George Pham-A Self-Reflective Cinematographer

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Steve Rachman: “George is a very thoughtful and creative student with cool taste in literature and music. For my class, he wrote a delightfully trippy and highly imaginative adaptation of Hansel and Gretel, entitled “Harry and Gretta.” It was a road-picture in miniature. He also created a remarkable film-poem “Black Bottom” for the “Filmetry” show. With such first-rate work, I am sure we will be hearing from George.”

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

I would describe my time as equal parts chaotic, fun, energetic, anxiety-inducing, dreadful, thought-provoking, and downright magical. I had the intense privilege of being able to study topics that appealed to my highest excitement, and for that I will be forever grateful. I saw myself be challenged like I never was before, fail, and finally learn from my mistakes to be in the position I am today. There were times when I felt lost or that perhaps I was doing the wrong thing until, finally- the resolution. I accomplished and exceeded every goal that I set for myself in the beginning.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

The first thing that comes to my mind, as I’m sure it does for the other classmates with which I undertook this journey with was the Film In Britain study abroad program during the summer of 2019. During the six weeks (I believe that was the length?) we stayed in England, I’d experienced so much of life outside my previous sphere of existence. Everything was new and exciting, you could actually see the extensive history of the places we visited. Being thrown into this entirely new world with a group of strangers to explore was nothing short of magical. That program opened my eyes to the breadth of what humans can experience and accomplish in a short span of time. By far my favorite class taken on Michigan State’s campus was Brian Kusch’s advanced lighting and camera course. Essentially all we did for each long class period was play with different types of camera and lighting equipment for all sorts of shooting situations. That hands on technical training was what I previously felt was missing from my education, and that class filled that gap for me.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

There is opportunity everywhere, you just have to look for it. And, in the beginning, say “yes” to every project.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them?

My current capstone project is to film a short pilot television episode in which I am one of two actors. Rarely will you ever find me somewhere not behind the camera, but for this project my talent was needed elsewhere. I was excited to step away and let someone take the charge on the production side of things, as well as to see what I possess in terms of acting ability.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

My ultimate hope is to simply work in high-end video production. To whatever capacity, and by whatever path I take to get there. I would love to stick to the camera department, and in my mind that means joining the International Cinematographers Guild. If that is not the case, then to be a high-end freelance cinematographer. For the near future, I hope I find my footing in the city of my choosing to lay a strong foundation for the career ahead of me.

f you’re interested in doing so, please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during the ongoing pandemic. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

This has certainly been the most tumultuous time period of my entire life by far. I believe that opportunity can arise from disaster, and that’s partly what has kept me going through this. Despite the world shutting down, time and time again I keep proving to myself that I am fit for what I want to do. Books and music have been an excellent escape for me just as they were when I was young. The most useful resource to me during this time was self reflection and trying to connect back to what makes me happy on a fundamental level.