Executives from HBO were in Grand Rapids recently to talk with some of the area’s youth. No, not for some new reality series, but to share insight into careers in media and entertainment. Students also viewed the finalists of Mosaic’s two-minute film challenge and learned about the winners, who came from Grand Rapids, Byron Center and Wyoming public high schools.
“The agenda is simply to support young people,” said Skot Welch, founder and president of Mosaic Film Experience, a non-profit organization in its fourth year.
1st Place ($1,000)
Mosaic seeks to equip diverse youth with the skills necessary to successfully navigate the world of media culture and understand their role in it. The goal is to make students aware of career opportunities in media and entertainment that can change their world — and ours too — while facilitating the next generation of storytellers, Welch said.
“Film is a platform … there are all of these aspects of education involved,” Welch said. “There’s writing and language, technology, design, coding, engineering and math. It has all of the elements, and it’s a big industry to explore.”
Welch was in Northern California doing diversity work for some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent organizations when he was introduced to a former HBO executive, who said she could secure some media professionals to come speak with students.
More than 450 students packed into Wealthy Theatre recently to hear what those HBO executives had to say, and engage in breakout sessions on gaming design, film sound, and social media strategies.
Brandon Hawkins, 17, is a senior at Southeast Career Pathways, a Grand Rapids Public School.
“They make this fun,” Hawkins said. “I didn’t know what to expect, but I hoped it wouldn’t be boring. But everything I just heard, I want to hear it again.”
Speakers Offer Industry Insight
Part of what he heard is that there is much more to large media organizations like HBO than the actors and the professionals directly behind the camera. Those jobs are available, but so are many that are typical to most big businesses – human resources, accounting, management and operations, development, marketing, and the list goes on.
Taking advantage of those opportunities requires vision and a belief in self, an HBO executive told students.
“When I was 10, I told my mom I was going to achieve all of the things she was unable (to do),” said Zenitra Barrett, an account manager in sales and marketing for HBO. “I had a vision for myself, and that vision was of a successful businesswoman.
“Don’t allow your struggle to overpower your life,” Barrett said. “Look at your goal as if it were handed to you in a package … No matter how beat up or tightly wrapped that packaging may be, make sure you look beyond the packaging and get to what’s really of value.”
Her colleague Carla Moore, HBO’s vice president of talent acquisition, said the key to gaining an edge on other media and entertainment industry prospects is obtaining a quality internship. She profiled internships of interest, including paid and long-term opportunities through foundations that seek to cultivate young talent.
“Four years in one company,” Moore said of the Emma L. Bowen internship program. “You start your senior year in high school at a company like HBO or NBC. When you’re done, you will get hired if you’ve done well.”
Breakouts Sessions Detail Specific Skills
Joe McCargar, a film and video professor at Grand Valley State University, spoke to two dozen students in a breakout session on the thought behind building a soundtrack. As an example, he used a segment of the 1979 film “Alien.”
“It’s not about one song and then another,” McCargar said. “It’s the whole of it, and it needs to represent something more intense than real, beyond real.”
Kennedy Garner, 17, a senior at Innovation Central, also a GRPS school, has attended Mosaic Film Experience the last two years. She is pursuing a career in accounting and would like to work for an accounting firm.
“A lot of the things that we’re learning here are transferable to other industries,” Garner said. “It’s focused on entertainment, but can work just as well in other areas.
“They’re trying to get kids to know that they can do exactly what they want to do, and I think it’s helping,” she added. “You can’t just let it happen.”
Welch said the entire program is designed to help demystify the process of launching a successful career.
“I know some of these opportunities seem like big lofty goals for young people, but when you have someone in front of you detailing step one and step two, it makes a big difference,” Welch said. “The picture is clearer and the goal is more likely to be achieved.”