Paying Dues Pays Off: What It's Like to Work in Production at Disney, DreamWorks, and Marvel

 

Originally from a small town in New Zealand, Jessica Choi moved to Los Angeles in 2007 to pursue an education in film at USC. While at USC, Choi gained invaluable experience interning for FX and ABC, and managed to graduate early in 2010. Since then, she has worked on several productions across major studios such as Warner Brothers, Disney, and DreamWorks. Currently, she calls powerhouse Marvel her new home.

What training or experience led you to earn this position?

I can say without hesitation that I’ve learned more from my mentors and peers than I did from any other form of “training.” The film industry is ever-changing with new software, better workflows, and mediums, but you can always rely on the people. Every experience or training, whether on the job or through books and classes, has always been enhanced by the people that came with it.

What does an average work day look like for you at Marvel?

Shots! Shots! Shots! It’s all about the shots. Marvel collaborates with an array of VFX houses around the world. I help manage the shots coming in from multiple vendors, currently from London and Vancouver. As you can imagine, it’s a whirlwind!

We deal with countless changes throughout the day – shots are in picture, out of picture, and constantly being revised, then revised again! We make sure the vendors and their teams are aware of these changes, and are still able to complete their work before the release date.

What is your favorite, and most difficult part about working in film production?

I’ve always been fascinated by the film making process; that is, seeing something go from a simple idea on a page, then onto story boards, to previs (previsualization), and finally to a complex visual beast on the screen! The process is absolutely beautiful, and is definitely my favorite part of the job. That, and the popcorn.

The most difficult part of production is watching shots, or even whole sequences, get cut from a movie. You form an attachment to the jokes and beats, and the teams that worked hard to create them. I can’t bear they not see the light of day.

What is the company culture like at Marvel?

Even though Marvel is a big company, each production is its own little start-up. I always hoped that in some other life I would be a budding entrepreneur, so I guess this brings me pretty close. It’s refreshing and most importantly, fun. If you’ve seen the movie Big with Tom Hanks, it’s just a bunch of Josh’s running around refusing to adult!

If you could talk to your teenage self, what would you say?

Ha! That I’m the last person you should be talking to! But at the very least, I would say… #1 There will always be someone who tells you no, just don’t let it be yourself. #2 Los Angeles is a city chock-full of passionate and inspiring people- find your mentors! #3 You might spend a Christmas break individually wrapping fifty Australian branded UGG boots for a development executive. Calm down, it’s all a part of the process. Just try not to throw them out onto Barham Blvd…

– What does it mean to you to Find Your Grind?

To Find Your Grind for me means grinding for something you’re passionate about, something you enjoy doing every day, and something you’re willing to work for! If I won the lotto today, you best believe I’ll still be in the screening room tomorrow.

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