition sides for the next day’s sessions. It was simple work to be sure, but I felt exhilarated just by being a part of the professional world. I had just arrived and, in my mind, I was already in the thick of it. Susan asked me what I’d be most interested in doing in the course of my time with her and I responded that I’d be happy however I could be helpful, but that since I was interested in being an actor, I’d love to be a reader if she ever needed help in the audition room. The next day I was reading with the actors who came in to audition for parts. This became one of my chief duties. I was the primary reader for the next month and a half, with one other actress reading one or two days a week.
A typical day would involve my helping to prepare the office and studio for that day’s audition sessions, and then greeting an actor when they arrived. I would clip on their lav mic, and then read the other parts in the script and do whatever actions the script required. When the day’s sessions were complete I added the actors’ names onto our master-list and updated all our documents.
In this time, I learned a lot by observing the actors and casting directors interact. Watching everything from how actors held themselves when they entered the room, to what specific notes the casting associate gave in-between takes helped fill in my understanding of the process. As my employer and coworkers saw me improve my readings with the actors, they started letting me audition, as well. I didn’t book anything, but the experience of auditioning for movies and TV taught me a lot about what you can and can’t do on screen. For example, I had no idea how far down you can look before the camera loses your eyes, something that can weaken an audition. I also learned that no matter what the reader is giving you, you need to work off of them. If a reader gives you nothing, use the lines to force them to react. Don’t imagine you’re talking to someone who isn’t there; instead, work off of what you have. When an actor didn’t do this, it was immediately apparent, and problematic for their audition as a whole. It felt like they weren’t present in the room.
I also learned how minute everything becomes when acting for a camera. You can’t move much or you’ll shift out of frame. Every small movement of the body or face is critical and visible to whomever is watching the tape. Small, almost imperceptible body language becomes key to a successful audition.
While interning, I would also field phone calls from agents and managers who were inquiring about project details or making pushes for their clients. We were casting the lead in a new arthouse film, one for a strong female protagonist, and there were a lot of prospects. I didn’t realize that reps will actually cold call casting offices to convince them to audition clients, and then call again afterward to see how they did, and to ask for notes. It was exhausting just listening to them hustle. I had no idea how much lobbying was a part of an agent’s job.
The most exciting part of this internship was that Susan has offered me a place when I graduate. I may not accept a full-time position with her, but I would love to help out in her office for the first few months after graduation to help me find my footing in NYC. Interning for Susan Shopmaker Casting was a true pleasure and provided me with invaluable work experience. I would wholeheartedly recommend that any interested student in the Film and Media Studies Program apply. They won’t be disappointed.
Brandt Matthews, 2020
Brandt Matthews, 2020
The intersession networking trip in LA gave me a clear idea of how to navigate a career in entertainment and what practical steps I could take now to one day land my dream job. Meeting with alumni and industry professionals from a variety of backgrounds showcased the many different ways a degree from JHU can be utilized, from creative development to production to nonprofit work. The connections I made helped me land an internship at
Skydance Media working in their digital marketing department. There, I was able to see how companies cultivate relationships with fans firsthand while also utilizing my creative skills in new ways. With the support of the Film & Media Studies program, I got further clarity for my career path and was introduced to a city I’m excited to one day call home. I’m currently taking full advantage of the work-from-home life, balancing a production assistant role at Small Giant in NYC with being a remote literary assistant at Bohemia Group in LA.
Giovanna Molina, 2019
LA trip participant
Giovanna Molina, 2019
I joined the Hopkins LA trip during my junior year. It was a great opportunity to both get a sense of the city and hear advice from key industry leaders. The trip excelled at showing students a range of work environments and paths within the film industry. I appreciated the trip’s focus on engaging with the JHU film alumni network in LA—especially the young alumni network. I moved to LA this past September to attend UCLA’s Directing MFA program. Upon reflection on my past year in LA, I’m confident that the LA trip aided my decision to pursue graduate school here and encouraged me to keep in touch with my fellow young alums.
Groove, Baltimore, MD
Class of 2017
This semester, I interned at Groove, a digital marketing agency in the Harbor East area of Baltimore. I worked primarily as a copywriter, though I assisted with many tasks throughout the semester. As a copywriter, my main responsibility was writing blogs for clients. These blog topics and clients were very diverse; I wrote on everything from tax forms for insurance clients to cyber security for tech clients. One of my favorite parts of this internship was completing research across many different fields and industries. I was exposed to many different ideas and industries that I wouldn’t have been otherwise. As a copywriter, I also developed copy for websites and metadescriptions. I particularly enjoyed writing copy for one client who sold all-natural home goods.
In addition to copywriting, I conducted analytics. I was able to learn how to use software such as HubSpot and Moz, which allowed me to perform reviews of clients and their competitors. I also created graphics in Illustrator, sourced photos for other projects, developed outlines for ebooks, and edited other people’s writing. My work culminated in a final project that I pitched to my supervisor. In this project, I created several original blogs for the all-natural home goods client, as well as accompanying infographics. This required me to dig through pages of research that they provided, and condense it into concise, informative pieces.
It was incredibly rewarding to learn the ins and outs of digital marketing. I was exposed to so many different aspects of marketing, from writing to research to analytics, and now I have a better picture of what exactly I want to do. Agency life definitely allowed me this exposure, as I was passed around so many different apartments and asked to help out with different tasks. I can picture myself working at an agency, with its highly collaborative environment and the opportunity to wear many different hats. By taking a tour around digital marketing, I am now able to move forward in my career search better knowing my own strengths, abilities, and interests.
Jakob Pollack, 2021
Jakob Pollack, 2021
In the Summer of 2019, I interned at ICM Partners. There’s no way in heaven that I would have gotten this internship if not for the amazing connections I made through JHU’s Film and Media Studies (FMS) department. I met Laura Gordon, a JHU alum and a tenacious young agent at ICM, the prior Intersession when I joined the annual LA trip with Professor Linda DeLibero. This one connection led to a brief email correspondence, a flagged application, and finally a successful interview. I had gotten my foot in the door, so to say, thanks to the network cultivated by Hopkins.
Once at ICM, I was IV’d directly into the pumping artery of Hollywood. Agencies are the hub of all info in the entertainment heart of the world. I covered desks for high-powered agents repping all your favorite stars. I read enough bad scripts to know I had a chance to be a writer in this unforgiving industry. I read enough good scripts to know what the future holds for movies and TV. But most importantly, I pitched a client to ICM. Nothing teaches you more about the world of agencies than pitching a new client, and I will be forever thankful for the experience.
I am entering my senior year at JHU with more goals than I will accomplish, and that’s okay. That’s just what it’s like to be a Hopkins student. What I know for sure is that I will keep writing great scripts. What I hope for sure is that one day you will see them on the silver screen.
Vanessa Richards, 2019
Vanessa Richards, 2019
Studio North, Johns Hopkins University’s student-run production company, provides a wide range of opportunities for students to gain hands-on production experience throughout the school year and beyond. Throughout my time as an undergrad, I grew my network as well as my skill set by working on Studio North-funded student projects. It is an excellent way to connect to the film scene at Hopkins, grow as a filmmaker, and meet other students with a similar passion for storytelling through filmmaking.
I was eventually a Studio North grant recipient myself, which allowed me to shoot House, a documentary web series about house music in Chicago, Detroit, and Baltimore. House explores regional differences in house music and what it means to be a member of the house music community, and features interviews with DJs, fans, singers, and promoters. I was lucky to work with a great team of friends and family, and I had the support of both Studio North and the Film & Media Studies faculty, who helped me bring this story to life.
I’m currently working in Los Angeles at NBCUniversal as part of the Page Program, a 12-month rotational learning and development experience, with a position on the Universal Pictures’ Creative Development team.
Justin Ryu, 2020
Justin Ryu, 2020
Through the FMS production track, I found a way to tell the story that I had been seeking to tell ever since I left Seoul to study in the US at age 11. Though I didn’t begin my studies at Hopkins as a film major, my real undergraduate education started when I took my first film course – Introduction to Film Production with Professor John Mann. I still remember the sense of awakening I felt on the first day of class when John handed us copies of Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Eighth Elegy” and urged us young filmmakers to see the world “openly.” Though I didn’t realize it at the time, this moment was indicative of just how influential FMS has been in shaping me as a person. FMS professors have become my mentors not simply through teaching us about great films and great filmmaking, but in shaping the way I view life. Through the knowledge I gained, I was able to gain the confidence necessary to make my senior capstone Mother Tongue, a 15-minute bilingual musical film about a Korean international student’s strained relationship with his mother/motherland.
For me, the FMS Program is like home away from home. Even when I took a hiatus from Hopkins between my junior and senior years to complete a two-year compulsory military service near the 38th Parallel bordering North Korea, the FMS faculty continued to nurture me through email exchanges about their concerns and thoughts on films and film theories. In a way, my military service was the perfect excuse to remain a student of the FMS faculty longer than most. And for that, I consider myself extremely lucky.
Justin Ryu, native to Seoul, South Korea, is passionate about purposeful filmmaking and hopes to make a mark in the film industry by showcasing unseen stories on the big screen. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2020 with degrees in Film & Media Studies and International Studies.