Student Success Stories
Witness Cameraman (Visual Effects)
Jeremy Colwell has an unusual relationship with movies. He tends to like the ones other people don’t. The Mike Myers version of Cat in the Hat is a case in point. “Check it out; it’s an underrated gem,” he says. A surprising statement is given that the film was slaughtered by critics when it came out in 2003 and performed poorly at the box office.
“It’s super weird - a lot of different concepts thrown together but it all works for me and it tells its lesson very well, and I think Mike Myers is really funny in it.”
“I grew up loving that book,” he added. “My librarian kept saying ‘put that back and get something different - you get that book every time you come in here.’”
Jeremy is a 25-year-old witness camera operator working in film production in Georgia. He took the Georgia Film Academy course at Georgia College in Milledgeville and his area of expertise is visual effects (VFX).
“A lot of the superhero stuff that’s happening right now in Marvel and DC is very VFX-heavy. The Fast and Furious movies use a ton of VFX. Even some TV shows have them, whether it’s mermaids or giants, or a building exploding or someone shooting a rocket launcher,” says Jeremy.
“Whatever magic is happening, I wanted to be a part of that - making the world come to life without you knowing that it’s not real. I’ve seen some really insane stuff I never thought was possible on film from VFX.” Jeremy singles out the Avengers villain Thanos (played by actor Josh Brolin) as a favorite example of a stunning visual effect brought to life: “He’s a big, purple giant… and it’s terrifying. They accomplished something very special in making it feel so tangible and real and scary.”
“The recent Planet of the Apes films really blew me away with their ‘motion capture’ suits. Also, The Social Network has some subtle but important VFX with the set of twins that Armie Hammer plays. I went months after seeing that movie thinking Hammer actually had a twin.”
Why take the GFA course? “I wanted to be in the film industry for most of my life, and this opportunity came up to train to work on set in productions. If you don’t know someone and you are not part of a program, this is a very difficult industry to break into.”
The GFA course “teaches you how to work on a big Hollywood set” and tends to weed out people who think it’s going to be all fun and glamour, Jeremy says. “There’s a lot that goes into it. It’s made me appreciate the amount of effort and time it takes. It was extremely technical and things can be tedious. It’s not always super exciting. That was my first big lesson and it was very valuable.”
Jeremy worked on Ant-Man and the Wasp for his GFA internship and his name even appears in the final credits. “My department was so nice; they wanted to teach us as much as possible before our internship was over. It exceeded my expectations and they were already sky-high.”
He continues, “You see these huge movies on the screen and that’s a different world completely, another realm, and then you step onto the set and it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s right here in front of me.’ I’m a part of it and working to make it happen; I can do this and I can be good at it; I can make a career out of this, and it’s one of those experiences that you don’t really believe until you see it.”
There is a viable career to be had in Georgia’s film industry, Jeremy affirms:
“I think Georgia is unique in the sense that the talent pool is immense and hasn’t really been tapped into, and everyone’s so hospitable here.”
Jeremy has made a couple of his own films. “There was one we did last year called Open about a guy who’s seeing a girl and then finds out she’s in an open relationship. Her husband brings home a woman he is seeing so there’s this tense dynamic between four people.”
“The other one we did was very guerilla-style,” he recalls. “We went on location and had this idea to do a found-footage type of short. I play a YouTube guy that’s blogging. It was very organic and improvisational.” Jeremy had just wrapped work on a show called El Dorado when production on all projects came to a screeching halt due to the coronavirus outbreak.
What advice does he have for aspiring filmmakers? “It’s not as scary as it seems,” he says. “Jump in, you’ll love it. It’s a ton of hard work, but it’s so rewarding.”
Calling it a “valuable opportunity,” Jeremy concluded, “The great thing about GFA is that they give you the tools and a path into the industry. They usher you in there and say ‘take what you’ve learned, use it, but also continue to learn.’ I don’t see any other way I could have gotten into the industry.”