Many aspiring actors can greatly benefit from the technical background offered by a filmmaking program. F.I.R.S.T. Institute Film and Video Production program graduate Chris Wall discusses how his lifelong love for acting turned into a passion for film and what he’s been involved in since film school in this Film Graduate Spotlight!
WHEN DID YOU FIRST START GETTING INTERESTED IN FILM?
Well, I’ve always just really liked movies. I think the first movie that got me into it was the first Star Wars film. I was just like, “Wow, look at this amazing stuff that these people made. I want to make that.” That just started the interest off for me. As I got older, I realized that’s what I wanted to do.
HAS FILMMAKING SPECIFICALLY ALWAYS BEEN A PASSION OF YOURS?
It hasn’t always been my foremost passion, but, like I mentioned, I’ve always loved the idea of movies. When I was a kid I would take action figures and move them around in front of the camera to have little action scenes and I would film little short things with my friends in the yard, but acting was always really my first love. I went to high school for that, summer camps for stage acting, and things like that. In my second year of high school, I was like, “Well, I love doing acting so why not take a film class too and try that?” After that, I was like, “Wow, I want to this full time.” They kind of both became my focus.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO FULLY PURSUE THIS AS A CAREER?
In high school; that’s when I was like, “This is what I’m good at.” Film is something that was cultivated in me from the acting — I realized that what I really loved doing as a whole is entertaining people. I love making people laugh and giving them something entertaining to watch, whether that’s through acting or making films. It just seemed like a natural progression. It just came to me really easily and I realized that I was good at it and I loved doing it and needed to do it.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GO TO A SCHOOL VERSUS LEARNING ON YOUR OWN?
When I was in sophomore English class in high school, my English teacher showed us a quote that said “you have to know the rules before you can break them” and that really resonated with me. There’s a lot you can learn on your own in the film industry, but I wanted to make sure that I had the most knowledge about how to do this stuff so I knew for myself that I was doing it right and then I figured I could branch off and do my own thing after I had that solid foundation from film school.
Chris getting his makeup done for the independent film, Inhabited.
WHAT WERE YOUR GOALS WHEN YOU WERE JUST STARTING OUT IN FILMMAKING?
One of the main goals has always been to start my own studio and make my own films. I have so many ideas but a lot of them are weird and things that I know wouldn’t get the same kind of love if I just handed them to some other studio or someone else. So my plan of action in my head has always been to start my own studio.
Then that goal became to start my own studio to help people with their own, conventionally unmarketable ideas. I have a big thing about there not being enough creativity in Hollywood now. I know that sounds generic, but my thought process has always been that if there had been someone else out there to start these weird projects, other people might see that and inject some new blood into the lineup of films instead of just producing the 17th remake of some action franchise like we’ve seen happening.
CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR JOB OR COMPANY NOW?
Right now I’m between film jobs after a back injury that made me relocate. In Orlando, I was working for Michael Bouffa, a freelance video guy. We would go mostly do video testimonials for big companies and some real estate photography. That was really fun for me because we would do everything together; it was just us setting up equipment, filming, and doing the questions. It was fun getting hands on in every aspect and helping out on the creative front as well. I’m really thankful for him letting me do all of that. He was nice enough to let me get my hands on as much as I could with him.
SINCE GRADUATION, CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT SOME OF THE INTERESTING WORK YOU HAVE DONE IN THIS INDUSTRY?
I helped out while I was at F.I.R.S.T. Institute with Trent Duncan with one of his short films, Inhabited. I was a soldier that had gotten hit with a grenade right before the movie started and came back as a zombie. I had this awesome, gory makeup. It was super fun — I love practical makeup and gore effects like that.
Right after graduation, I got to work the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant as assistant video editor. That was fun getting the real world experience of seeing how these editors work putting together something big like that.
I also worked for the Headdress Ball as a crew member. Setting up a giant stage, a giant metal arch… it’s fun having a nice variety of things to do — not just filmmaking, but helping real editors, building awesome set pieces and being able to act. I love learning about as much as I can and doing as much as I can in the film industry.
I was also Assistant Director on a short film for Todd Thompson which was fun because it was a really personal project for him about his grandfather when he was a child. It was great being able to help him, and it reminded me of when I was working with Trent. It’s great just watching the directors’ excitement and determination watching these very personal things come to life in front of them.
A shot from the set of Amerigo, a short film on which Chris was Assistant Director to Todd Thompson.
WHAT’S THE MOST REWARDING PART OF YOUR JOB?
The most rewarding is either seeing the final product or watching the directors’ excitement as they see their visions come to life.
3-5 YEARS FROM NOW, WHAT DO YOUR CAREER GOALS LOOK LIKE?
I hope to at least have a production company name registered so I can be making my own projects under that name. I’m currently in the process of writing down a really important script so I’m hoping that’s done by then, and I hope to have a couple more big things either done or flushed out by then so I can start shopping my script around. I’d also like to try to find some work on big film projects, whether short films or nice feature films.
HOW DID ATTENDING F.I.R.S.T. INSTITUTE IMPACT YOUR LIFE/CAREER?
Attending F.I.R.S.T. Institute was really good for me, it gave me exactly what I was looking for because I wanted to learn as much as I could. I met so many fun people with good creative minds and ideas. I learned a lot from my other classmates as well. It really helped give me perspective on all the different things you can do and aside from just teaching you, they’re introducing you to other people and their motivations. It puts your goals in perspective.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO IS LOOKING TO GET STARTED IN FILM?
Everybody says this, but just try to get your foot in the door as soon as possible. Schools like F.I.R.S.T. Institute have a lot of resources for helping you find a job. Talk with guidance counselors who are super willing to help you find something. Just find something ASAP even if it’s just holding the script for the director. Any work will help you get to know people and you can take off from there.
FILM CAREERS ARE ONLY A FEW MONTHS AWAY!
There are many careers in the film industry available, and you can start on the road to yours like Chris did by enrolling at F.I.R.S.T. Institute‘s Film and Video Production School. There’s no better place to learn filmmaking hands on, in real studio settings, with small class sizes that give you the best access to equipment and instructors. Faculty at F.I.R.S.T. Institute’s Orlando film school are working film industry professionals who have a passion for mentoring the next generation of filmmakers.
Contact our admissions representatives today for more information on how you can launch a career in the film industry and take a tour of the campus. Start on your path to any number of film careers at one of the best film schools in Florida today!