“When I was a kid, I loved Spider Man and, when that movie came out, I was immediately obsessed with the idea of becoming a superhero,” Colwell said. “Getting an opportunity to work on a Marvel movie and to be a part of that was absolutely unreal. I’m still grateful, still reeling, still pinching myself to this day that I got the opportunity.”
Popular tax breaks for movie makers, sunny weather and diverse landscapes have made Georgia the world’s number one filming location, according to a recent Film LA report. To keep up with demand for skilled labor – Georgia College was one of the first universities to team up with Georgia Film Academy (GFA) and offer “Introduction to On-Set Film Production.” The course was instantly popular with students. But only a lucky few earn the coveted six-week internship and a chance to work on a real movie set or TV series.
In summer 2017, Colwell became one of the university’s first interns to work at Pinewood Studios Atlanta – a complex of 18 sound stages on 400 acres in Fayetteville. He hobnobbed with makers of the superhero movie and watched actors like Ant Man Paul Rudd work their craft.
“Being a part of Georgia Film Academy’s first graduate class of film students at Georgia College was a really cool opportunity,” Colwell said. “It very much gave everyone a hands-on and very real, very modern interpretation of how it is to actually be on-set today. There’s a lot of not-so-glamorous things that go on in actual filmmaking, and it’s really cool to be shown that. But you also get to experience the really cool stuff and the glitz-and-glamour stuff too – all the stuff you fantasize and dream about.”
Colwell’s name even appears in the credits of “Ant Man and the Wasp,” as one of the visual effects crew. He used “green space” backdrops and intricate lighting to assure angles were filmed correctly. This allowed computer whizzes to add special effects later.
Even more bewildering for him? He got paid to do it.
“One day, I got a check in the mail, and I was like ‘Oh, cool! I get paid too? This is awesome!’ But, honestly? I would’ve done it for free. I just loved it,” Colwell said. “It’s very surreal, the fact we have the opportunity to work on these huge, incredible films and projects and shows. It’s really cool watching it all come to life.”
Now, another recent theatre graduate is interning with CBS in Atlanta. Harlee Pope of Cumming is currently working on set of the popular TV series, “MacGyver.” From her first day as a production assistant, Pope said she worked closely with directors and actors. Now, she has more responsibilities and assists actors like Lucas Till, who plays Angus MacGyver. She transports actors from their trailers to the set and back, providing them with information they need for the day.
“The internship is a must, because it allows me to learn from top names in the industry. It’s just such a super-cool opportunity,” Pope said. “Atlanta’s where it’s at in the next five years. It’s booming. Everyone is coming here. That’s why I want to be involved, because it’s constantly changing. It’s constantly growing.”
Colwell and Pope rave about the film course and internship. One of 12 technical colleges and universities in the state that offer GFA’s six-credit introductory course, Georgia College prepares students for every part of the industry – from camera, rigging and lighting to finding location sites and casting. Students learn with more than $100,000 worth of movie equipment from GFA, housed at Georgia College.
It's this chance to work with real equipment and learn from industry experts that makes Georgia College’s GFA course so special.
Without networking and knowing people – it’s almost impossible to break into the movie and TV industry. The internship is an opportunity to meet dozens of producers and filmmakers, who hire only people they trust. Getting a chance to earn that trust makes the GFA film course one of the most “invaluable programs at Georgia College,” Colwell said.
“In my opinion, the greatest teacher is experience,” he said, “and you get the opportunity for so much, so so much experience at Georgia College.”
Everyone on-set was helpful, answering every question Colwell asked. He absorbed as much as he could. Then, just weeks after his internship ended, Colwell was called back to work on the second unit of “Ant Man and the Wasp.” He has since worked on several smaller productions. Katie McArdle, director of film workforce development for GFA, said relationships made on an internship can get students into film unions. From there, they can work one-to-four projects a year, making anywhere from $60,000 to $85,000.
“What Georgia Film Academy lends students is the opportunity to make connections and get their foot into the door,” Colwell said. “Just to get the opportunity to work on productions of massive sizes and massive scales and make connections and get really-good working relationships with people, so that down-the-road they’ll remember you – it’s really cool.”
Colwell said he now has the confidence, skills and connections to make film his career.
“It just opens so many doors – so many doors that you couldn’t even imagine,” he said. “They give you the tools to go out and use them. If I’ve taken anything away from this – from both Georgia College and from GFA – it’s that I can go out and do whatever I want.”
For more information on GFA’s Introduction to On-Set Film Production at Georgia College, please visit: http://www.gcsu.edu/artsandsciences/theatre/georgia-film-academy-certificate.