Success After BVNW

Meredith Johnson, Copy Editor

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“Life of Pi.” “Nashville.” “Cowboy Cruise”.”   Three BVNW alumni entered the entertainment industry with their involvement in visual effects, acting, and app-making.

Alumnus, John Kent, graduated from BVNW in 2007 and attended the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).  A month before college graduation, Kent said he was contacted by Rhythm and Hues Studio in Los Angeles.  In June, he began an internship with the studio and by July, he started work on the feature film, “Life of Pi.”

“I started working pretty much the day I walked across the stage,”  Kent said.  “[A] feature film was kind of an ideal place to go and I was just lucky I landed here.”

After moving across the country to Los Angeles, Kent said he has made a comfortable transition.  The visual technology industry is well-connected, Kent said, so it seems everyone knows one another.

“When I got to Los Angeles, it was not really a fish out of water kind of experience,”   Kent said.  “There are a lot of SCAD students here.  It really brought my college experience to the professional environment. It was really an easy, nice, fun transition of working with friends I have had in class to produce this movie.”

Although Kent said he feels welcomed into the visual technology industry, the work can be demanding.  In two weeks, Kent said he was expected to learn several software packages to use for graphics.  Kent said visual effects are simulations of real actions, such as waves, smoke and dust.  They are also used when an animation is combined with real, live-action footage.  For “Life of Pi,” Kent said he worked on the ocean scenes.

In addition to the technology used, Kent said the graphics he is expected to create are not necessarily expected to work.   After being approached by a client, Kent said the art department develops an idea, and from there it is taken to the animation department and finally to the visual effects department. However, Kent said sometimes the sketches the artists draw don’t translate to three dimensional animations.

“We are kind of the problem-solving department,”  Kent said.  “Whenever there is something for a shot that can’t necessarily be accomplished through all the other departments, that is our problem.  It’s not that they know how to do it or they expect us to, they expect us to figure it out.  That’s probably the most fun part.  All the time you are handed something that is just completely broken.”

Kent said he didn’t expect to find his job so quickly.  Kent said his dedication was reflected in his work, and consequently was approached by Rhythm and Hues Studio.  Having finished his work on “Life of Pi”, Kent said he is now working on “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.”

“People made fun of me for going to an art college and said, ‘oh, you are never going to get a job.’”  Kent said.  “And here I am having the time of my life.  I look back on it and think, ‘well, maybe it wasn’t such a bad choice after all.’”

On the other side of the country, 2012 graduate Grace Chapin appeared as an extra in the television series, “Nashville.”  After being on the Husky Headlines staff her junior and senior year, Chapin said she developed an interest in video production.  Attending Belmont University in Nashville to pursue video production, Chapin said she heard about the show often.   Chapin liked “Nashville”’s Facebook page which was recruiting extras for the show.  After a couple weeks, she was called and told to arrive at a warehouse at 2:00 p.m.  Even though she had two classes that day, Chapin skipped them to shoot the scene for “Nashville.”

Chapin said she had to bring two different outfits to the warehouse to be chosen by the wardrobe department.  After waiting four hours in the warehouse, Chapin and the other extras had their outfit chosen and went briefly to hair and makeup.  She said she was told to wait in the holding room until 6:00 p.m. when they were given lunch.  After lunch, Chapin said she came back to the holding room and finally shot the scene in the Five Spot Bar.

“I don’t drink, and I obviously don’t look old enough to drink,” Chapin said.  “The actors who were playing the bartenders were like, 30 or 40-years-old and they would joke with me and ask for my ID.”

For the scene, Chapin said she was picked in the first group of extras, and told to stand behind the main actors.  Chapin said she had to cheer for the football game on the television and pretend to talk to another extra, who was also a student at Belmont.  After shooting the scene, Chapin said she went home at about 2:00 a.m.  For 10 hours of work, Chapin said she was paid $90.

After being an extra in “Nashville,” Chapin pursued other acting opportunities.  One instance, being her role as an extra in the Gavin DeGraw music video, “Soldier.”  Chapin said the video was shot on Shelby Bridge in Nashville.  It was raining during filming, and Chapin said she and the other extras had to sit in the rain for hours.

“It wasn’t that big of a deal, but it kind of sucked,”  Chapin said.  “I had done my hair and makeup so I looked cute.  And let me tell you, when I was done shooting I did not look cute anymore.”

As an extra, Chapin said she and the others held fake candles and walked across the bridge together as a group.  Then, while Gavin DeGraw was positioned on top of a piano, Chapin said the group of extras surrounded him with their candles.

“It was a really cool experience, and I’m glad I did it to put it on my resume and everything, but it wasn’t as much fun as my other experiences have been.”

At the end of the shoot, Chapin said she met Gavin DeGraw and took a photo with him.  Chapin said the experiences she has had as an extra will enhance her resume as she looks for a career in video production.  By doing this extra work, Chapin said she believes she will be at an advantage when searching for a job after college.

“I’ve always been interested in filming,” Chapin said.  “This reassured me that I was in the right place and this is what I want to do.”

After making an app in a month, 2009 graduate, Austin Martin said people have been impressed with his creation of the “Cowboy Cruise” app.

“[My friends and family] thought it was really cool,” Martin said.  “Most people were blown away.”

Attending UCLA, Martin said he started school later than most of his friends.  As a computer science major, Martin had an interest in programming, and decided to learn the Apple developing program in the spare month he had before going to school.

“It took a lot of time, a lot of learning,” Martin said.  “It took a lot of research.  Some things worked and some things didn’t work.  But, yeah, it was definitely hard.”

In addition to teaching himself the Apple developing program, Martin said he made the sound effects and composed the background music with a digital harmonica.  He also drew the graphics in Photoshop, which required a lot of creativity, Martin said.

“It was really hard just to design everything,” Martin said.  “It has to look somewhat professional, not like it was done in Microsoft Paint.  I experimented with a lot of different things, but if I didn’t know Photoshop, I definitely wouldn’t be able to make an app.”

To publish his app, Martin had to go through a review process by Apple.  It took eight days for Apple to approve “Cowboy Cruise.”  A week after its publication, Martin said “Cowboy Cruise” was downloaded in 49 countries.

“I feels pretty awesome [to have my app published,]” Martin said.  “I counted up all the countries in the first week and it was 49 and I thought, ‘wow, that’s pretty amazing.’  And I didn’t have to advertise at all, but somehow it was being downloaded everywhere.”

Martin said creating apps is a better alternative to starting a business.  Apps require less money and resources than starting a business, yet still lends the opportunity for entrepreneurship.  Martin said he would like to pursue a career in programming, whether in apps or another type of program.

“Basically, this just a great way to get experience and learn a lot,”  Martin said.  “I’m a published programmer world-wide now, so that’s a good thing to put on my resume. It’s something that I created for sale.  Its available in a store, and available world-wide, anyone can download it, anyone can play it.”