Creative Producing (MFA)
Ese Obrimah shares the value of gaining experience outside of the classroom.
What would you say has been the most surprising thing you learned at Columbia?
The most surprising thing I learned to do at Columbia is make coffee. I don't drink coffee so the first time I ever made it was on a film set. I was a production assistant, and this was a part of my responsibility. I did not do a good job. It taught me an important lesson about not being scared to say, 'I don't know,' even about things that seem really simple.
What experiences or courses at Columbia do you feel have been most beneficial?
My most beneficial experience at Columbia was being a part of the African Film Showcase. I found out about it the first semester of my graduate program from someone in the previous cohort and wanted to be a part it.
The African Film Showcase is a film series produced by Master of Fine Arts film students who are African. We were all passionate about films from African countries and want to show and celebrate them with others in the film program, so the work is done in our free time.
My job was to put together a list of films, determine who owned the distribution rights to each film; then contact the distributors to negotiate licensing fees and secure contractual agreements for showing the films.
Curating festivals and negotiating festivals was not a part of the studies in my program, yet it exposed me to a different side of the industry I hope to work in and I'm grateful to have that insight.
What are your plans for after graduation?
After graduation, I plan to stay in Chicago developing my slate of projects while working as a production manager on local independent film sets.
Do you have any advice for current students?
I would advise current students to really immerse themselves in the art communities in Chicago. They are a great resource to us, but also a wonderful community to join. I also encourage students to get involved outside the classroom and create opportunities for themselves. If there is something you want to see that doesn't currently exist, make it happen.