After losing her film industry job, Kellie Daniel was told by a close friend that it was the beginning of her “second act” and prompted her company name, Second Act Media.
Kellie Daniel attended Dodge College of Film and Media Arts wanting to write comedy scripts for television and feature productions. However, she is now the founder and managing director of Second Act Media and specializes in brand development and manages high-profile celebrities.
Chapman University draws in thousands of students each year to the nationally recognized film school, Dodge College of Film and Media Arts; but some students are concerned getting a degree from a high-ranking school won’t lead to their preferred dream job. For many, it won’t. However, alumni do find success in fields outside of their academic area of concentration.
This concern is not without reason for film students nationally. Approximately 60 percent of film studies graduates nationally were employed full-time in 2009, however, less than six percent of graduates worked in the film industry as directors, video/film operators, and broadcasters, according to The Guardian. A majority of film graduates found work in the retail or catering industry.
Although Chapman understands the difficulty of entering the film industry post-graduation, it does not have statistics to accurately represent the success rate of students who obtain jobs within the first six months after graduation, according to Jon Hernandez, the Dodge career advisor.
Daniel graduated with a degree in Television Writing and Production from Dodge in 2019. Although she is not using her degree directly in the film industry, Daniel applies the skills she learned at Dodge to her current job.
“My content creation strength stems from my time at Chapman,” Daniel said. “I use editing daily as I am splicing Instagram content together and screenwriting morphs as I am able to use my storytelling techniques through copywriting.”
Working as a production assistant for a television series, Daniel was excited to begin her career following her graduation. However, she was not prepared for the harsh reality of the entertainment industry.
“I definitely felt prepared in a sense from Dodge but I was not prepared for some of the treatment I faced and I just didn’t think [workplace harassment] was going to be real,” Daniel said. “I felt like a complete failure and I was so embarrassed to talk to anybody. I felt like [it was] all my fault and I deserved it.”
Victim to a toxic work environment, Daniel was subject to gaslighting and lost her self confidence. However, she was convinced this was what the entertainment industry consisted of. Eventually, she recognized the toxicity of her environment and searched for a new job.
“If you feel uncomfortable at a job, leave,” Daniel said. “It’s not worth your mental health and the strain on your well-being. There is no shame in leaving your job and going to work at Starbucks. You only have one life and you should not be spending it crying in a supply closet like me,” she added.
While some students obtain jobs within the film industry, others are worried about getting a job in general.
“I’m absolutely terrified,” said Michael Placenti, a freshman film production major pursuing cinematography. “I would love to work as a cinematographer on set but I know it’s not easy as a recent college graduate.”
To curb the students’ fear of being confined to the specificity of their degree, Hernandez had planned alumni panels, off-campus tours, and skill-building workshops to demonstrate different opportunities readily available in the entertainment industry.
“[We want] to give students more perspective of what is out there so that nobody feels pigeon-holed to their degree and give different perspectives of how to get into the industry because there is no roadmap,” Hernandez said.
This was all before coronavirus.
This semester, four alumni panels were planned to allow students to make connections with former Dodge graduates and possible future employers. Hernandez is mindful of student schedules and plans events at different times on weekdays and weekends to ensure the greatest amount of students can attend. He also advertised the events through Handshake, the Chapman Events pages, faculty reminders, and posted fliers.
However, only seven students attended the February alumni panel, which typically has an average of 25 attendees, according to Hernandez. It is unclear if this results from a lack of awareness, conflicting students’ schedules, or students not using their resources.
Although they have no film experience, Jake Herman and Clay Dirkse have successfully managed their music video company -The Reggies- since their junior year at Dodge. Both graduated with degrees in public relations and advertising, and the business partners never planned on doing freelance and entrepreneur work after graduation.
“We were swimming in an open ocean our senior year in April,” Herman said. “[Our future] was up in the air because we were doing cool stuff but it was still grassroots and we were out to be out here in LA and we needed to pay rent,” he added.
Despite not technically having a film-related degree from Dodge, Herman and Dirkse have acquitted their success to Dodge.
“[Because of Dodge] we have been able to take the experience we had on set, videos and productions and take it to labels and agencies, which is more curated to our advertising degree,” Dirkse said.
Hernandez advises students to take advantage of the provided networking and career resources, as it is the best way to prepare for a career in the entertainment industry. Internships are a great way to network within the job industry and often provide students with job opportunities upon their graduation, said Hernandez.
“Your education is going to best prepare you to do your job, but to find the job it’s going to be who you know,” Hernandez said.
Since founding Second Act Media, Daniel has met new people, been able to work from home, and maintain a flexible work schedule. Her current job has allowed her to provide people with a source of entertainment, which once drove her to pursue a job in the film industry.
“I knew my purpose in life was to make people happy and was to make people laugh,” Daniel said. “I had just never thought about it in a digital sense.”