Trip to Hollywood inspires Franklin students
Teacher-led trip gives them a taste of the highs and lows
Franklin - Gail DeClark thought it was just fine for 25 of her high school students to go Hollywood.
In fact, she escorted them.
DeClark, a video production teacher at Franklin High School, takes a group of students every other year to Hollywood to give them a taste of what life might be like if they choose to follow their dreams.
DeClark donates her time. She believes in the trip because of her experience as an associate director and producer for television and film projects.
"The trip is expensive for the students, but I always get a good number who want to go and get an opportunity to see what it's like," she said. "The idea is to get them to meet people I know so they can get information and ask questions."
What they need to know most of all, she said, is that life in the film and television industries is not as glamorous as it appears.
"I don't pull any punches," she said. "You go out there to freelance at first and be willing to work hard. You put in at least 12-hour days and if you are fortunate enough to be in a union you will get overtime after that."
DeClark said the keys to making it as a professional in Los Angeles are having a strong work ethic, being a problem solver, and being able to anticipate others' needs.
"It's really about working hard and making your boss look great," she said. "This generation is not used to that. The trip solidifies for the kids what they want to do. I would say that is the case for most of them. For others, it helps them decide that is not what they want to do."
The reality trip also included a lot of fun, like the opportunity to walk and pose on the famous Red Carpet days before the Oscars were awarded. The group saw the technical magic and met with a variety of professionals who work behind the scenes on "America's Funniest Home Videos," "Jimmy Kimmel Live," "Dr. Phil" and "The Oprah Show."
"Tonight Show" host Jay Leno also spent about a half-hour with them before they joined the studio audience for a show taping. DeClark said that Leno advised them that if they were intent on a career in the film and television industries, they should be focused.
"He told them not to have a Plan B," she said, "because it's too easy to give up and go there. That was something that really stuck with them."
They also heard from a panel of Franklin High School alums who previously took the DeClark's Hollywood trip and now have industry jobs.
"I'm always happy to talk about what it's like out here," said Brad Gage, a 2005 Franklin graduate who graduated from the University of Miami and has worked as a production coordinator on "America's Funniest Home Videos." He is just beginning work on a web-based version of the show. Additionally, he is pursuing a career in acting and writing.
"There is so much competition," he said. "Everybody out here wants to do what you want to do, so you have to figure out a way to be a cut above."
Erin Wolf, a 2007 Franklin graduate who graduated from the University of Southern California, now works as a postproduction assistant editor for a company that makes music videos and commercials. She said being part of the panel took her back to her high school days.
"I was excited to meet with the students," she said. "I hope that what we said inspired them to pursue their dream, because when I was on the trip, it inspired me."
The inspiration was felt by current Franklin students like Ania Bista and Joe Stefanczyk.
Bista, a junior who wants to one day write and edit, gives DeClark as lot of credit for helping students find out more about film and television as a career.
"It was a great trip and we are very thankful for the opportunity to do this," Bista said. "You realize that there are so many different careers. It was a realistic look at what we can do."
Stefanczyk, a sophomore, wants to be a film director, editor or computer technician. He said his passion for videos began in middle school.
"I learned a lot," Stefanczyk said. "I know you have to work your way up the ranks, but I am definitely willing."
He also is willing to go to California again with his high school classmates.
"If I have the money and the opportunity, I'll definitely go," he said.
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