Alums in Action! Cinema Alums have a huge presence in the film community throughout the entire country. We’re catching up with groups of Cinema Alums working together on one of the many projects being filmed right now. This edition features Erin Rodgers and Katie Kemp of Apple TV+’s Lady In The Lake!
What production are you currently working on?
Erin BA’20: I am currently working on Lady in the Lake shooting in Baltimore.
Katie BA’20: Lady in the Lake on Apple TV+
What is your job title and what are some of your roles?
Erin: I am the Art Assets Manager, which basically means I am in charge of keeping track of and cataloging set plans, concept art, research, and anything else involved in the process of designing and building sets. I promise it is so much more fun than the title suggests. Getting to be a part of the Art Department is soooooooo cool.
Katie: I am working as the Production Secretary. I feel like I wear a lot of different hats in this role, but sometimes it is hard to describe! I make sure that many different things run smoothly in the Production Office, so that things can then run smoothly on set. A lot of my day to day involves updating the crew list, actor contracts, and sending out all types of crew distro. This includes the call sheet, check requests, workers comp, equipment rentals, and shipping. Basically a lot of paperwork and memos to keep the crew and studio connected and make sure that communications run smoothly. I’ve learned a lot of new things in the job and what each department needs before shooting in order to function smoothly the day of.
Did any of you ever work together in your time at Cinema?
Erin: Katie and I are like biscuits and gravy. I always tried to make a point of working with her in and out of Cinema because she is wonderful, we get along great, and she is the best at what she does, no matter what that may be.
Katie: We did! Erin was actually my very first friend at VCU Cinema when we transferred in together. She was always the one with the best ideas, especially in the art department, and wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty. She also always had fun while doing it! I made it a point to always work with her, whether or not it was ever in the same department. She was actually the first person who I ever “recommended” when I was given the chance, and it has been amazing to grow alongside her. I cannot believe the amount of things she keeps track of and gets done in the art department, while always making everyone laugh along the way.
What is it like working with other Cinema alums on professional sets?
Erin: I think being in Cinema helps to create an instant bond with other alums, whether we knew each other in school or not, we end up having a lot of shared experiences, which really opens the door to further friendship since we see a lot of each other on set.
Katie: It’s wonderful! I have been lucky enough to have Cinema Alums on almost every show I have ever done. Even if it was not someone who was in my class, there is an immediate connection and feeling of security once you both realize that you learned in the same program. It is also really inspiring to see so many alums that have moved up in positions in such varying departments.
Is it important to have people you know with you on set? If yes, why?
Erin: It definitely isn’t necessary, but it can be nice, especially when you’re new to set life.
Katie: Yes! There are a lot of moving parts on film sets and while eventually you will become friends/colleagues with everyone around you, it is nice to have someone off the bat who has your back and knows how you work. Erin and I always rely on each other when we need things from our respective departments, and we also aren’t afraid to speak our mind to each other if the request seems rather silly.
What part of Cinema helped prepare you the most for the professional world?
Erin: The best piece of advice I received in Cinema was to “ask with your eyes”. A lot of time on set, and in the rest of the world, things are moving at a very fast pace, and people don’t have a lot of time to be answering dumb questions, hence why it is so important to try to figure something out on your own first using context around you.
Katie: The Summer Intensive. While I mainly did Production jobs, I made sure to try out most of the other departments or take note of what each department had to do. Even if I never work professionally in the camera department, I at least know the steps it takes for them to set up a take or equipment they may need to order for shooting. While many of us dream of having large creative roles, it is always important to know what everyone else does and how they bring the vision to life. The Summer Intensive really let me experience all of these roles and steps, and I was able to quickly step onto set and have a basic understanding of the things happening around me!
What was the transition from school to working in the industry like?
Erin: The hours took a bit of getting used to at first, but in my current position the hours are pretty regular which makes a work life balance way more manageable.
Katie: It was fun and weird at the same time! I was lucky enough to get on Swagger as I was graduating, but switching from school life to industry life does take some adjusting. The hours can be long and the weather conditions are not always the best. I think it is important to realize that while it is the job field we have chosen to go in, that you have to create as much of a work life balance as you can. A step that I tried to implement once I worked full time is making sure to take a break after a long job. Not only has that helped me in my personal life, but I also think it makes me much more prepared for the next job I take knowing that I had taken some time for myself.
What is your favorite memory of each other from your time in Cinema?
Erin: My favorite memory of Katie from our cinema days, and possibly just my favorite memory from cinema overall, was when we were out shooting our senior thesis on some farm in the middle of nowhere. Because of Covid, our projects had to be significantly scaled back but we had such a blast finally seeing each other after being quarantined for so long, and on top of that, we were all trying to savor what we thought could be our last time on set together. We spent several days just making movies, trying new things, coming up with creative solutions to problems, and of course, having a ton of fun. I wouldn’t trade those times for anything!
Katie: I have a lot of wonderful memories with Erin, but one that always stands out to me is when she made a fake water spigot gush out blood on our final film project. We had our last intensive during the beginning of COVID, so it was just our class of 15 making an anthology together. We had to get really creative to make our visions come to life. Erin stood on top of a van and had to pour blood down a tube that was buried in the ground. Lots of physics and smart sciency things went into this and I couldn’t believe how well it turned out on camera!