Film Connection student Madison Dan Get’s Going in Film
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Getting started in film isn’t easy for most people, even graduates from traditional film schools. Typically, getting one’s foot in the door requires knowing people, maybe having family members who are already working in the industry.
So what is someone to do if they don’t come from a filmmaking family and basically know no one? How do you start? Where do you begin?
Madison Dan of Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, started by enrolling into the Film Connection—accidentally. She explains:
“It’s a funny story. I’m gonna be very truthful. I applied by accident. When I applied I was in North Carolina on a trip and was looking up film schools in North Carolina. It was one of the ones that popped up and I just really quickly filled out the form on my phone and sent it in. At the time I was really interested in pursuing a career in it and was writing a script for a movie. I actually made a movie and was like, ‘Oh this is pretty cool.’”
Then a Film Connection admissions counselor reached out to Madi by phone and from there, the trajectory was set for a course that would take lead her towards her career.
“So I called them back and went through a couple on the phone interviews and then I didn’t think that I was going to get into the program. I didn’t think that my dad was going to let me do it. It’s was one of those things where it happened and I wouldn’t be where I am today if I wouldn’t have accidentally applied to the school.”
Madison’s love for film started at a very young age. At 10 she as making videos on Flip phones and using the various cameras and equipment her dad had around the house, thanks to his job at a cellphone company. “There was always a story in my head and I think at a young age I had good creative, visual vision. So I was able to make stories and put them together and hit the stop the button at the right time and put together quirky little videos.”
Accident or not, fate seems to have been on Madison’s side. Thanks to fate or the Film Connection, Madison was paired with a mentor who’s just as passionate about filmmaking as she is. Mentor Mark Leisher of Mark Leisher Productions was, until quite recently, known as an extreme filmmaker. He was one of those guys who would rappel off of cliffs and waterfalls all for the sake of getting “the shot.” Under Mark’s tutelage, Madison has learned how to elevate her skills to a professional level, with or without the pricey gear. “Mark taught me that you don’t need fancy equipment, what you need is a game plan to deliver satisfaction. He also taught me that on-set there’s always going to be setbacks. Something goes wrong on set every single day, a million times a day.”
Mark also helped Madison set goals that will enable her to grow in a certain direction, professionally and creatively while remaining solvent and self-sufficient. She’s a slasher of sorts, who wants to do the “writing, planning, directing and editing” but she’s honed in on her market and she’s started her own business. “I primarily work with live music event festivals. I do business reels and commercials for websites and social media. I’ve worked with a pub, a photography studio, and a realty business. I’ve worked with the Harbor Surf Festival which is a pro-water coalition big thing in my county.”
When asked about what she’s learned about what it takes to be a filmmaker during her time in the program, Madison says, “Everyone wants to be a filmmaker but in my opinion going to film school doesn’t make you a filmmaker. Making films makes you a filmmaker.”
The go-getter attitude Madison Dan exemplifies is exactly what we at the Film Connection hope to see in every single student who comes through the program. Get in, learn how it’s done, get connected, and get busy!
Go Madi Go!