Film Connection mentor Jared Hancock on Hiring our Grads & Helping Students Find Their Film Job Niche!


Jared Hancock, co-founder of Surefire Creative Studios

Meet Jared Hancock, Film Connection mentor and co-founder of Surefire Creative Studios whose clients include Netflix, Puma, VH1, Under Amour, Chevrolet, and rapper Millyz, just to name a few. We recently connected with the powerhouse producer of all things media to discuss mentorship, hiring grads, and collaboration, so read on!

When it comes to working in the industry, how important is being a team player?

“Everyone’s got a skillset. Everyone’s got a talent, a strong point, a weak point. It’s like any team with any sport, you’ve got everyone set up to complement or offset another. Similar to football, you’re making a play, everyone’s got a role in that play. It’s never just a single person who made the whole thing happen. And whether it’s as simple as getting to the studio early and cleaning the space, having the lights on, and having a couple of bottles of water ready and some snacks, that’s a very important job especially when it’s going to be a seven-hour session. …

Collaboration is a huge thing. You want people to have a very strong collaborative attitude because I think no amazing thing comes from a single person. It’s usually a collaborative effort to get it to the point that it needs to be.” Jared talks about being decidedly “un-corporate,” hiring grads, and more our Straight Talk video below!

What trait to you want to see in the students you mentor? What impresses you when you’re mentoring someone?

“Their responsiveness. I love after a session, or a meeting, or a production when I open the floor to them now to say, ‘Okay, cool, we’re done, [the] client’s gone, what questions do you have for me?’ I love it when they’ve got all kinds of questions. They want to understand how that happened, and why that happened…. Even if it isn’t a question… they could just have an observation. I love that.”

Some people might not be aware of how rare of an opportunity it is to be able to observe you interacting with clients and see how that side of things gets done.

“It’s the kind of opportunity I wish I’d had…. I would have certainly taken advantage of it. No one ever really teaches you these things…. Even in [conventional] school… they never really teach you… how to compose yourself in a meeting, how to structure a conversation with a client, how to be flexible, think on the fly. …

One of the biggest things I’ve ever discovered in all this industry, the toughest thing is to anticipate how to deal with a human being because you never know who or what kind of personality type you’re going to be meeting with or talking with, but you’ve got to be able to think on the fly, and… identify what their problems are, what their challenges are, and then offer them solutions for those things.”

What’s your approach to helping students gain insight into their own specific talents and interests?

“What I’m really trying to help them do is really figure out which part of the production they want to do. …
[If you’re training with me] I want to help guide you into the position that you feel most comfortable, and whether it is currently your strong point, or it will grow into your strong point, feeling comfortable there I think is step one.

So that way on every production, I can start feeling like, ‘Okay, cool… you love prop design, or whatever it is… this is the thing you pay much attention to, and I’ll just start to assign you those sorts of roles on productions. And as we start to get paid productions and that sort of thing, I’ll start offering you those roles…. And it’s very fulfilling for me to finally offer them paid positions on some of these productions…. When I know for sure that they’re going to be a great fit for that client, it’s incredible for me to say, ‘Hey, I want to bring you in on this one. Boom. This is what you’re going to do. This is your role. Let’s go,’ and people are excited for that.”

Tell us about a few of the former students, now grads, whom you’ve hired onto various productions and projects.

“Rob [Bradbury] is incredible. Rob designs all of our sets… on AutoCAD. He comes in with these concepts and how we can make things cooler, [and] fit better. He understands the vision that the director’s looking for. So, for example, a hallway, he’ll shape it slightly different because he knows the shot that they’re trying to get with that hallway, and he comes in with his designs… shows them, and then we construct it. We build it. He’s able to figure out how the lighting’s going to fit into that design as well.

Joel [Vered] is amazing. Joel was hired to manage our sound stage. [During] COVID was when we started to just completely rent out our space to any outside production company who wants to come in and utilize our gear, our equipment, and our room. So we had to hire a manager to manage all those operations, and that’s Joel. Joel’s great. He’s a people person. He loves to think on the fly. He loves when there’s a challenge. He understands our room very, very well. So, when someone needs something, he’s able to… move things around, and kind of figure out what they’re looking for.

Tashina [Taylor], she’s brilliant. She’s an incredibly detailed designer. We’ve hired her to do prop design, and to really just kind of sequence around a lot of productions. Her skills can be sprinkled into anything…. Probably the best way to summarize it is she brings a lot of detail. But she’s also very much involved in writing, and directing, and just the general management of a production. She’s really, really cool. …

Frankie [Pizarro] is fantastic. He’s definitely a music guy. He came in on the video side, but he’s got such a knack for music. He just gets along with everybody on the music side. He brings a cool energy to the room, and I’ve always said, when you’re involved on the music side of things… you’re also going to be a curator. So [reading] the vibe of the room…. He comes in and he just understands who needs what. He’s quick with a joke with something that can kind of change the mood, or steer something down a certain creative road. He’s phenomenal.

And a handful more…. Students that just stay in touch, constantly are asking me, ‘Hey, what’s happening with this? Hey, what’s happening with that?’ You know, ‘Hey, outside of here I work for IBM, is there anything I can bring from my other job into this space?’ I’m like, ‘Oh great, here’s what you can do.’ … and it just sort of opens a window. Yash [Nain] designed the production management system for… one of our productions that ended up on Amazon Prime… which was cool.”

Setup for H20’s “Hacked Oasis” on Surefire’s Soundstage


Why do you choose to mentor for Film Connection?

“Because I tend to find exactly what we’re looking for through RRFC. You know, I can use all kinds of hiring websites, but it’s a long, lengthy process and I’ve often been disappointed with those results. …
If you’ve taken the step to show me that you want to invest in your education and sign up for a program like RRFC, that shows me that’s the ideal candidate that I want to hire. …

With the… externship program we’re able to come in and work together and vibe on projects and collaborate and really get a sense for how we fit together, how we work together, and what roles you might fit best into. So, I love mentoring for RRFC because [of] the diversity, the amazing students… everyone came from RRFC: our sound stage manager, our production manager, our construction manager for sets design. I mean, everyone came from RRFC… and counting. So, I’m looking to see how many more we can get.”

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