#ProfilesofTenacity: Demi Lehman

Fourth year entertainment and media studies and theatre double major Demi Lehman is creating her own path in the pursuit of her passions. Her involvement in UGA short films and theatre shows as well as her time with various internships and clubs have helped prepare her to follow her dream of becoming a professional actress.

What does “tenacity” mean to you?

Tenacity to me means strength, grit, and persistence especially when the odds seem stacked against you. It’s surpassing people’s expectations and proving them wrong with your work ethic when they say something is impossible or can’t be done.

Why did you choose your major?

Coming into UGA, I knew I wanted to major in Theatre to be able to take advanced acting classes open specifically to majors. However, my parents wanted me to major or minor in something additional to theatre to have a “backup plan” for acting after I graduate. To give them credit, I agreed with their logic. Initially, my plan was to double major in Business with a Management degree. I quickly discovered at orientation, though, that a Business degree was not for me. My mom revealed to me there was a major in Grady called Entertainment and Media Studies geared towards the film industry and film production. Since I’m interested specifically in acting for film and television, this was the perfect major to learn what working behind the camera was like and fill in the gaps about acting for film that my Theatre major didn’t cover.

What motivates you?

Storytelling. As cheesy as it sounds, I believe stories have the power to change the world and make it a better place. Stories can educate, enlighten, and entertain, and it’s my hope as an actor/storyteller that a viewer or audience member leaves a story a little different than they were before they experienced it.

Who is your favorite Grady professor and why?
Lehman smiles with her cast and crew members after wrapping the short film, “Truth,” which she directed for Professor Mattison’s Directing for the Screen class. (Photo/submitted)

It’s hard to pick a favorite professor I’ve had in Grady since all of them have been so insightful and successful in preparing me for the entertainment industry. I am especially appreciative of Professor Mattison who was my Directing for the Screen professor last semester. I first met Professor Mattison, not through a class, but because I was cast in a short film he was directing called American Triptych. I mentioned in my submission to the project that I was a UGA student, and he recognized me from acting in his former students’ films. He had me audition, and I ended up booking the role. By the time I had my directing class with him in Fall 2022, he already knew about my acting background. The way he teaches that class is great because he focuses specifically on what it’s like to give direction to actors. He makes the entire class perform monologues the first 2 weeks of class just so they can understand what it’s like to be in the actor’s shoes. Over Thanksgiving break, I found out I booked a supporting role in an upcoming Lifetime movie called A View To Kill For. I was ecstatic but worried how I’d finish out the rest of the semester and finals since the movie was filming the last three weeks of school. Professor Mattison was very supportive in me pursuing my acting career and graciously let me finish out the semester remotely from Atlanta where we were shooting. I’m still so thankful for that and for all he’s taught me to this day!

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about bringing more of the film industry to the Southeast and Atlanta. After living in LA this summer, I’ve grown fonder of Atlanta being the city I grew up right outside of, and I really think it can compete with Los Angeles as a hub for the entertainment industry. There’s already so much production done here that now I hope for pre-production and post-production work to start making its way here, as well. I have friends who want to be producers, writers, or editors and with the way the industry is currently structured, a lot of those jobs are still done out of LA. If we can build up Atlanta based production companies, writers’ rooms, and post-production houses in the Southeast, there’d be even more opportunity for people wanting to work in the industry here.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?
Lehman hikes back down the mountain in Malibu to get to Neptune’s Net with fellow Grady LA students. (Photo/submitted)

During the Summer of 2022, I had the opportunity to participate in the Grady LA program where students interested in working in the entertainment industry intern and take classes in Los Angeles for eight weeks. The program really pushed me out of my comfort zone since I’m an in-state student, and this was the longest time I’d been away from home without any family nearby. However, I’m so thankful to have been on the program because I got to meet so many amazing people, build my professional network and experience, and form close friendships with other students on the program. One of my favorite memories is that a large group of us students and our program leader, Dr. Bernabo, decided to go hiking in Malibu on what was supposed to be a 6 mile hike. However, after walking a mile straight up a mountain and reaching the top, we decided to turn back and eat at a well-known seafood shack across the street from the beach called Neptune’s Net. The food was deliciously greasy and satisfying after that hike, and I don’t think any of us had any regrets about turning around.

What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

I was cast in my first ever professional feature film over Thanksgiving Break for a Lifetime movie called A View To Kill For. Getting that phone call from my agent was such a surreal experience, and even now I have to remind myself that it really happened. Working on set almost every day for three weeks confirmed for me that acting is what I want to do, and being in a large supporting role gave me proof that I have the capability to actually do it. I feel like I’ve already grown more as an actor since the shoot wrapped, so it will be interesting to watch the work I did then compared to how much more I know now. I don’t have many details I can share on when it’s coming out or what it’s about, but I’m excited to see the finished product.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to other Grady students?
Lehman takes a mirror selfie in hair and makeup while filming “A View to Kill For.” (Photo/submitted)

If you’re having trouble finding a major or class that is specifically about what you want to do, create your own path. I knew coming into UGA that I wanted to be a working actress primarily in film and television. However, my Theatre major currently only offers a single Acting for the Camera class that rolls around once every two to three years, and my Entertainment and Media Studies major teaches you how to work in the industry in about every job except acting (writer, director, producer, editor.) So I double majored in both and took advantage of student films and campus organizations to fill in the gaps. By being a Theatre major, I’m able to keep my acting “instrument” fresh and also gain experience performing in professional level theatrical productions. By being an Entertainment and Media Studies major, I’m able to learn the lingo of the other side of the industry and what each job needs to be successful. Now that I know the specific things a director or editor is looking for when doing their job, I know what I need to do as an actor to make their jobs easier. This served me well when I was filming A View To Kill For because some of the crew members noticed I understood what they were doing for a shot and why. This gained me some respect and even let me form friendships and connections with the people working behind the scenes.

What are you planning to do after you graduate?

After graduation, I plan to move to Atlanta to continue working as an actress in the film industry. When I’m not acting, I would love to work behind the scenes as a casting assistant. I interned with a casting office called DK Casting when I did the Grady LA program, and I learned that it is another area of the industry I love. It lets me use my performance background to acknowledge good performances and helps me uplift other actors in the community. It also teaches me as an actor what makes a good audition and inspires me to continue working to be a better artist.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

To just go for it. I’m graduating in May, so as you can expect, the post-grad jitters have been starting to get to me. I’m grateful for my family, friends, and professors who have been an incredible support system and the piece of advice I keep hearing from all of them is to just go for it. Wanting to work as an actor professionally can feel very daunting, especially when you’ve grown up in a society where people (who usually aren’t in the industry) tell you it’s a risky idea and constantly ask about the “backup plan.” However, my parents, close friends, and mentors (all people who would be brutally honest with me), haven’t told me to hold back. They’ve told me to go for what I am passionate about, and if it ends up not working out, they’ve got my back. I’d much rather give my all at trying and fail, than not try at all and always wonder, “What if?”

Alumnus Beau Ward navigates a changing entertainment industry

Beau Ward (ABJ ’15) is a producer, director and creative executive at LD Entertainment. He’s worked in various roles in the entertainment industry, working on feature films, Broadway shows and documentaries. He’s best known for projects including “Introducing, Selma Blair”, “Jackie” and “Mama’s Boy.”

Grady L.A. changed it all

While a student at Grady College, Ward majored in mass media arts (now entertainment and media studies), and participated in the Grady L.A. program. Ward says he made about 100 cold calls to different places in L.A. while in search of an internship before landing one with LD Entertainment.

“Really, that Grady L.A. summer is what changed it all for me,” Ward said.

Ward and fellow classmates from the Grady L.A. 2014 cohort. (Photo/submitted)

Ward said before the program, he was deciding between moving to Atlanta, New York or Los Angeles after graduation. After spending the summer in L.A. and having friends who were moving there, he decided on L.A.

When Ward moved after graduation, he didn’t have a full-time job lined up, but he accepted a position as a temporary receptionist at LD Entertainment.

“That sounded a lot better to me than running pizzas,” he said.

Ward said he drove across the country with a mattress on the roof of his car, thinking he would save money and not have to buy one when he arrived in California. To his surprise, the wind resistance from driving across the country with a mattress on the roof ruined his car and cost him about a thousand dollars in damage.

“My car was falling apart by the time I drove into Los Angeles,” he said.

Upon moving to Los Angeles, Ward said having friends with him there helped while they were couch surfing and sleeping on floors, being “starving artists.”

Ward directed and produced a web series “News to Me” for James Biddle’s advanced production class. (Photo/submitted)

“Looking back it seems sort of romantic, but at the time was not super fun. But, It was great to have a whole bunch of my friends and former classmates from Grady. We were all out there doing it together…finding jobs and rooting each other on.”

Wearing many hats at LD Entertainment

Within six months of working for LD Entertainment, Ward was working as the assistant to the CEO. After working in that position for just over a year, he was promoted to his current role as a creative executive. In his current role, Ward says he wears many hats. His role includes developing scripts, finding projects to bring to investors, and seeing projects through post-production, including casting.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to really be able to see films through from their very inception through production through post-production and then even into distribution and making sure it has an appropriate release,” Ward said.

Ward said there are two projects that he’s especially proud of.

He was a producer for the documentary, “Introducing, Selma Blair,” a Critics Choice nominee that was presented at South by Southwest film festival.

The documentary follows the life of actress Selma Blair following a diagnosis of multiple sceloris before she was about to embark on a risky medical procedure that involved stem cell replacement.

“So, it’s following her not only going through these medical treatments, but learning what it means to live with a disability and how she maintains her identity and her sense of self and even grows through this chapter of her life.”

Ward was a producer for the documentary, “Mama’s Boy,” which follows the life of Dustin Lance Black, a screenwriter who went on to be an activist for equal rights and fought for marriage equality.

“It’s about how he used the values that his mom instilled in him in terms of resilience and fighting for what you believe in and not letting the world tell you how to live your life … taking those things and then helping so many people through his through his activism,” he said. “So that’s one that I’m very, very proud of.”

Ward said “Mama’s Boy” was shot in 2021, and he and his crew traveled across the country to the different areas featured in the documentary.

“Traveling is one of my favorite parts of the job,” he said.

Recently, Ward shot an upcoming film in New Mexico. He lived in France for three months in 2019 while working on a film called, “The Cursed.”

Ward scouting a location for the upcoming movie, “National Anthem” with film crew. (Photo/submitted)
A changing industry

“It’s a really really interesting time to be in industry,” Ward said. “Streaming is changing everything.”

Ward said the way in which films are financed shifts almost on a daily basis due to changing audience habits. Part of his role is to think about how well a script will do a year into the future once it is past post-production and goes on the market to streaming services. Ward says this is a challenging part of the job, because it’s impossible to see into the future and know what audiences want.

“It’s definitely an exciting if sometimes scary time to be making films because you’re not sure what’s gonna work,” he said.

Ward believes audiences are looking for something different. With the number of streaming services and a “saturated market” of entertainment, he believes they want to watch entertainment that “stands out from the pack.”

“There is, I think a generational change happening. I think you’re seeing a huge wave of perspectives and representation in Hollywood. It still has a long way to go, but you are seeing a big push for increasingly diverse perspectives and voices.”

Ward at the premiere of Introducing, Selma Blair. (Photo/submitted)

Ward offered a few pieces of advice to current Grady and EMST students.

He said internships are important so that students can learn about the flow and pace of the industry and to see first-hand how businesses are run.

Ward said most industries, especially entertainment, are about who you know.

“It is such a who you know career because the creative process can be so intimate and you are dealing with creating a piece of very, very personal creative content,” he said. “So, it makes sense that you want to work with people that you know, and people that you trust that you believe in.”

“My advice would be do as much as you can to meet people to learn where their career has taken them what sort of their paths are, but also just to foster those relationships,” he said.

Grady InternViews: Darby Taylor

This is part of a series where we ask Grady College students to describe their summer internship experience.

Darby is participating in the Grady LA field study and internship program. She has two internships, one as a development intern for Temple Hill Entertainment, and another as an intern for the Producer’s Guild of America.

Briefly describe your internships and responsibilities.

At Temple Hill Entertainment, I perform coverage on screenplays, pilots, and book manuscripts to assess whether the material is worth developing into television or film content. I read the material, write up a synopsis, comment on pacing, characterization, tone, and plot, and then recommend a decision for the creative executives. I also sit in on development meetings, which provide me insight and a better understanding of the film and television landscape.

At the Producer’s Guild of America, I create materials to streamline and assist with the Guild’s ‘mark arbitration’ process. I conduct research projects to verify producing credits for Guild membership, update databases, and identify potential films for the awards season.

How has this role helped you discover what you are passionate about?

Both of my internships have confirmed my passion for the entertainment industry and that I want to be involved in the creation of television shows and films. Working at Temple Hill and the Producer’s Guild has given me an insight to two very different sides of the industry, and validated my passion for the industry and desire to work behind-the-scenes to bring certain stories to life.

How will this role guide your future career path?

Ultimately, my dream career is to get into post-production, or editing for film or television. I believe that when working on such a big and collaborative team as film crews, it’s integral to understand all aspects of the industry in order to make the production process smoother. As a future editor, I now know what parts of a script are significant enough to include in the final cut, as well as which team players have the most creative control over a project’s vision.

What advice would you give to students who are looking to pursue similar opportunities?

Networking is the best way to get your foot in the industry. Start reaching out to UGA alumni and other industry professionals as soon as possible, such as through LinkedIn or the UGA Mentor Program. When reaching out, it’s best to be authentic, intentional and respectful. Be honest, do your research beforehand, and thank people for their time. Although it can be scary, people want to help you and give advice based on their own experiences in the industry.

What has been your favorite part about your internship so far?

My favorite part about my Temple Hill internship is getting to provide my own opinion and experiences to the company. My perspective as a young student is welcomed with open arms, as I am encouraged to participate in staff meetings, give honest feedback about potential scripts and books, and discuss my favorite content with other interns and executives.

My favorite part about my internship with the Producer’s Guild is getting an insight to the industry from the unique perspective of a trade association. I have a better understanding to what all goes into film production through the producer’s role and what needs to be kept in mind when applying for the Producer’s Guild of America mark or membership to the Guild.

Darby is participating in the Grady L.A. program. (Photo:submitted)
How have the classes you’ve taken at Grady prepared you for this internship?

The ‘writing for entertainment media’ class I took taught me a lot about what works and what doesn’t work in a script. We read and critiqued many scripts, gaining an understanding to critical story elements such as character development, beats, tone and pacing. This class has made the coverage process a lot smoother, because I can easily differentiate my personal feelings on a piece of material and the actual elements that build a story.

Planning and helping on student short films through the production basics and cinematography classes I’ve taken have given me a brief insight to the effort that goes into feature filmmaking. My internship at the Producer’s Guild has taught me just how massive the crews behind our favorite films are and how much producers have to balance in order to bring certain visions to life.


Grady InternViews: Demi Lehman

This is part of a series where we ask Grady College students to describe their summer internship experience.

Demi is participating in the Grady LA field study and internship program. She has two internships, one as a development intern for the Motion Picture Corporation of America, and another as a casting trainee with David Kang Casting.

Briefly describe your internship and responsibilities.

David Kang Casting focuses primarily on casting music videos, commercials, film, and digital content. Their previous projects include casting for Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” and “Bad Blood” music videos and Katy Perry’s “Roar” music video. Some of my responsibilities include writing and posting character breakdowns to casting websites, reviewing auditions, and communicating with producers and talent.

The Motion Picture Corporation of America (MCPA) is a production company that has produced a wide array of films from Dumb and Dumber to Netflix’s The Princess Switch series starring Vanessa Hudgens. As an intern, I am responsible for reading and covering scripts, assisting in making pitch decks, and social media and agency outreach.

Demi is interning in Los Angeles, California for David Kang Casting and the Motion Picture Corporation of America. (Photo:submitted)
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and do more than you’re required to. Your supervisors want you to learn and make the most of your time, so they will appreciate it when you take initiative.

What about this position has surprised you?

For both of my internships, everyone has been so flexible and open with catering my responsibilities to my interests, as well as making sure I am getting what I want out of the internship. I wasn’t expecting there to be this much flexibility in the industry, especially at the intern level, so I have appreciated their efforts to adapt to my interests and needs.

How will this role guide your future career path?

My supervisor at my casting internship knows I have a background in acting, and that I want to pursue acting professionally when I graduate. Because of this, she has encouraged me to audition for our company’s casting calls that fit my demographics to get practice and get seen by L.A. producers and directors. I wasn’t expecting that I would be able to be both a casting assistant and actor at the same time, so this has been an amazing discovery to learn it’s possible to do both. Even if I decide to stop pursing acting, I love getting to work in casting to help uplift other actors following their dreams.

What has been your favorite part about your internship so far?

At both of my internships, my favorite part has been getting to connect with new people. I have met so many kind and hardworking individuals who are happy to share their knowledge and experiences in the industry with me. I also enjoy getting to know the other interns I’m working with and building a network for myself to have for when I am out of school.

What advice would you give to students who are looking to pursue similar opportunities?

Don’t be discouraged if you’re not getting offers immediately when you’re just starting out on the internship hunt. I remember being confident I would find something in two weeks, when it actually ended up taking me about three months and reaching out to over a hundred people. Networking and prospecting takes time, so start early – but don’t consider how long it takes as an indicator of your self-worth.

Grady students making the most of their summer L.A. experience

Halfway through the summer term, students in the Grady LA Field Study and Internship Program have been in the thick of the media-entertainment industry and cultural life of Los Angeles.

Not only have they been working three days a week at their media-entertainment company internships, but their internship experience has been framed by an accompanying course on media industries taught by Kate Fortmueller, an assistant professor in the Entertainment and Media Studies department, and a host of often exclusive events and excursions.

Presentations by highly placed industry guests have enriched their class. Producer and new-media pioneer George Kimmel talked about the influence of digital production and distribution. Director David Martín-Porras talked about the filmmaking process, working on indie productions and living a life as a creative. Television producer and transmedia pioneer (“Smallville”, “Heroes”, “East Los High”) Mark Warshaw (a Grady graduate) discussed the expansion of media narratives into multiplatform, user-driven experiences. Writer/director Kate Barker-Froyland talked about making her new film, “Song One”, and composer Victor Hernández gave students an inside view of film scoring.

Special-effects testing for The Chain, a feature film in production in Los Angeles. Looking on (far left) are Grady LA students Kimmy Baker and Trey Leonard.
Special-effects testing for The Chain, a feature film in production in Los Angeles. Looking on (far left) are Grady LA students Kimmy Baker and Trey Leonard.

In addition to touring the Warner Bros. and Fox studios, students attended special screenings of the film “The Bad Batch” and a Q&A with writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour, and an advance screening of “Spiderman: Homecoming.” They also attended a screening of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” with live orchestra accompaniment outdoors at the Hollywood Bowl.

Off-site excursions have also enriched students’ experience. These include a tour of the Writers Guild of America script library along with access to two on-site professional seminars, and a visit to the set of “The Chain,” a feature film currently in production and co-written by Grady LA instructor Andres Rosende.

At the end of a hike to the top of Mount Lee, with the Hollywood sign, Hollywood and Los Angeles in the background. From left: students John Buckley and Christina Kohler, assistant professor Kate Fortmueller, and instructor Andres Rosende.

Students have also experienced the broader cultural life of L.A. They visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (hosted by UGA graduate (’07 and ’17) Caroline Maddox), attended free morning rehearsals of the L.A. Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, and visited The Broad, a contemporary art museum in downtown L.A.

In their spare time, they have hiked 4.6 miles on a Saturday morning to the Hollywood sign, plus explored the greater Southern California area during the long July 4th holiday weekend.

Grady LA is a summer internship/study program in Los Angeles. Students spend eight weeks in LA working as interns for companies in the entertainment industry. In addition, they take Entertainment and Media Studies courses for a combined total of six credit hours.

Each week, students hear from guest speakers including studio executives, animators, directors, screenwriters, agents and other key industry players. In addition, students tour various studio and production facilities in Los Angeles to gain an insider’s perspective into the industry.

Grady students make their mark in Los Angeles

Students enrolled in the Grady LA Field Study and Internship Program for 2017 have hit the ground running.

They have spent their first week in their course on media entertainment industries, taught by Kate Fortmueller, assistant professor of EMST. They have also started their internships in LA-area companies such as CNN, Vox Entertainment, Tuff Gong International, The Tennis Channel and Kinetic Content.

EMST Department Head Jay Hamilton (far left) and Grady LA students enjoyed networking with Grady and UGA alumni at the UGA in LA reception June 8, 2017.
EMST Department Head Jay Hamilton (far left) and Grady LA students enjoyed networking with Grady and UGA alumni at the UGA in LA reception June 8, 2017.

But they’ve also had time to explore what LA has to offer. An informal evening social event brought together Grady LA students, EMST alumni and EMST friends. Grady LA students were featured in another UGA Alumni evening social event held at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills.

Among the optional excursions the first week was a premiere and social event to support UGA alum Tamlin Hall, whose film, “Holden On,” made its West Coast premiere; a tour of classic Hollywood and LA movie theaters downtown; and an evening showing under the stars of the movie “Princess Bride” high above the city in Griffith Park at the Autry Museum of the American West.

Grady LA is a summer internship/study program in Los Angeles. Students spend eight weeks in LA working as interns for companies in the entertainment industry. In addition, they take Entertainment and Media Studies courses for a combined total of six credit hours.

Each week, students hear from guest speakers including studio executives, animators, directors, screenwriters, agents and other key industry players. In addition, students tour various studio and production facilities in Los Angeles to gain an insider’s perspective into the industry.