View Christopher McMahon's presentation for Tangent
Business of Cinematic Arts Program '13
How has the School of Cinematic Arts changed your view of your discipline (filmmaking, screenwriting, animation, producing, interactive, critical studies, etc.)?
The School of Cinematic Arts has helped me gain a better appreciation for the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes of film, TV and digital production, and it’s opened my eyes to how much the current systems are still in a state of flux and change. Before coming to USC, I never put much thought into what happened before a film or show started filming, but as a student in the Business and Cinematic Arts program, I have been able to take advantage of a unique educational track that delves into the ways the deals are made to bring ideas to life in the form of our favourite films and TV shows - all before a single set is built or camera is turned on. But in addition to this, I have heard countless times about how these established systems are broken and need fixing. The long-term health and future of these forms of entertainment really will depend on our generation’s ability to innovate and solve the business and creative problems plaguing the industry in its current state.
What advice do you have for prospective students looking at applying to your program?
I would advise prospective BCA students to come into their classes with an open mind regarding the area of the entertainment industry that they would like to eventually tackle. One of the great aspects of the BCA Program is that the curriculum covers a wide range of entertainment disciplines, from film and television to interactive games and digital media. While I came into the program fully focused on film and interested solely in pursuing something related to movies, I quickly learned that other options were, at the very least, worth looking into. Now entering my final year, I can say that some of my favourite classes were those discussing digital and TV-related topics. I certainly haven’t given up on film, but it is very important to keep an open mind, especially in this very dynamic and exciting industry.
How has the School of Cinematic Arts prepared you so far for a career in your discipline?
Networking, networking, networking. Possibly the most important thing that has been stressed to me and my classmates in the Business and Cinematic Arts Program has been the importance of communication and staying in touch with everyone you meet. It’s not only who you know, but who knows you. The School of Cinematic Arts does a brilliant job of giving students the opportunities to meet current industry professionals and the tools to stay in touch, but professors also remind and encourage you to get to know your peers in classes. You never know if the person sitting next to you will one day be offering you a job or partnering with you on your next project.
What have been the biggest challenges for you at USC?
The biggest challenge for me at USC has been to feel comfortable asking for help and guidance when I need it. Despite knowing that professors are here to answer questions about topics they are passionate about, I doubted my reasons for meeting with them. Even hearing that these world-renown scholars want to help you learn and understand, I always felt that I should be able to figure things out on my own - that’s what going to class and reading the textbook was for, right? When attempting to enter an industry as competitive (and sometimes cutthroat) as entertainment, it is important to realize that you are not failing if you don’t understand something at first, and you are not dumb if you need to ask a question to which you are sure everyone else knows the answer. Yes, maybe sometime down the line post-grad and on the job you may be expected to know how certain things are done, but one of the most important pieces of advice I can give to a new student is to use your time at USC exactly as it should be, a learning experience. I realize this may have gotten a bit preachy and beyond the realms of a simple Q&A, but I did, and sometimes still do, suffer from this fear. I can see now that I wasn’t stupid for not understanding a concept; it was for not seeking out help.
What in your past has given you inspiration or a unique point of view that you bring to USC?
I lived overseas in London for most of my life, only moving back to the US recently to attend USC. Living abroad afforded me many valuable experiences; the most important in my mind was the ability to travel around the world and explore, in every sense of the word. This concept of exploration has been integral to the sculpting of my USC experience and has led me to participate and get involved in many new things here on campus. I can thank my time in London for helping make the most of my time in Los Angeles.
For those unaware, the Business and Cinematic Arts (BCA) joint program is first and foremost a Business degree. It is a joint venture between the Marshall School of Business and the School of Cinematic Arts that allows students to complete a full B.S. in the business school while taking a collection of cinema classes tailored specifically for the program – most of which are only open to BCA students.
For more information on the Business and Cinematic Arts Program, please visit: http://www.marshall.usc.edu/undergrad/buad/academic_programs_joint