By Sophia Crawford
Do film school graduates even land film jobs? Can I afford a living as a filmmaker? What are the chances I can realistically book creative work consistently?
Most students have questioned their major, regardless if it’s in the Humanities, STEM, or Social Sciences. However, it’s especially common for those studying music, fine arts, fashion, or film to particularly worry about career prospects, often because of outdated and simply untrue societal stereotypes. Well, here’s a special treat for you art folks: We interviewed three film alumni and got all the juicy information about how they got to where they are and SMASHED (that like button at the bottom of this article 😉👍) the job market, proving all them haters wrong and that you 100% can have a thriving career in the film industry. Thanks alumni Anchitta Noowong, Aaron Elijah Clausen, and Anna Weltner for your support!
Anchitta completed her BA in Film at PSU in 2019 with a minor in Business. The award-winning filmmaker is establishing herself as a Director and works as an indie film producer and freelance 1st AD and Lead Editor at Bridge City Media. She has 3 large short films with credits as Director, Writer, and Producer, and is preparing her most recent project “Undercard” for the festival circuit.
An Interview Video
If you want to learn all the juicy details, watch this interview where she reveals practical advice for those interested in a film career:
It was clear while researching Anchitta’s career to prepare for our meeting that she’s an absolute professional and incredibly sincere about each of her projects; the definition of a hustler whose every collaboration is of great quality. Before returning to Portland from her study abroad with PSU in Japan her senior year, she knew she had to start cranking out resumes and she sent applications to every position she could find on Indeed, LinkedIn, even Craigslist to secure a job. She had taken advantage of the resources at school by getting involved in several productions to cultivate an impressive film reel, and in 2018 even posted one of her projects in the PSU blog! She landed a role as an editor at Bridge City Media, and strategically uses this work to support herself while also constantly working on side projects often praised at film festivals.
Undercard is an upcoming short film she directed (written by her friend Brittany Villela and produced by Vincent Pham), which follows a college Muay Thai fighter. She came up with this story while in Japan, and though this project has endured the ups, downs, and financial costs of dealing with *an event that made us obsess over Tiger King*, Anchitta secured a “Make|Learn|Build Grant” and could pay the whole crew and cast. ”We did save some [funds] for post-production that we haven’t spent yet, but it’s definitely gonna be gone. Hopefully we don’t have any other problems in post… I’ll put down my own money [if I have to] because it’s a project that I’m passionate about and love and I know that… everyone else already got paid, so it’s all good. But… I don’t get any of [the money].”
“Don’t hold back. You should be making stuff during your college years.”
Regarding *that event*, she emphasizes, “Make sure you and your crew are safe… especially if it’s student projects [because] no one’s getting paid, so it’s really like we help each other and you’re doing this because you’re passionate about it. So just be mindful and respectful…But don’t hold back. You should be making stuff during your college years.” Anchitta encourages young creatives to also look for openings on Staff Me Up and OMPA. “You can just connect with [professionals on LinkedIn] … Reach out to them and say ‘I’m a film student, I’m looking to learn, can we connect?’ Some of them are like ‘Actually we don’t have time,’ but some of them will be like ‘We can grab coffee’ and then you can learn from those people.” Take a deep breath, and just remember, “As long as you have that connection … you’re gonna be fine.”
AARON ELIJAH CLAUSEN
Aaron graduated from PSU with a film degree in 2020 with experience as a Director, Writer, Director of Photography, Editor, and Actor. That same year, he was a camera intern for Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Netflix feature titled Pinocchio, he’s currently finishing up work as Junior Assistant Camera for the Netflix Animation film called Wendell & Wild, and will begin working at the animation production company Laika (the creators of Coraline and Missing Link).
An Interview Video
If you want to hear all the juicy details, watch this interview where he describes his impressive film industry experience:
When I interviewed Aaron in the video above, even his extreme humbleness couldn’t downplay the obvious talent and passion he has for animated storytelling. Specifically, stop-motion animation partly because “It’s tactile … I can touch it,” he says. Although he graduated just a couple years ago, his credits already hold impressive projects. The same year he graduated he emailed a well-known stop-motion cinematographer (getting the address from IMDb), and after the cinematographer looked through his resume, they introduced him to the people working on Netflix’s upcoming Pinocchio film. Seems like cold calling works … “if you’re niche enough.”
Aaron’s professional and occasionally risky, yet memorable film reel impresses the filmmakers and he turns up on set as a newly minted camera intern. “Your net worth is your network,” he mentions. After production wraps, the Director of Photography on Pinocchio refers him to another crew a few months before I got in touch with Aaron. Soon before I interviewed him over Zoom, he emailed me, writing, “I’m working at Netflix Animation on the film Wendell & Wild… but I do start at Laika in 10 days lol.” LOL.
“Your net worth is your network.”
About landing his current job at Laika, he explains, “I think I kinda got lucky again and hit a little sweet spot.” He had just enough experience to be qualified, but was also possibly the cheapest candidate for the company. He believes he got where he is now with a bit of luck, but also admits “I wouldn’t have been able to show up at work and prove myself without what I learned from [PSU film professors] Courtney Hermann or Colin O’Neill”.
His advice? Work with people who are as passionate as you (or more) because you’ll feed off of each other, and in turn, help each other towards success.
Anna graduated from PSU in 2019 with a Bachelors in Film and minor in Art History. She’s completing a Master’s Degree in Documentary filmmaking at Leeds Beckett University in England, working as a nonfiction filmmaker specializing in documentary and experimental projects, and even worked on a project for the BBC. She combines her interests by creating research-based art-historical docs and developing video portraits of artists. Her work has won awards at several film festivals.
An Interview Video
If you want to learn all the juicy details, watch this interview where she explains her career’s artistic journey in the U.S. and abroad:
Anna’s contagious energy leaped out of the screen as she shoved the chair next to her and tried to make the background suitable to her high standards of visual design. She warned me it would look a bit institutional beforehand, and as I listened to her thought process just preparing for this recorded interview, I immediately picked up on her wildly intelligent filmmaker intuition and extent of her expertise. It’s no wonder someone as joyful and intellectual as Anna craves the exploration of new places — she’s worked and studied in Switzerland, Germany, and now the UK — and says that travel, like film, it gets you “out of your comfort zone.” That said, she hadn’t even thought of pursuing film until she was into her 20’s. “I didn’t know filmmakers, I wasn’t really exposed to the process of it. It wasn’t something I thought I could do.”
“I hardly ever get jobs because I see them posted; it’s always who you know.”
While working at a cafe, a journalist encouraged Anna to apply for a writing job, and though hesitant, she did. She started working for the newspaper New Times, and over a couple years she began interviewing and writing about artists, their work, and soon realized she also had the ability and drive to become a filmmaker, deciding to go back to school. She appreciated the welcoming environment of Portland’s film scene, and PSU offered the opportunity for people with little to no experience in filmmaking to apply. “I had a lot of ideas and potential, but I hadn’t made anything. Do people make things in high school that are, like, portfolio ready?”
After graduating, Anna got tired of being “pent-up” in her apartment because of a *certain global phenomena* and began applying for grad school in England since it’s fairly affordable and, relatively, the application process is “so easy!” There’s plenty of opportunities for multimedia in Leeds, where she now lives and studies. Anna even got a gig for a BBC project to work on a viral video that was filmed on the PSU campus. However, she emphasizes that it was only because broadcasters couldn’t go to Portland during *you-know-what* and she happened to know people. “I hardly ever get jobs because I see them posted; it’s always who you know.” Anna is focusing on further harnessing her craft, working remotely in the U.S., and developing award-winning projects. She was a part-time student for a couple years, so finishing her undergrad degree “came together really slowly. I was figuring things out.” She proves that you can take your time going at your own pace instead of abiding by the modern world’s pressuring quickness, and still gain immense success.
Website Portfolio • LinkedIn • IMDb
Watch her recently released doc called Goitre, which explores the intriguing role of the thyroid in art history and was selectively screened at 5 film festivals!
Thank you film professor Courtney Hermann for introducing me to these amazing people!
About Sophia: I’m a Portland State University Junior from the Portland suburbs, majoring in Economics and in love with my college. I’m interested in economic reform and Scandinavian welfare systems, and am also a huge movie buff. Ok so I was required to say that, now let’s get to the hard-hitting reality: everything I write on here is cryptically about Timothée Chalamet, so pls comment about it under my articles (but don’t tell my boss, I might get fired). Connect with me on LinkedIn.