Kevin "Hal" Reynolds
Director Kevin Reynolds, BA '74, JD '76, is one of Baylor's best-known gifts to Hollywood. The story of how president emeritus Herbert H. Reynolds' son translated a law degree into one of filmdom's quirkiest careers has been well-chronicled in recent years.
But for all of alleged creative differences with Steven Speilberg and Kevin Costner, Reynolds has managed to produce some of Tinseltown's most offbeat films in recent years, including "Fandango," "Waterworld," "The Beast," "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," "Rapa Nui," "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "187."
Derek Haas & Michael Brandt
The bicoastal screenwriting regime of best friends Derek Haas, BA '91, MA '95, and Michael Brandt, BBA '91, MA '93, was all the rage when Brad Pitt tentatively agreed to star in their screenplay, "The Courier." Although the Hollywood project hasn't yet panned out (and the film Pitt made in its place, "The Mexican," was a box-office failure), it was hardly a wobble in the duo's burgeoning careers.
Haas and Brandt were the primary writers on John Singleton's "2 Fast 2 Furious" and "Battle World" for FOX 2000, a big-budget action movie produced by Barry Josephson of "Men in Black" fame.
The two are working on various projects that are in different stages at MGM, Miramax and Universal, all amid a sea of UCLA, USC and American Film Institute graduates. "I definitely have a step up because Baylor's telecommunication department is relatively small; the professors have so much more room to maneuver," Brandt says.
"When I started grad school, I said, 'I want to be a director,'" he says. "Dr. Michael Korpi said, 'Well, I don't think I can teach you how to do that, but I can teach you how to become an editor, and that is a stepping stone to being a director.' For the next few years -- and except for the few required classes I had to take to get my degree -- everything I did in the department was geared toward my goals. If I had gone to USC or UCLA, I would have been a minnow swimming along with the school, and I would have been lucky if I got to make one movie. Derek and I made two movies, and that was 100 percent because of Baylor."
Haas says his undergraduate and graduate studies in English at Baylor also gave him an advantage. "Studying literature in graduate school, I was exposed to, read and consumed everything I could get my hands on," he says. "I think from a writing standpoint, we have a good partnership grounded in Michael's skills as an editor and mine as a student of film and literature. Blending those together, that's where we've had success."
According to Brandt, it is hard to explain the sheer number of people from Baylor who are at least making a living in Hollywood, but he says it started with one person.
In Hollywood, Haas and Brandt connected with fellow alumnus John Hancock, who was both gracious and welcoming, even as he worked on "A Perfect World," they say.
"John would have done anything to help us," Brandt says, "but until you have a script that is worthwhile, there is absolutely nothing you can do for somebody. Kids call us and we have lunch with them. All you can do is ... offer up your story, try and give them support and read their scripts. But if their scripts aren't good enough to sell, there's nothing you can do."
Brandt and Haas have had success in writing screenplays, and while the vagaries of the film industry are such that everything could go sour tomorrow, both are enjoying every minute of it.
"We were sitting in Miami," Haas recalls, "and it was one of those days where we were up in an office until 11:30 at night still banging out the script and still working out the ending. We left to go have a cigar and we were ready to start complaining about our day. Suddenly, we looked around and said, 'This is great! What do we have to complain about?"
William "Bill" Bickley
There are few situation comedies that haven't felt the magic touch of Bill Bickley, BA '69. The veteran writer/director is one of the creators of popular shows like "Step by Step" (1991) and "Family Matters" (1989). His writing credits include episodes of "All in the Family," "Love, American Style," "Laverne and Shirley," "Happy Days," "Joanie Loves Chachi" and the film "Hawmps!"
Glenn Abernathy, BA '93, MA '95, has seen Hollywood's highs and lows. He helped develop the idea and script for the Warner Bros. remake of "Ocean's Eleven," working closely with WB executives, the producer, Jerry Weintraub, and writer, Ted Griffin, for more than two years.
Abernathy's latest project, an animated version of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," suddenly faltered when the distributor backed out at the last minute and FOX decided to cancel the show. Still, he remains remarkably sanguine about the Tinseltown rollercoaster.
"The information I learned at Baylor is far less important than the people to whom I was exposed," he says. "I had several amazingly dynamic professors at Baylor who really opened new doors in my brain and created a real thirst for knowledge that still exists today."
One of Paul Baker's many protégés, Clu Gulager, BM '51, BA '56, has appeared in some of Hollywood's best-known films, including "The Killers" with Ronald Reagan, "The Last Picture Show" and "The Other Side of Midnight." Other films include "Tapeheads," "Puppet Master 5," "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" and the immortal "Nightmare on Elm Street 2."
His TV credits include "The Virginian," "The Streets of San Francisco," "Wagon Train," "The Untouchables," "Marcus Welby M.D," and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."
Today he operates the long-running Clu Gulager Acting Workshop.
Miriam Nethery Gulager
Clu Gulager's wife, Miriam Gulager, BM '50, has some pretty impressive credits of her own. She appeared in "Bound for Glory," "Victory at Entebbe," "Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III," "Civil War Diary," "Vic" and "In the Line of Duty."
Her television appearances include "Mr. Belvedere," "Highway to Heaven," "Barney Miller," "Charlie's Angels" and "Alice and Starsky and Hutch."
The Gulagers also appeared in a condensed version of Baylor Theater's production of "A Different Drummer," directed by Paul Baker, which appeared on the CBS-TV series "Omnibus" in 1955.
One of the early graduates of the professional writing program, Mark Olsen, BA '89, and his frequent writing partner, Bret McKinney, BA '89, have made all the right moves. Olsen signed a two-book deal with Bethany House and has contracted to co-write a third book, a novelized treatment of the Old Testament book of Esther.
Three different Olsen/McKinney screenplays attracted major media attention. Their romantic comedies "Dying to Meet You" and "Safe Guys" attracted such varied suitors as producer Lamont Cain ("It's All About the Benjamins") and Jennifer Love Hewitt ("Party of Five," "Tuxedo"). Olsen says a third script, one written with a different co-writer, has the interest of Ascendant Pictures.
On the heels of his novel "Refuge," Olsen is co-authoring a business book titled "Change is Like a Slinky."
Despite his various hats, Olsen says Baylor's writing programs equipped him to face any challenge. "My English classes gave me a wonderful appreciation for good writing, for the craft and for the wonder of a well-told story," he says. "Specifically, the professional writing classes gave me hope that I might be able to make a living as a creative writer. I don't think I could have ever made it without the education I got at Baylor."
Unlike some of his contemporaries, Olsen has resisted the urge to move to Los Angeles from his home in Manitou Springs, Colo. Mark and wife Connie, BSED '79, have two children.
"I'm blessed with a partner like Bret who likes L.A. a lot more than I do. My dream is that as we continue a partnership and pursue our goal of getting a multifaceted deal with a studio, Bret will stay out there, and I can shuttle back and forth."
He may have the same name as a certain famous television star, but Kirk Cameron, BA '88, is very much his own person.
Working at various post/titles houses in Los Angeles, Cameron has crafted some of Hollywood's most compelling opening title sequences -- some so replete with animation and special effects that they're better than the movies they precede.
Cameron also has his own record label, the trance-dominated Fragrant Music imprint, including groups like Trinity Sight, Endorphin and Day Spring.
In less than 10 years in Hollywood, Kevin Childress, BA '94, has worked as a film editor on various music videos and concerts featuring artist such as Henry Rollins, Green Day, Metallica, Krayzie Bone, Inspecta Deck and Chris Rock.
He also was a supervisory film editor on a series for MTV called "Biorhythm" and edited nine episodes including a piece on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which was nominated for an International Banff Award.
Childress worked on television commercials for "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," the international theatrical trailer for Warner Brothers' "Dreamcatcher" and the theatrical trailer for New Line Cinema's "Willard."
Valerie K. Dillingham, BA '92, is senior writer and producer of NBC on-air promotions, writing, producing and editing the commercials for the Thursday night comedy lineup -- "Friends," "Scrubs," "Will & Grace" and any new shows that fill in the gaps.
During the fall season, the bulk of her work consists of the weekly episodic promotion; the slower summer schedule allows her to use different promotional tactics. For instance, she's able to go to different sets to shoot NBC talent "behind the scenes" and then use that footage to create a softer, less histrionic fall launch campaign.
Dillingham knew at a very young age that she wanted to be involved in "the biz."
"I was the strange 7-year-old who, after spending a summer watching the "Today" show, proclaimed, 'I want to do what Jane Pauley does,'" she recalls. "I didn't know exactly what that meant -- and later the thought of ever being on camera was laughable -- all I knew was that she seemed really smart, could talk to important people in the world and seemed to have a good time doing it every day -- and she worked at NBC! So that was it, I was going to work at NBC when I got big."
Dillingham says her parents raised her with the belief that with hard work, she could accomplish anything she set out to do. "It never entered my mind that I couldn't do it," she says.
Another encouraging person in Dillingham's life was Frank Fallon, "The Voice of Baylor." "Frank was in charge of KWBU while I was there -- and maybe it was because of that amazing voice -- but I would have followed him anywhere! Under Frank, I got my first taste of live production work at Baylor home football games, as well as my first paid advertising gig at KWBU as the promotions director."
Dillingham embraced every opportunity that exposed her to different media -- TV, print and radio. "Experiences like that can only help you down the road, and you never know who you might encounter in the process."
Through a strange twist of events, Dillingham's resume ended up on the desk of a person at Warner Bros. in Burbank, Calif., she says. He called to encourage her and, "Within a month of that phone call, I was answering phones in the department I still work in -- nine years later."
Del Shores, BA '80, graduated from Baylor one day and moved to Hollywood the next. Since then, he's had a remarkable run of successes on the stage, generally writing about Texas and Texans.
His hits include "Sordid Lives," "Daddy's Dyin'..." "Who's Got the Will" and his latest, "Southern Baptist Sissies." Several of Shores' plays have been made into movies, and he also produces, directs and acts.
Gavin Black, BA '98, is director of acquisitions and development for Providence Entertainment in Los Angeles, a theatrical distributor for family-friendly films such as "Extreme Days" and "Joyriders."
Black says Brian Elliott, senior lecturer of communication, has been a huge influence on his career. "After my junior year, I told him I was going to move to Hollywood after graduation. He took that very seriously and, to ensure my success here, spent countless hours helping me hone my skills. Dr. Cory Carbonara was also an incredible help. He made himself so approachable to students. I was very comfortable going to him for advice, and I learned a lot of great things from him."
Black attributes the number of Baylor graduates working in the film and TV industries in part to the caring attitude among Baylor professors.
"We're well-trained in our crafts, we know how to work with others and we've had a lot of help and support from our professors," he says. "There's also a certain determination that students get from Baylor. We learned from our professors that if you want to do something, you can't wait around for something to happen. You just have to do it. A lot of people dream of working in Hollywood, but Baylor students are taught how to make it a reality."
Louan Gideon, BA '78, has been a lot of things -- a Baylor Beauty, a jazz singer in Europe and a successful television actress.
She's appeared in several TV series, including "Night Court," "Silk Stalkings," "Thirtysomething," "Beverly Hills 90210," "Titus" and "Saved by the Bell." Gideon is probably most recognized for her recurring role in "The Secret World of Alex Mack."
Bryan Belknap, BA '93, isn't satisfied with succeeding in just one area. The media editor for Group magazine and www.MinistryAndMedia.com also has published a book, Ultimate Skits. For Belknap, the key has been relationships. "I've kept in touch with people who now work in the industry," he says, mentioning Brandon Dickerson, Kevin Childress and Michael Brandt.
The local host of NPR's "All Things Considered" in Santa Monica, Calif., stays busy. When Cindi Burkey, BA '89, is not doing local news, traffic and advance promos for the public broadcasting station, she gives weather reports and announces special events and giveaways on station KCRW. She also gives weekend traffic reports for Metro Networks/Westwood One.
Burkey fell in love with radio on KWBU. "The Baylor radio station was invaluable in steering me toward radio as a career," she says. "Having hands-on practice in everything from news to music deejaying was excellent groundwork for moving into commercial radio -- before I became an NPR chick."
Among the Bears who have made their presence known at Cannes is Brandon Dickerson, BA '94, a video guy who increasingly is turning his eye toward feature-length projects.
At Cannes, he won a Golden Lion for one of his commercials. He's created arresting videos for Sixpence None the Richer, Michael W. Smith, the Newsboys, Delirious, Switchfoot, Montrell Derret and Chasing Furies. He's also booked a JC Penny commercial campaign.
Few Baylor grads have had a quicker rise than Geoff Moore, BA '98, a development executive with Mad Chance Productions.
Moore sells ideas -- in the course of an average day, he says he could be working on any one of the 30 projects Mad Chance has in different stages of development. "That ranges from a book to a script that has been written, to magazine articles, newspaper articles, new life rights, to plays," he says. "Any sort of written work that can be source material -- some of our projects started as blurbs in a magazine. The fun and challenging part of the job is finding something that is not only exciting and cinematic, but that somebody else hasn't found."
In recent years, Moore has had a hand in such diverse films as "Space Cowboys," "The Death of Smoochie" and "The War Between Cats and Dogs." Current projects include George Clooney's "Confessions of A Dangerous Mind." "God Forsaken" (starring Wesley Snipes and Penelope Cruz), the sequel to "The War Between Cats and Dogs" (Mad Chance's biggest hit) and a remake of a Danish movie currently titled "Catch That Girl," which will feature Mike Brandt as producer and Derek Haas as screenwriter.
"I'm so excited about that -- I've been their biggest fan since I started working here," Moore says. "I thought that it was in the air -- a Baylor producer and a Baylor writer."
Moore credits the University Scholars Program for his grounded liberal arts education. "I was able to do some creative things while at the same time, synthesizing them with scholastic work. Even though I didn't have the film training, I feel like that liberal arts education was the best background I could have had for this job. I love what I do. I love being involved in the story side."
Carol "Cookie" Cook
Carol Cook, BA '45, and her husband Tom Troupe are known as "The Lunts of L.A. Theater." She created two enduring Broadway roles -- Maggie Jones in "42nd Street" and Blanche Daly in "Romantic Comedy." Her films include "The Incredible Mr. Limpet," "American Gigolo," "The Gauntlet" and "Sixteen Candles."
Cook's regular television credits included "Cagney and Lacey" and "Dynasty." She also appeared on "Murder, She Wrote," "Laverne & Shirley," "Kojak," "Charlie's Angels," "Here's Lucy" and "The Lucille Ball Show." Cook was a protégée of Lucille Ball and lived with her for a time.
If it sounds like producer Orian Williams just kind of backed into a successful Hollywood, then so be it. While taking a communications class at Baylor, the 1990 telecommunications grad was accidentally roped into taking the film-maker of a small indie action film on a tour of Waco, scouting for locations. The film (Action U.S.A.) didn't make much of dent, but it launched Williams on a journey that has included a stint as associate producer of Shadow of the Vampire and other upcoming projects.
"I started off as a business major with an interest in entertainment, but not specifically anything like movies or music," he says. "It was just an open slew of ideas that I thought maybe I'd act -- I had no idea. All these guys that worked on Action U.S.A. said, 'If you want to make it in film, you've got to move to L.A.' I changed my major to communications, and immediately knew this was my calling. Four days after I graduated, I moved to Los Angeles. It was the right thing to do. I had no idea what I was in store for; I just came out here blindly. Things started to unfold after about ten years."
Another Hollywood overnight success story!
In the years that followed, Williams worked in commercials, for publicists, and in the music industry. He dabbled in acting (with a few small screen credits), but mostly learned not only from the business side of the business, but the practical side of it as well. One of his many long-time connections was director Elias Merhige. Together, they produced Shadow of the Vampire with Nicholas Cage.
Today Williams is working on various projects with Merhige, Cage, Leonardo DiCaprio, Donal Logue, Henry Thomas, and the estate of literary legend Walker Percy.
"Walker Percy is someone who inspired Donal," Williams says. "I'd only heard of him but not read his works over the years. Now I'm quite familiar with him, and we've optioned a book called The Second Coming. It's very special to me for many reasons. The author was raised in Mississippi, and part of the reason that his widow, his wife, gave me the rights to this story was because of my links to Mississippi. Coincidentally, the representative for the estate, and his agent, actually loved Shadow of the Vampire. So it was a set of circumstances and coincidences which kind of came together.
"I feel this is a huge part of this town. It's not always who you know, it's gathering as much information as you can, going on your gut feeling, and being as cautiously optimistic as possible -- knowing at any moment it could not happen. It's almost like convincing everyone: 'This is possible, this is real, and you're bringing something intangible to the tangible.' It's really a weird business out here."
As a producer, Williams takes a script, a book, an idea, or a thought, and brings it into existence by convincing other people that this is something that needs to be made.
"It's almost like you have to say you're making a movie before you actually see any evidence that it's being made," he says. "I love being in that situation. Producing is the cumulative of all of my passions, the written word, cinema, acting, dialog -- it has everything in it that I love, and that's why I like movies so much."
Baylor's greatest gift, he says, is the sense of community it continues to foster, even though he's a long way from Texas.
"With Baylor, I've probably met 25 people who not only regularly call me, but have come and visited," Williams says. "It's family, whereas I don't think other colleges project that sort of community, family fellowship. Nothing against those colleges, they have great things, but Baylor, when you enter that school you're part of a group of people that love each other. The foundation is obviously religion, whether people believe in religion or a specific religion, there is an understanding that we're all linked in this very spiritual way. That is what stays with you, and when you come to Los Angeles, you want that connection, that understanding, that family that I sought out as soon as I arrived.
"What an honor, what a treat to have this opportunity to create, and leave something behind that will move people - even if it just a handful of people. Everything in Baylor instills that -- at least from the way I look at it."
Few people have as eclectic resumes as Doug Rogers. The 1983 graduate (BA in Art), was one of two art directors on the monster hit Shrek, crafted the award-winning designs for Monterey, Mexico's, new elevated train system, served as art director for one of Pavarotti's world tours, did designs for the Shakespeare Festival of Los Angeles, and - lately - crafted the limited edition covers for the oh-so-chic Hint Mints.
Few people have had as eclectic background as Jim Hillin (Bachelor of Music Education, '79). Hillin left a promising career in music to work in Hollywood's digital revolution and became a well-respected screenwriter in the process.
Before spending nearly five years working on Disney's Dinosaur, Hillin worked in special effects and computer graphic animation on a variety of films, including Interview with a Vampire, Apollo 13, True Lies, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Robo Cop II, and the not-so-legendary Felix the Cat, The Movie ("You always start off with a few films that will stick with you the rest of your life!" he says.)
For the past few years he's been screenwriting full-time, working both with Tom Sito (the animation director of Osmosis Jones) and screenplay legend Syd Field
"I've known Syd almost ten years now," Hillin says. "I started out going to a master class of his in 1992 with Twentieth Century Fox, and just kept writing, kept writing, while I was doing visual effects on other films. When I started doing this full-time, he asked me if I wanted to write a screenplay with him.
"We haven't sold anything yet; we're in the process of pitching it and trying to get it sold. This last year, because of September 11th, and because of the threatened writer/actor strike in 2001, was a real bad year for getting anything going, and especially with the economy heading south at the same time. The producers, and studios that would normally buy things and have a lot happening, were stuck not knowing what to do. In the previous threatened writers strike, it took about a year and a half for everyone to recover and get going again."
Still, it something of circuitous route for a saxophone major at Baylor to have a development deal with Disney. But to hear Hillin tell the story, it is (reasonably) logical progression.
While at Baylor, Hillin studied with Dr. Richard Shanley. From there, he worked on his masters at the University of California at Northridge, a top musical school.
"I would say that my movie career gave me the tenacity; it also gave me the discipline to carry on," he says. "One thing about Baylor, it was a tough school. If you go there and it's the only college you ever go to, it's like having your own family. But then I go to graduate school, and compared to Baylor, I never cracked a book -- graduate school was a piece of cake compared to going to Baylor. Richard and Helen Shanley were practically like a second family to me.
"Also at the time I was there Dick Floyd was the director of bands. I really admired his professionalism. In my mind, he was like the perfect CEO. What he would do is. before any of our rehearsals, he would have it down to the minute as to how long it took to rehearse each different piece. He knew exactly what he needed to do, exactly what needed to happen, and had goals for every one of those things. Now that I'm in the corporate world, if only all people worked that way. It was amazing to watch this guy, how hard he worked and worked with everybody else. He was the consummate professional."
From Northridge, Hillin began studying film scoring and accompaniment, which led him to Hollywood, which led him to film. Always a fan of horror movies, (Hillin and his friends made home movies featuring stop action animation in high school), he soon gravitated into the then-new world of computer graphic animation. The screenwriting, he says, was a natural outgrowth of that interest.
Hillin was in Hollywood long before the current wave of Baylor grads began arriving in the mid-'80s and '90s and he admits that - in the grand scheme of things - even 50 to 100 Bears is a drop in the bucket in L.A.'s ocean of USC and UCLA and film school graduates.
"Still, the nice thing is that people like Natalie Burkhalter recently came out here
and put together a real nice little meeting over in West L.A.," he says. "It was great fun to get together -- even though I didn't know anybody -- to meet all the ex-students from Baylor. It was nice to have that organization as well, and I hope that continues."
It appears that the Paul Baker protégées can do just about anything. Take Maree Cheatham. After receiving her BA in Theater Arts at Baylor, she worked at the Dallas Theater Center, then headed for Hollywood. Since then, Cheatham has had featured roles in a host of motion pictures (Beetlejuice, America's Sweethearts, The Bachelor, The Wedding Singer, Soul Man, Night at the Roxbury, Hanging Up and Lost and Found), reoccurring and regular roles in network television (The Profiler, Dharma and Greg, The Nanny, Caroline in the City, Malcolm in the Middle and others), starring roles on daily soap operas (Days of Our Lives, Search for Tomorrow, General Hospital, Port Charles, and Knot's Landing) and award-winning roles on stage (Catch a Falling Star, Last Summer at Bluefish Cove, The New Yorkers, Monkee Grass, Ladies at the Alamo, Christmas on Mars and Clash by Night).
Nicole Girkey (December '98, Communications) is the Public Relations Manager for High Performance Prose Inc., which specializes in automotive and lifestyle public relations, marketing as well as event planning and staffing, corporate videos, web site consulting and content, media training, client representation on-air and at trade shows, and editorial writing for various magazines. (Check out their website at www.hpprose.com.) It's a young, hungry, up-and-coming business and Girkey is not shy about acknowledging her debt to her alma mater.
"Baylor gave me the courage to go after my dreams and jump at opportunities as they are presented to me and -- if they are not -- to make my own opportunities," she says. "Baylor also provided me with valuable alumni contacts to help me get in the business and give me career advice when starting out. This really helped me from becoming discouraged in the beginning, as 'the business' isn't always so glamorous your first few years."
As with many of the telecommunications majors, Brian Elliott, Mike Korpi, Cory Carbonara and the other professors in that small, tightly knit department receive much of the credit for whatever success they've enjoyed from their former students.
"Brian Elliott in the communications department totally changed my life," Girkey says. "I was really struggling when I was in college to make ends meet to support myself and pay for college as well as plan for my future. Not only did Brian open doors that led to valuable internships -- all of which led to paying jobs -- but he even helped me move to New York to work at MSNBC after I graduated. Without his help, there would have been no-way that I could have jumped at an opportunity like this.
"Brian was more than just a mentor and professor. He also served as a spiritual advisor while I was at Baylor. He was the one person who I knew that I could talk to about whatever was on my mind and he would listen and help me make the right decisions. This was particularly important since the day I graduated my father passed away. Even now, I always know that if I need advice professionally or spiritually I can turn to him and he will be there.
"There are not many universities that have a staff of professors that really are kind, genuine, wonderful people. Oh, and not a day goes by in L.A. in which I don't think of sitting in Dr. Korpi's class watching Randy Newman's 'I Love LA' video."
Producer/director Fred Miller has a lengthy resume of projects, including several well-regarded industrial and commercial films and as the co-founder of the Heart of Austin screenwriting conference and competition. But he is best-known for co-producing the towering documentary For All Mankind and directing A Most Significant Journey, a high definition look at Baylor life.
Gina Mundy works at a production company which represents documentary filmmakers, such as two-time Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple, Hoop Dreams filmmakers, Peter Gilbert and Texan Steve James (director of Hands on a Hard Body), S.R. Bindler and Dogtown and Z-Boys filmmaker Stacy Peralta for commercial spots.
"I work closely with the executive producers as a junior producer and in addition I am also their in-house editor and DVD author," she says. "We recently finished some Vans spots with Geoff Rowley and some Major League Baseball spots that were a lot of fun."
Munday cites two professors in particular as abiding influences.
"Mary Slaughter and Brian Elliott are the two professors at Baylor who stand out in my mind," she says. "Mary Slaughter's classes taught me the principals of editing and her documentary class sparked my interest in the subject. Baylor provided the groundwork for me to pursue my current career."
Here's another Telecomm (BA '86) major who is in it for the long haul. Hardage has served as Second Unit Director, Second Unit Assistant and Second Unit staff on a variety of films, including Bandits, American Outlaws, Gone in 60 Seconds, In the Blood, America's Dream and Two for Texas.
Jeffrey R. Coates
Jeffrey R. Coates is another Baylor grad (1978 BBA in Finance) and (1979 MBA in Marketing) who always knew what he wanted to do. After graduating with an MFA from Motion Picture Producing from USC in 1984, he became Michael J. Fox's hand and foot double in Back to the Future.
Well, that was one of his jobs as a Production Assistant. He also worked for Steven
Spielberg's production company Amblin Entertainment and Carol Burnett's production company Kalola Productions at the Walt Disney Studios as Burnett's Director of Development, responsible for finding film and television projects for Kalola to produce. But Coates' goal was to produce his own films.
That dream came true in December of 1996, when the Hallmark Hall of Fame aired his pet project, The Summer of Ben Tyler.
"It was an amazing roller coaster ride," Coates recalls. "The project (in the vein of To Kill A Mockingbird) is a journey of redemption and is closely based on a true story. After about five years of developing the script and numerous pitch meetings all over town, Hallmark finally bought the project. It took 14 years from my arrival in Hollywood to get to this moment - my dream of being a film producer -- and I felt like a kid in a candy store. It's amazing how incredibly energized and alive you feel when you're in the perfect job and doing what you love and feel called to do."
Alas, shortly after Ben Tyler, the TV movie market diminished considerably as the television industry faced severe economic challenges from video and cable. Since then, Coates has held numerous jobs at The Walt Disney Company and have recently re-invented his career as a TV production accountant, working the past two years on the Disney/ABC comedy My Wife and Kids starring Damon Wayans.
Despite his own up and down career, Coates is remarkably upbeat and positive, for he believes his life is in good hands.
"I'm grateful for the knowledge, discipline and clarity of moral integrity that I received at Baylor," he says, "but above all, Baylor was the place that I began my relationship with Jesus Christ. I know that this sounds corny, but the obvious and truly outstanding influence has been my relationship with God. His love and guidance has given me the strength and wisdom beyond all understanding to build, sustain and enjoy a full career.
"I accepted Christ in my Freshman year and attribute my core growth to my teachers Dr. Charlene Spoede for self-esteem and Rachel Moore for creative inspiration, and mostly to my core group of Baylor best friends - especially Gary Hardwick and Claudia Baker-Phillips, through whom God allowed me to see and experience His love in a personal way."
Better-known as one of the premiere American singer/songwriters, Nelson's also had a wonderfully eclectic - an often critically praised - acting career, starring in such films as Electric Horseman, Honeysuckle Rose, The Songwriter, Wild Texas Wind and Willie Nelson: Teatro.
Ever wonder who puts together those wonderfully catty VH1 Behind the Music and Ultimate Albums shows? They're the work, in part, of editor Mike Bary. Bary (who also freelances at FOX Digital) always been interested in the post production side of things, and arrived at Baylor at beginning of the digital revolution. (He graduated from Baylor in Fall '97 with a degree in Telecommunications.)
"There were times I think that I could have learned more if I had applied myself harder at school," he says. "After Baylor, though, was when I learned the most. Being in the 'real world' forces you to sink or swim. You have to learn things fast or you will not have a job."
Upon graduation, Bary mastered the various digital editing systems during editing jobs in Miami and Puerto Rico before ending up in Hollywood.
"Brian Elliot was a great teacher," he recalls. "Even though he is a nice guy. he would let you know when he thought you were slacking - and, as I stated earlier, I did that a couple times. And Dr. Bill Lodges. His Diffusion of Innovations class was a great class, and he is a great teacher."
Actor Randy Flagler ('92 BBA Business/Broadcasting) has had a host of acting jobs since coming to Hollywood, including commercials for AT&T, Ross, Chrysler, Dodge, the recently cancelled Fox-TV series FreakyLinks and his favorite roles, small parts in Men of Honor (Cuba Gooding Jr, Robert DeNiro) and NYPD Blue. But Flagler wasn't a theater major at Baylor, although he did participate in student films and production classes. Instead, like so many others, he found his inspiration in the person of his favorite professor, Brian Elliott.
"Brian has heart and truly cares about his students," Flagler said. "And Russ Williams was a favorite because he let me walk into my 8 am class 20 to 25 minutes late and didn't care."
Originally billed as "Little Jimmy Harrell from Waco, Texas" before he grew up, Harrell enjoyed a long and success acting career before his death on February 1, 2000. Harrell was graduated from both Waco High and Baylor University (under Paul Baker) and later received his Masters in Drama at Trinity. Some of his better-known films include Varsity Blues, Hope Floats, Michael, Leap of Faith, JFK, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The Raggedy Man, Urban Cowboy, Rolling Thunder, The Great Waldo Pepper, The Sugarland Express, and Paper Moon.
One of Baylor's earliest success stories in Hollywood, Brown was a tennis star before World War II and appeared in films like Wake Island (1942), Air Force (1943) and Going My Way (1944). Brown was also featured in a host of early television series, including Sky King, The Lone Ranger, The Adventures of Superman, Gunsmoke, Bonanza and Dallas. Major film appearances include Targets, Irma la Douce, Five Guns to Tombstone, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, A Star is Born, Crazylegs, The Pride of St. Louis, and Gus. Brown died on April 11, 1992.
Another early Baylor Theater star who made a nice career in Hollywood was Woody Chambliss. Before his death on January 8, 1981, he'd enjoyed a four-decade career in motion pictures (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Second-Hand Hearts, Scorpio, The Wild Country, and 3:10 to Yuma) and television (Huckleberry Finn, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Then Came Bronson, The Waltons, How the West Was Won, Gunsmoke, The Wild, Wild West, The Andy Griffith Show, Perry Mason and My Three Sons).
Also heavily influenced by Paul Baker was music major Jim Dickinson, who attended Baylor from 1962-63. This well-regarded musician/producer contributed original music and scores to films ranging from Paris, Texas, The Border, Streets of Fire, The Long Riders and Alamo Bay, among others.
"I have produced or recorded with musical artists from Arlo Guthrie and the Rolling Stones to Aretha Franklin and Carmen McRae," he says. "I have passed on what I learned from Prof (Baker) to two generations of artists."
One of the most recent arrivals in Hollywood is Matt Mann (August 2001, Telecommunications). Between acting classes, he's been auditioning for commercials (a recent spot of Taco Bell) and small film roles. He got his first role when, as a production assistant on a shoot, an actress didn't show up, he promptly filled in. And like his counterparts since the Paul Baker era, Mann is happy to acknowledge those Baylor professors who have had an influence on his life.
"I can't say enough about Brian Elliott," he says. "I took a screenwriting class right before I graduated -- I wouldn't have been motivated to finish it if it wasn't for him.
He helped me understand that I need to work hard. A lot of people out here think that everything is going to be handed to them, but at a school like Baylor, you're forced to work hard because it is a tough school. Going to Baylor helped me be a step above people on studying my acting lore; some of the other people weren't as prepared."
Since arriving in Los Angeles, Mann says he has tried to maintain his Baylor connections.
"When I first moved out here, the short film I was working on was through a Baylor alum," he recalls. "He actually recommended me to a director. I think it's really important to stay in touch. It helps you remember where you're from, and not let you get caught up in all the stuff that's out here."
And so many others:
Kristen Cox Dark (1994 BA Telecomm) - HD Vision Productions, A Most Significant Journey
Wayne Trimble - a camera operator on The Practice
Clint Milby (1994 BA Telecomm) - the horror film Drain-U
Tom Harris - writer, Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal
Larry Holm ('88 Telecomm) - freelance sports producer, previously on staff at ESPN
Natalie Burkholder 2001 BA Telecomm) - actress
Casey Carver (1996) BA Telecomm) - Grace Entertainment Marketing, formerly production manager for Moral Court and People's Court series
Aron Watman (2000 BA Telecomm) - account manager for a post-production house in Santa Monica, screenwriter
Todd Deeken (1995 BA Telecomm) - manager of post production operations for New Line Cinema, screenwriter
Melissa Searing (2000 BA Comm Specialist) - actress
Matt Cooper - (1996 BA Telecomm) musician/composer
Jeff Davenport - (1996 BA Telecomm) screenwriter, interim College Minister at Malibu Presbyterian
Denise Belew ('83) - theatrical agent
Loeng Wong-Sauvan - working for Pixel-Envy in Santa Monica doing VFX for music videos and films, including Destiny's Child ("Independent Woman"), Ricky Martin ("Private Emotion"), The Backstreet Boys ("The Call"), the theatrical release Sweet Home Alabama and The X-Files television series
Tommy Moreno - runs audio for Fox Sports' Best Damn Sports Show
Pepper Berry - musician, Bobot Adrenaline
Brian Helton - HD Vision Productions
Lara Moore Jones ('91 BA Telecomm) - CBS print advertising
Wayne Trimble - assistant camera operator, Picket Fences, The Practice
Frank Patterson - film director/screenwriter and associate dean and professor at Chapman University
John Hamer - (1998 BA Telecomm) camera assistant
Rebecca Trahan - (1997 BA Telecomm) former client representative for Warner Bros., now in politics
Jeff Reed - (1994 BA Telecomm) Assistant to the head of DVD production at New Line Cinema
Tom Callaway - Director of Photography, Broke Sky, several films for Showtime
Jeff Civa - (1991 BA Telecomm) film production, including several Ferelly Brothers films
Kyle Ward - screenwriter
James David Hinton - actor, Galaxina, Bugsy, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and others