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Working Behind The Camera

Published: March 1, 2016

CSULB’s Film and Electronic Arts’ newcomer Kent Hayward learned from working on Hollywood blockbusters that there are exciting careers to be had behind the camera.

Hayward, who joined CSULB in the fall, is a filmmaker, writer, director and production instructor who began working in the film industry in visual effects and editorial on such hits as “The Dark Knight,” “Inception,” “Terminator 3” and “The Aviator.” He’s also done extensive post-production work on 3-D IMAX movies such as James Cameron’s “Aliens of the Deep” and “Ghosts of the Abyss.”

Hayward’s on-set and post-production experience is a plus when it comes to teaching tomorrow’s filmmakers.

“Everything CSULB students in the Film and Electronic Arts Department learn is applicable to the industry today,” he explained.

One of the trademarks of CSULB instruction is a hands-on approach.

“Experiential learning is fun,” he said. “You’re working the camera and light meter. When you lift a light, your body learns something. It is the active way to learn and participate. You learn the most when you are doing something. From the first day of Production 1, I put a camera in their hands and have them shoot some actual film. Getting out of your comfort zone is important.

“When I talk about a subject that can sometimes be boring, like the importance of regulating color during the shooting and editing of a movie, I talk about working on that problem for “Inception” or “Star Trek,” he added, “Tracking color may not mean much until I point out that it matters to “Dark Knight” director Christopher Nolan. If it is important to a director like JJ Abrams to have properly calibrated monitors, students see that means something.”

Hayward began in the industry the same way most newcomers begin – at the bottom.

“When my students ask how to join the industry, I point to how some of the top names began,” he said. “For instance, the legendary John Ford was once asked how to get that first job and he said join the prop department because that’s what he did. One of my first jobs was running errands for a low-budget vampire movie.”

Hayward points to the 2008 financial crisis as a turning point for the film industry. “The way movies are made changed quite a bit,” he said. “At the same time, there are big changes in technology, too. There are webisodes, streaming videos on the Internet and more TV series to supplement the shrinking number of jobs in movies. But at the same time, there is the rise of virtual reality and new media. That represents exciting potential for our students.

Kent Hayward (l) shows students the workings of a movie camera.
Kent Hayward (l) shows students the workings of a movie camera.

“After they come out of CSULB, they can expect to be well-versed in the ways production works and how to behave on an active set,” he continued. “They work on a lot of sets here. If it is true that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, our students are well on their way to meeting that goal.”

Real-life experience helps fuel career dreams. “CSULB believes in community engagement in the form of internships,” he said. “When my students perform internships, they gain valuable insight into the work force. They bring back stories about what they are involved in, like using IMDB Pro to research a script that they are writing coverage on, or acting as a digital imaging technician on set. We all learn from each other.”

But some things never change. “At CSULB, we always tell our students that, no matter what, story comes first,” Hayward said. “That is true whether you are enrolled in a lighting class or a cinematography class or even an audio class where the student is not necessarily responsible for telling the story. Content is king. Even if all you do is lay cable, it is a collaboration and we are all in service to the story. It’s really interesting watching the students tell their own.”

Hayward, who earned his B.A. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his MFA in film production from the California Institute of the Arts, sees a bright future for the Department of Film and Electronic Arts at CSULB.

“We will continue to scrutinize new technologies and industries like virtual reality, video games and other things,” he said. “But some things will always remain the same. The importance of telling relevant stories will never change.”