Wise Words

ORLANDO, Fla. (April 10, 2017) — UCF Celebrates the Arts, now in its third year, hosted a panel April 9 featuring four alumni who discussed how to “Go Far with a Degree in the Arts.”

We share some of the lessons learned in the two-hour panel that was held at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and live streamed on UCF’s official Facebook page.

First, get to know the panelists.

(L to R): Christopher Walker, Georginia Hurge, Randy Hurt, Elissa Cordero Hansen

Elissa Cordero Hansen ’10 works in Los Angeles as a stereoscopic artist (stereo-what? Stereoscopy is a technique for creating or enhancing the illusion of depth in an image, often used to create a 3D-effect). The digital media alumna currently works at Walt Disney Animation Studios and has collaborated on feature films such as “Big Hero 6,” “Zootopia” and “Moana.”

Georginia Hurge ’12, a film alumna, is project manager and in-house producer at the Orlando-based company Strong Films, which focuses on the experience of a brand or product. Strong Films has worked with companies such as Disney, Universal and Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, and is responsible for the viral video The Thank You Project.

Christopher Walker ’08 is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and member of the production company and filmmaking collective, No Weather Productions, based in New York City. His directorial debut “Welcome to Leith” premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Starting out as an editor, the cinema studies alumnus has cut films on subjects including street dance, the War on Drugs and white supremacy.

Randy Hunt ’05, who earned his degree in art with a specialty in graphic design, is vice president of design at Etsy, where he leads a team of designers, researchers, writers and artists creating the end-to-end brand and product experience, both online and off. Etsy was honored with the National Design Award in 2014.

Lesson 1: A career in the arts is hard but not impossible.

“A lot of people ask me why I chose to pursue a career in the arts. It can be a really tough industry. To me, it never really felt like a choice. It’s really important to have that passion because that’s what is going to drive you to work hard and keep trying even when you fail.” – Elissa Cordero Hansen

“My time at UCF gave me the tools that allowed me to do what I’m doing. It’s not easy, at all. I don’t want to sugar coat it. But if you really believe in what you’re doing, it’s easy to start doing it.” – Christopher Walker

Lesson 2: Be resourceful and find great mentors.

“Luckily, I’ve got really great mentors at Disney that are always there to answer my dumb questions. I make it a habit to write everything down so I never ask the same question twice. For me, I’ve found that fear is a really good motivator. If I needed to, I would stay late on my personal time and figure out how to do things. I would give myself a time limit. If I can’t figure this out in one hour, I’m going to ask for help.” – Elissa Cordero Hansen

Lesson 3: Even if you aren’t a classic “creative type,” you can pursue the arts.

“I wouldn’t necessarily classify myself as creative but it’s always exciting to be around creative energy and around those kind of people. I think what’s important for me that I’ve learned is there is space for you being in a creative environment even if you’re not typically what people consider as creative or an artist. Take what you are good at and hone those skill sets. You can contribute to help make something beautiful.” – Georginia Hurge

Lesson 4: Get by with a little help from your friends.

“A lot of people that we work with at Stronger Films are people we went to school with or people that we know. You know that you can trust their quality of work and who they are. They’re going to give their best effort because you have a relationship with them. You trust each other, you respect each other not only as friends but as colleagues. That’s huge, especially if you’re a small business and you’re trying to build and grow. You want to have people in your corner who respect your craft and can also help you achieve the things that you need to get done.” – Georginia Hurge

“When we started a marketplace business, the first software developer we hired was a person I had a high school job with. He was also a competent software engineer (laughs) but the reason I knew he existed was because he had been friends. … Building relationships with professional colleagues, peer colleagues – we use each other for all sorts of information and problems we might need to solve.” – Randy Hunt

“When I started individual language, I instantly connected with everyone in my class because we had so much in common and that had never happened to me before. I feel like that’s what kind of made me find my voice. When you have to create art and show it to your whole class, it can be really scary, so having a group that you’re comfortable with, it pushes you to experiment with things and you’re less afraid to be vulnerable and to show them things that might suck, but they don’t care because they’re your friends and won’t judge you for it. Everywhere I’ve worked, the thing I’ve taken away with me the most is the friendships that I’ve made.” – Elissa Cordero Hansen

Lesson 5: Take risks.

“My advice is to take advantage of every opportunity that you get to learn and grow and give it all of your effort. Don’t feel like you have to have the perfect portfolio or reel before you take those risks because chances are as an artist, you’re never going to feel 100 percent ready and you could miss out on some incredible opportunities.” -– Elissa Cordero Hansen, who knew nothing about stereoscopy (her current field) when she applied to an entry level position at Digital Domain, a prestigious visual effects company. Spoiler alert: she got the job.

“I wouldn’t worry about the fact that ‘I’m studying the arts and I need to get a job.’ Your educational experience will prepare you for things in life whether or not you’re in that space. That pressure to make it be something really specific, I think, can block you from discovery of new things.” – Randy Hunt

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