Huntington, Ind.—The old cliché “It’s not what you know, but who you know” is especially true in entertainment. That’s one reason why Huntington University senior Jonathan Herr decided to get a head start on breaking into the film industry by spending his last semester in Hollywood.
Herr, a film studies major from Willowbrook, Ill., is currently enrolled in the Los Angeles Film Studies Center program, sponsored by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). The program helps college students interested in film to make valuable contacts in the industry and to have first-hand experience by working and studying in Hollywood. LAFSC also helps students integrate a Christian worldview with mainstream Hollywood entertainment.
“The program helps in getting into the industry and making contacts and gaining experience,” Herr said. “It will help immensely when I graduate and want to pursue a job here in L.A.”
LAFSC alumni have made a mark in Hollywood, earning multiple Emmy Awards. LAFSC alumni credits include key producers and writers for hit TV shows such as “Touched by An Angel” and “Smallville,” and films like “The Matrix: Reloaded,” along with many others.
Herr and other students live in apartments rented by the program and attend classes nearby on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Herr’s courses include “Theology in Hollywood,” which studies theological issues in film and industry; “Professional Screenwriting,” through which he will complete a full-length script and “Hollywood Production Workshop,” in which student groups complete an eight-minute short film.
In his “Theology in Hollywood” class, Herr is developing his philosophy as to how faith relates to film.
“My own opinion in terms of how Christians should relate to film is that they should be more concerned in creating great films rather than [just] Christian films,” said Herr. “Our own faith will naturally influence any film that we are involved with."
When not in class, Herr interns at a local management company called Industry Entertainment. There he works in the office and does summaries and character breakdowns on scripts that are going into production.
“The most rewarding part of the internship,” said Herr, “has been able to understand more of the behind-the-scenes work that goes on before productions of TV shows and films get underway. The semester has been fairly challenging and has stretched me to learn more about the film industry and what it takes to be involved in working within the industry.”
Herr, who worked on several short film projects during his film classes at Huntington, says the University prepared him well for his semester in Hollywood.
“The Department of Communication and the Digital Media Arts Program at Huntington have helped me develop a strong foundation of the basics in films,” he said. “It allowed me to come into the program with a much better grasp of the technology and theory of film.”
In between work and classes, Herr has also has a chance to tour LA and Hollywood, visiting famous sites like the Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Herr also gets to attend free previews of film screenings before their official release and has heard from some of the best writers in the industry, including Paul Haggis whose film “Crash” won Best Picture at the 2006 Oscars.
“The best experience I have had was to attend a forum of some of the Oscar-nominated screenwriters,” Herr said. “Being able to hear Paul Haggis, Josh Olsen, Stephen Gaghan and other well respected screenwriters talk about their craft was a great learning experience.”
“This whole experience,” he adds, “especially the internship, has been very helpful in learning more about all that it takes to work in this industry. Being able to work in an actual company here has been more useful than any class could ever do. I’m hoping that the connections I make while I am out here can help me pursue a career in the film industry when I graduate.”
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