Twenty-one students and three professors and program staff from the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts, along with Megan Elliott, Johnny Carson’s Director of Emerging Media Arts, and Andy Belser, Dean of the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, attended the Infinity Festival-Hollywood from November 2-5.
Described as the place where Hollywood meets Silicon Valley, the Infinity Festival celebrates history made possible by technology. The festival featured panels, exhibits, screenings and a virtual production workshop with Erik Weaver, all led by today’s top innovators, creators and thought leaders.
The trip to Los Angeles was made possible thanks to the support of the new management endowed with the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts established with a $2.5 million gift from the Johnny Carson Foundation.
“Overall, it was an eye-opening experience for the 21 students who went to Los Angeles,” said Jenna Brende, former academic and internship advisor for the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts. “We were able to meet and learn from industry professionals from all walks of life – from technology to AR and VR, virtual production and experience design. Our students have been able to connect and chat one-on-one with so many talented people in a variety of industries. Our students also got to show off their work at a table where they represented the Carson Center, and many of them made connections that could lead to potential internships, full-time jobs, and even investments to start their own businesses. .
The week of workshops, tours and networking opportunities also included a visit and lunch at Disney Imagineering with Mikhael Tara Garver, Immersive and Experiential Creative Director at Walt Disney Imagineering and speaker at the Carson Center, a visit to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, and a virtual production workshop with Nonny de la Peña, founding director of Arizona State’s Narrative and Emerging Media program, often referred to as the “Godmother of Virtual Reality” and member of the Carson Center Advisory Council.
“We got to see this incredible immersive play by Alterea, Inc. called ‘Stardust,'” said Olli Jenkins, a young emerging media arts student from Lincoln. “It was so refreshing and empathetic. I have to connect with their CEO a day later at Infinity Festival, and talking about the process was incredibly inspiring. I loved networking and engaging with my EMA peers. Being in an environment full of professionals and students in our field reminded me of how talented and ahead of the curve we are.
Participating in the Infinity Festival gave students a sense of the emerging media currently being explored in the industry.
“My favorite session held at the Infinity Festival presented on AI-the art generated and its potential uses in concept design, photography and video,” said Emerging Media Arts student Hannah Pedersen. “Although I don’t have much experience in AI-generation, I think it’s an innovative medium that I would like to explore in the future.
Kicking off the week was special THE Connectors Dinner, hosted by the Nebraska Coast Connection and the Nebraska Alumni Association. Students were matched one-on-one with Hollywood professionals and local alumni.
“The event was great because it focused on pairing students with former professionals working in the same fields the students are studying,” said Kirstin Wilder, senior director of publications for the Nebraska Alumni Association, which helped organize dinner. “Students were paired up in advance and given bios of who their dinner mate would be and vice versa. Guests came to the event having an idea of who they were going to have dinner with. It was also small – 54 guests in total in a room that could only seat 60 people, so the setting was intimate. The professionals were thrilled to be in a room with Nebraska students and share their wisdom and advice. »
Andrew Stewart, Vice President of Strategic Communications at 42West, had dinner with Abby Hall, Head of Emerging Media Arts.
“We mostly talked about what it means to be intentional in your choices, how to be and think strategically about your own career path, but also the importance of accepting your mistakes,” Stewart said. “We talked about what it’s like to live in LA, my own journey, what LGBTQ the experience is like in THE and how it differs from Nebraska, and how to succeed in a big city by taking the good and the bad and embracing – without necessarily loving – both.
Jenkins was paired at dinner with Ted Schilowitz, a Paramount futurist and Carson Center advisory board member.
“He’s basically the coolest man alive. We talked about the fundamentals of the story and what virtual reality can open up for us to experience, and it was incredibly honest,” she said “My dream career is creative direction and world building, and I felt like I saw a clearer path to success after talking with him. Plus, meeting someone so high-profile yet down-to-earth reassured me that hard work and being authentic are the qualities that matter most.
Pedersen was paired with musical theater writer, director and producer Ryan Bergmann.
“We had a fabulous time discussing the potential of 3D projections for use in an interactive theater space,” she said. “Over dinner, I was also able to network with other connected professionals in Nebraska. I met Craig Albrecht, an executive producer, and Alexis Dvorak, a second assistant director. As an aspiring producer, I’m happy to have had the opportunity to speak with emerging film and media producers. These interactions have given me insight into how to get started in the industry and what resources to reach for in the future.”
Erica Larsen-Dockray, an experimental artist and entrepreneur who co-founded the Calibraska Arts Initiative and is a member of the Carson Center Advisory Board, was paired with emerging media arts senior AmunRa Jordan at the dinner.
“The dinner was very special to me because it brought together some of my favorite groups of people: students, educators, and the emerging media arts director, as well as the new dean, the Nebraska Coast Connection, and ONE elders,” she said. “I mainly engage with these groups separately and very often the conversations are about how we can combine our efforts. This dinner was honestly something I had been hoping to happen for a while. It was so cool that everyone world connects.The energy was solid gold.
Larsen-Dockray said community is one of the most important resources one can have, especially in the arts and entertainment industries.
“To go further, Nebraskans, especially those of us who have gone it alone, repeatedly offer the most heartfelt support and encouragement,” she said. “We really want to help others and dodge the obstacles we may have encountered. This same kind of community building and skill sharing is why I started the Calibraska art initiative. This dinner was an extension of that same work and reinforced how much a supportive community can be needed. Knowing people who can guide, support and defend you is SO important.”
Wilder said everyone benefited from attending the dinner.
“I think the students were impressed to meet professionals working in Hollywood who had similar backgrounds to them, whether it was a Nebraska degree or a Nebraska education,” Wilder said. “Professionals benefited from being connected to each other (a lot of business and future lunch dates were being set up between them), to professors at the Carson Center (I think many will eventually become future guest speakers). Professionals love to rub shoulders with Nebraskans, too — they’ve all brought home their gift bags and proudly affixed alumni pins to their place cards.
The trip provided invaluable networking for students and faculty.
“It’s critical that emerging media artists based in Nebraska have connections on the coasts,” Jenkins said. “One of my goals is to make the Midwest famous for the multimedia work my cohort releases there, but it can be isolating and disheartening not to be physically in a space full of similar technology and art. If we want to succeed here, we need to know what the best of the best looks like everywhere else, so that we can go further than ever ourselves.
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