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Here’s what professionals had to say to local students about making it in the film and music industries
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Billy Hume, the producer, mixer and writer for Moon Shade Hollow, a studio in Cumming, talks with a small group of Forsyth County high school students at a seminar held at Mountain Lake Church. - photo by Bradley Wiseman

FCN EXTRA: AV Technology Students

By: Bradley Wiseman

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Don’t wait to be asked, just go out, live it, make it, record it, do it — that was the message of the Forsyth County Schools Audio/Video Technology Professional student seminar held at Mountain Lake Church last week.

Over the afternoon seminar, nearly 100 upper-level audio/video technology pathway students from local schools heard from a panel of professional speakers on what it takes to make it in the different industries, current trends and the potential challenges and rewards of the field.

But at the end of the day, students were left with the message that they are headed towards an industry with nearly unlimited potential, given they have the passion, dedication and skills to make it happen.

According to Dr. Valery Lowe, director of college and career development for Forsyth County Schools, the district currently has audio/video programs at Forsyth Central, Lambert, West Forsyth and North Forsyth high schools, and they are expecting South Forsyth High School to open one next year. 

Lowe said that getting students face-to-face with industry professionals is vital to showing students what they are facing in college and the years after.

"All of these panelists are going to share their experiences in the industry, how they got there, the education behind them, just to showcase different career pathways for students in this particular area," she said. "What's happening here today is just that extension of the classroom.” 

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Local high school students listen to speakers during a recent seminar with professionals in the movie and music industries at Mountain Lake Church. - photo by Bradley Wiseman

The panelists included a local media business owner, professors of film from both Georgia State University and the University of North Georgia, along with several hands-on professionals in the audio and video industry.

Philip Lewis, professor and associate director of Georgia State University's School of Film, Media & Theatre, spoke to the students about the current state of the film industry in Georgia, explaining the countless different roles that they could potentially fill on a movie set and challenging them to go out over the weekend and make a film of their own.

"Go make a movie, do it this weekend; write it on Friday, shoot it on Saturday, edit it on Sunday and then find some way of showing it to someone on Thursday," Lewis said. "Do that every week. I don't care if it's a two-minute movie, just do it.”

Another panelist, Billy Hume, the producer, mixer and writer for Moon Shade Hollow studios in Cumming, echoed Lewis's message, stating that to make it in the music industry or any creative industry, you have to just go out and make things on your own. 

"If you want to have a career in the music industry or film or anything related to this, I think the best thing you can do is just go out and do it," Hume said. "You can't wait for somebody to tell you to do it or ask you ... no one is ever going to ask you. There’s no application you fill out. You have to go out and kind of invent it on your own.”

Hume told the students that when he was coming up in the world of music production, he told people he was a producer, found new artists and recorded them for free to get his work and name out into the world.

"The thing is, he would take those songs and take them to all the club DJs in Atlanta and get them playing in the clubs ... it would be 1 in the morning, but people would hear it," he said. “Put yourself out there, don't be shy, go make something and don't wait for somebody to ask you.”

From the University of North Georgia, students heard from panelist James McKenzie, an assistant professor of film from the department of communications, media and journalism who also spoke about his experiences in the film industry in Los Angeles after growing up in a small town in Wisconsin.

McKenzie's main piece of advice for students was to take advantage of the technology in their pocket and at their fingertips and expand their education beyond film classes and not neglect to study the basic building blocks that quality storytelling relies on.

“As a narrative storyteller, you have to understand drama, you have to understand what the basics are of storytelling ... Don't just study film, don't just study music, study humanity, because all of this is going to inform your storytelling, so when you do make that $5 film, it's going to stand apart from something that's just copying a film that's already out there.”

Lowe said it is crucial to expose students to professional experience because of how broad the field of AV is. Doing so allows the students to take and think and learn from everyone.

After the presenters introduced themselves to the crowd, the crowd of students broke up into smaller groups, allowing the students to cycle through the presenters, ask questions and talk about their goals.

During the breakouts, one senior from North Forsyth High School, Lucy Malone, said that as a student ready to go into the film industry, she found it encouraging hearing from the professionals on what to expect.

"I thought it was very eye-opening," Malone said. "It's very encouraging to see people in the field that you are interested in, like something to look forward to." 

Another student, a junior from West Forsyth High School, Lauren Nye, said that what she heard during the presentations actually made her realize that her goals are attainable.

“So many times I’ve felt like, ‘Can I do this, is this possible for me?’ and I’ve just got to take a step back and realize, ‘No, wait, this can happen,’” Nye said.