Summering in Hollywood
Tulane’s Contemporary Film Industry Program offers students the chance to spend the first part of their summer making connections.
Kimberley Singletary is the managing editor of Biz New Orleans magazine. A 20-year Southern California veteran, she has been surrounded by the film industry for most of her life.
The film and TV industry is definitely one of relationships, where who you know can be as important as what you know. And when it comes to industry contacts, Tulane University is stronger than you’d guess.
“The president of NBC is a Tulane alum, same with the president of Sony Pictures and Columbia Pictures,” says Dr. Mary Blue, Ph.D., the director of Tulane University’s Digital Media Production program. “Tulane has some serious cachet in the industry.”
It is this cachet — both locally and in Hollywood — that led to the creation of the university’s Contemporary Film Industry Program five years ago. This year’s program began May 29 and runs through June 29, and includes a week spent in Hollywood.
“The program is designed to be a low-cost intro to the film industry,” says Blue. “The program is open to enrolled sophomores through seniors — 10 students this year — who want to learn more about the industry and see if it’s a fit for them.”
In addition to learning about contemporary film production — including the difference between the Hollywood and Louisiana models — the $6,500 program includes a chance to make invaluable industry connections and visit local studios and post-production facilities, including Second Line Stages and the Metairie warehouse where filming occurs for the Oprah Winfrey Network’s hit drama series, “Queen Sugar,” which just premiered its third season.
For aspiring writers, directors and producers, however, the Hollywood portion of the program is particularly valuable.
“There’s no writers’ rooms here, no director’s guild, no internships in those things,” says Blue. “So I tell my students if they want to get started in those fields, they’re going to have to go out there.”
For many students in Tulane’s Digital Media Production program, a California trip is a trip home.
“California is the No. 1 place where we get students,” says Blue. “California, then New York, then Louisiana.”
Students in the summer program will be staying at the University of Southern California, thanks, again, to a Tulane connection. The dean of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts is a Newcomb College grad.
How does Tulane’s program compare with USC?
“Ours is a 30-hour major within a liberal arts college, while they’re a film school,” she says. “We are what is called a coordinate major, which means our students get a broad exposure to the liberal arts where they can take classes in a wide array of things like art, music and English. I think having a broad education is very beneficial.”
Tulane’s summer program also includes an opportunity for each student to spend a day shadowing someone in the field where their interest lies.
“That’s really unique, actually, because it’s a hard thing to accomplish,” says Blue. “There are so many different kinds of careers in the industry, but we do it!”
When it comes to the film and TV industry in this “LA,” Blue says things are going strong.
“It’s crazy how much production is going on here right now,” she says. “There’s so much that I’m hearing people are struggling to find crews.”
She says she currently has more internships available than students to fill them, and mentioned the program’s great relationship with one particular TV series.
“I have seven students right now interning at NCIS: New Orleans, plus four others working full-time as crew and two that are graduating and about to start full-time,” she says. “Television productions are so great because they’re more steady work.”
She says she wasn’t surprised Louisiana instituted a cap on tax credits.
“Every state legislature has to know how much they’re going to be spending,” she says. “People heard ‘cap’ and they ran, but ours isn’t really even a cap because the money can rollover. Plus they set [the cap] at the most the state had ever spent. Eventually everyone has to do it. Georgia is actually about to impose a cap, so that should be interesting.”