Growing up, I always had a passion for movies and television. However, I had never knew or thought too much about the work that really went into production. I went to college for a year and a half. After my first semester, I realized (and please forgive me, I speak for myself) what a waste of time it was. I was missing classes, not finishing my work, and just generally had an apathetic attitude toward the whole institution of higher learning. I eventually started going only to my English literature and writing classes; I would say my passion for literature and my passion for filmmaking and writing became unified. Knowing that I didn’t want to be a professor, and also knowing how rare it is now to be able to support yourself solely as a novelist, I decided to look into the film industry.

After a friend told me about the Film Connection, I applied immediately and chose to focus on directing. I thought I would be able to learn about most parts of the industry on my way to learning how to direct. Also, this would allow me to keep writing and try to fit that in my learning process.

After being paired with a film studio in lower Manhattan, then meeting my Film Connection mentor, my next day in the studio was a short film with a well known Eighties actress. I knew nothing about the film industry and nothing about anything I was supposed to be doing. It was one of the most nervous moments I’ve ever been. So during this five?\-day short film, I worked roughly 65 hours. I just tried to be helpful and stay out of the way at the same time. I found that if you just ran around, a lot of people usually thought you knew what you were doing. So between running around, and at the same time watching like a wide-eyed child, I picked up a lot at that first shoot with my mentor.

After that, I worked multiple shoots and began to pick up more and more. The studio was starting to trust me and give me more responsibilities. They let me do things while I was an extern that I never should have been allowed to do, and I thank them for it. I learned how to do script breakdowns; I was scouting locations and getting permits. I am so thankful to them for all the trust and patient help and teaching they showed me. They became like a family to me, especially since after my first three months I was coming into the studio almost every weekday. So needless to say, we spent a lot of time together.

The studio hired me after I graduated the Film Connection. I was hired on as Production Manager/Studio Manager. I work every day and was fortunate enough to work many more shoots. I am booking green screen rentals and showing our facilities to clients. I also work as a producer on two commercial short films, along with production manager for many others. I am still with the studio, and also doing freelance work as a production manager and as a grip. I’m just fortunate enough to have dropped out of college before it was too late.

— Austin Willard, Brooklyn, New York

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