Kelsey Cunningham, a senior entertainment and media studies major, participated in the Grady LA Field Study and Internship Program in the summer of 2018. (Courtesy: Kelsey Cunningham)
#GradyGrit: Meet Kelsey Cunningham
What made you choose EMST as a major?
I actually started college as a classic Pre-Med student, but always loved film & television. I believe I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in film & television, but was unsure of what that path would look like. It wasn’t until I studied abroad through the Cannes Film Festival program my freshman year of college that I realized I wasn’t pursuing opportunities like Cannes because I “loved” STEM. Through Cannes, I was able to not only immerse myself in the glitziest and highest-profile film scene there is, but meet older EMST students who told me about the classes they were taking and what kinds of careers they wanted. I realized then and there that EMST was the program of study for me. And the rest is history!
What are you passionate about?
This may be a cop-out answer, but I’m truly passionate about encouraging and supporting unique stories. I find a lot of my happiness not in what I personally accomplish, but how I’m able to encourage and support those whom I believe in. I think that’s why I’ve always stuck to producer or production management type roles—these roles are integral in supporting both the productions themselves and the crew members and support staff that make productions happen. If I can make people believe in and understand the importance of their contributions, then I’m a happy camper.
What advice would you give to a student taking their first class in Grady?
It’s so hard to choose one, so I’m going to give a few of my hot takes:
1) Be ambitious! Don’t let the fear of being told ‘no’ keep you from doing something you want to do, whether that be auditioning for a play, directing your first short, etc. Telling someone ‘no’ is another person’s job, and don’t take his/her/their job away from them.
2) Comparison is a thief of joy. Don’t compare yourself to your peers because we’re all on different journeys, and there is no right or wrong path to getting where you want to go.
3) Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Consistently seek out and take advantage of the opportunities around you, and if there are seemingly none, create your own!
4) Network both vertically and horizontally. Build relationships with both your professors and peers because your peers are the people you’ll be working with in the future, and you never know who your boss will be!
What was your experience like in the Grady LA Field Study and Internship Program in the summer of 2018?
Grady LA helped me better understand the entertainment landscape in Hollywood, and subsequently helped me to narrow down which career path I wanted to take. I was able to get a glimpse of what LA life actually looks like, while also having the comfort of coming home each night to my UGA pals. I would not have been able to come back to LA in Summer 2019 and work for a company like Hulu if I had not had the Grady LA experience under my belt.
What are your plans after graduating with your Grady degree?
I plan to pack all my things in my little HRV and move to LA in early 2020. I’m hoping to land an assistant or executive assistant-type role in a studio or network’s production department—HBO, hit ya girl up—and slowly but surely work my way up to studio executive. I could see myself dabbling in the line producer/UPM/creative producer world a bit too, so we’ll see where the wind takes me!
What is your favorite quote and why?
I don’t have a favorite quote, but I try to live by a phrase my Dad always tells me: “Don’t sweat the small stuff. In the end, it’s all small stuff.” I can sometimes let the little things stress me out, but thinking about this phrase calms me down because life is too short to worry about the things you cannot control.
What is your favorite creative outlet and why?
I love creating a good Spotify playlist. I really enjoy discovering new music and listening to tunes across various eras and genres. I also drive quite a bit, so I often have the time to listen to a lot of music and podcasts during my commutes.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I guess people might be surprised to know that I did karate for 8 years growing-up and have a black belt. Or that I’m a Scorpio. People are either very surprised to find that out or find it very fitting. Yikes!
What do you do when you’re homesick?
I don’t get homesick too often because I’m more attached to people than places. I talk to my family every day and have kept in touch with my close friends from high school, so I feel like there’s a piece of home with me wherever I go.
Editor’s Note: Some of the above answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.
For other installments in the #GradyGrit series, visit the #GradyGrit page.