#GradyGrit: Meet Trey Leonard

#GradyGrit: Meet Trey Leonard

January 22, 2019

Editor’s Note: #GradyGrit is a new series of profiles of Grady College students who show determination, leadership and outreach to the community. Search “#GradyGrit” on the Grady College website for additional profiles.

Hometown: Valdosta, Georgia

Year: Senior

Major: Double major in Entertainment & Media Studies and
International Affairs, with minors in Film Studies and Theatre

Involvement and activities: Co-founder of The Industry, a
writers workroom and filmmaking group at Grady, UGAgency, UGA Miracle, Alpha
Tau Omega Fraternity, UGA Honors Program, Grady Study Abroad in China,
Australia Study Abroad, actor in short films at Grady

How has Grady
influenced your time at UGA?

I can honestly say that if it weren’t for Grady, I would not have known how to turn my passion for film and the entertainment industry into a career path. Not only has my time as a Grady student infinitely broadened my knowledge of the industry, but it has given me countless opportunities to experience the business first-hand through internships and on-set opportunities. Whether through my chance to produce multiple short films or participate in an externship for United Talent Agency in Los Angeles, Grady has far exceeded my expectations for what a college is supposed to provide its students. It has also shaped the way I view institutionalized education, which is an interdependent act of constant betterment, not just through reliance on faculty but on myself. Grady has also afforded me an invaluable and trusted network of peers and mentors that I can collaborate with on creative projects and call true friends.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

So much of my college career has been shaped by Grady experiences that it’s hard to choose just one. My top three would be: producing the only student film at UGA nominated for a Student Emmy, “Classic City Queens,” hiking the Great Wall of China with the Choose China program during Summer 2017, directing “Over The Line,” a documentary that explores gentrification as a vehicle furthering racial divide in Atlanta and hosting the premiere in an underprivileged Westside neighborhood in Atlanta.

What has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?

I’ve spent two consecutive summers in Los Angeles, interning with four different major production companies. These summers were highly impactful as I made connections and gained a holistic understanding of one of the most volatile industries in American business. Most importantly, these summers instilled confidence in me that a successful career in entertainment is attainable, as long as you’re willing to leave everything on the table. 

I also want to mention who
has had the biggest impact on my life during my time at UGA. Grady professor
Kate Fortmueller has become one of my most trusted academic mentors, and I am
beyond grateful for all of the wisdom she has shared with me over the years in
addition to her personal belief in me.

What is your best advice for a student taking their first class at Grady College?

I want every student to understand that the most important thing you can be is confident in yourself and your abilities. If you own who you are and find people you can learn from and create with, you’ll have an incredible Grady experience.

What motivates you?

I am motivated daily by the kids at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. As a leader for the campus organization UGA Miracle, I have seen for myself the resilience and strength shown by every child, whether they have stage 4 cancer or a broken leg. I often think about the kids and families who have been through some of the worst situations that life can throw at you, yet still find joy everyday. These kids motivate me to keep persevering, even when things feel difficult.

Last show/favorite show you binge watched (more than 2 shows in a sitting)?

Maniac directed by Cary Fukunaga on Netflix

Favorite quote?

“Your legacy is every life you touch.” – Maya Angelou

What would people be surprised to know
about you?

I am actually pretty musical. I play the trumpet and piano and studied voice. I’m also learning guitar this semester.

Favorite Athens restaurant?

Trapeze is a go-to of mine for sure. I also love to go to Five Bar if i’m feeling boujee.

Create your own question to answer: If you could have dinner with two people in the entertainment industry, who would they be and why?

I’m going to restrict my answer to those persons living, not deceased. Hands-down the two most influential creators in my life at the moment would be Robert Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, and Megan Ellison, CEO and founder of Annapurna Pictures. Bob Iger has propelled the Disney company into the global phenomenon it is. Most people are unaware of the far-reaching grip Disney has on media consumption habits, and his acquisition most recently of Fox’s entertainment sector is changing the game for media makers and directly influencing how and where content is viewed. A Disney streaming service is also inevitable to rival Netflix’s stronghold on streaming video on demand with its now-majority stake of Hulu. Megan Ellison probably could not be more different from Iger as a business person, but she remains a juggernaut among high-profile producers creating in Hollywood. Daughter of Oracle founder Larry Ellison, Megan and her brother David crash-landed into Hollywood with their production companies Annapurna and Skydance, respectively. I admire what Ellison has created with Annapurna purely from her business model. She has created a company championing creative storytellers regardless of industry or artistic norms currently existing in our culture. Every production company is different based on distinct creative tastes, but Ellison’s business mind has forced more artistic and edgier storytelling into the mainstream. It is also important for me to note that both of these figures have been criticized for various reasons. The Walt Disney Company is notorious for underpaying workers, and Annapurna is currently shaving off projects in order to earn back money lost on riskier projects. With this in mind, I would love nothing more than to connect with them and understand their perspectives on the industry I have decided to commit my working life to.