A group of accomplished alumni from the Savannah College of Art and Design who are currently working in the film and television shared their most valuable advice for people starting careers in the industry during the SCAD Alumni Voices panel on Thursday at the 26th annual SCAD Savannah Film Festival.
“When you’re first starting out, I think learning to take the note and not take it personally is truly the most important thing I ever learned at SCAD,” said Cody Ziglar, a writer on She-Hulk: Attorney at Law and Futurama who has an M.F.A. in Film and Television from the university.
“You’re going to be getting so many notes, and some of them will be honestly pretty trash. Someone will be in the middle. But truly, the nugget that I took as soon as I walked across the stage was, ‘Oh, that was the important thing — learning to divvy up what the important thing is. Because no matter what part of the job you’re in, and you’re going to be getting notes from the network, whether it’s from producers, whether it’s from studios.”
Other participants in the SCAD Alumni Voices panel on Thursday include The Bikeriders sound mixer Amanda Beggs (B.F.A., film and television, 2008), The Gray Man stunt actor Rachel Gelfeld (B.F.A., performing arts, 2014), Murder of Middle Beach director Madison Hamburg (B.F.A., film and television, 2014), Homecoming: A Film By Beyonce editor Alexander Hammer (M.A., film and television, 2006), Kickstart My Heart cinematographer Allie Schultz (B.F.A., film and television, 2015), and Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy visual effects artist Kevin Sears (B.F.A., visual effects, 2007.
SCAD Alums’ Advice: Learn to Take Notes and Find a Mentor
Hamburg agreed with Ziglar’s advice and also stressed the importance of finding a mentor.
“You should be asking people for advice. Find a mentor as quickly as possible,” he said. “Every time I’m at a crossroads or I don’t know what to do because I’ve never had the experience of negotiating contracts with a premium network, I actually call someone I met at this festival seven years ago, who now I consider a very close friend and mentor who is 10 years older than me.”
He also advised students not to feel bad if some of the professionals they reach out to in search of a mentor don’t end up following up.
“Don’t take it personally if people don’t get back to you, and always follow up. For every 10 people you meet and reach out to, continue to stay in touch with them and I guaranteed at least one of them will be someone that’s important in your life.”
Gelfeld agreed with both Ziglar and Hamburg.
“I boil it down really simply for myself and I have for a long time. I find someone who has what I want, and I ask them how they did it,” she said.
“I’ll ask them questions. The worst they can do is say no, or they can ignore you — it’s going to happen. And then also, not worrying, not taking things personally is really huge as well, because we’re all in the center of our own worlds. When somebody ignores me, I want to really take it personally, when they probably just really don’t have time for me. And that’s going to happen. But the more questions you ask, the more answers you’re going to get, the more you build those relationships. You find those mentors.”
Main Image: SAVANNAH, GEORGIA – OCTOBER 26: (L-R) Michael Chaney (moderator), Amanda Beggs, Rachel Gelfeld, Madison Hamburg, Alexander Hammer, Allie Schultz, Kevin Sears, and Cody Ziglar speak onstage at the SCAD Alumni Voices Panel during the 26th SCAD Savannah Film Festival at the Gutstein Gallery on October 26, 2023 in Savannah, Georgia. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for SCAD)