OSU is Oklahoma's first Truman Honor Institution due to its number of Truman Scholars.
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Student works with movie stars and OStateTV
They may not know his name, but most students at Oklahoma State University have seen his work.
Paul West, a broadcast journalism senior from Sharpsville, Ind., can list television shows and a Hollywood movie on his resume. Lately, he’s used his freelance experience to produce videos for OStateTV.
“I became interested in film as a seventh grader when my family went to Panama City beach and my parents brought along a video camera,” recalled West. “It was just something fun to play with. But when we got home, my friends and I started to play with it and make short videos together.”
Like many kids, West dreamed of moving to Hollywood and becoming a star. He decided he wanted to be a producer when he grew up. However, growing up in a small town didn’t leave many creative outlets for a dreamer like him.
“We didn’t have film club or anything like that at my school,” West said. “So when I wasn’t playing basketball, I was doing highlight videos for the soccer team and the girl’s basketball team.”
After high school, he attended Ball State University and enrolled in the video production program. After a year, he decided to transfer.
“I didn’t feel like I was reaching my potential,” West explained.
He decided to switch his focus from video production to sports media, which led him to OSU.
“When I was looking it up, I saw that OSU had a good sports media program. I wanted to do sports media at a Division 1 school.”
While he’ll be graduating this December, he isn’t letting that interfere with his outside workload. He has worked on television shows such as “Real Housewives,” “90 Day Fiancé,” and “Street Outlaws.” He recently worked as a location scout and site manager on the movie “August: Osage County,” starring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and several other notables.
“There’s one main house on location where we shot 75 percent of the movie,” West said. “My job was basically to make sure that everything in preproduction and production went smoothly. I had to make sure people were on schedule and that they had the equipment they needed. As a site manager, I worked with the art department on the interior and exterior of the house.”
Despite the heavy workload, West enjoyed working on a movie set, even when he had to find creative solutions to challenges.
“There was a whole department dedicated to attempting to grow grass,” laughed West. “It didn’t work. We actually started painting the grass. And then we moved a 100-year-old oak tree from the back yard to the front yard of the house. That was a mess. By the time we shot the film, it was getting colder, so the art department had to manually attach fake leaves to the tree.”
West believes that his work outside of the university makes him a better videographer for OStateTV.
“Working on a bigger project, any show in general, I always try to absorb techniques and I’m always asking questions,” West said. “So when I’m doing my own thing, I’m able to apply those myself.
While you don’t need a degree to work on films, it is common to have one when aspiring to produce. However, one of the most important things is to gain industry experience, since bigger projects are generally given to producers who have the most qualifications. West will definitely have an edge on the competition given his real-world experience, something he could not achieve solely from his college education.
“Even though directors have told me I can work for them without a degree, I need one in order to become a producer someday,” West explained. “Because I’ve gone to OSU, opportunities have become available to me that I wouldn’t have had at Ball State. I worked with the athletic department during the 2011 season, which was really fun. I have also been building my personal portfolio by working with OStateTV. The most important thing I’ve done here has been expanding my portfolio while building on my own skills.”
West prefers to keep his options open when considering life after graduation.
“I don’t think I’m going to rule anything out,” West said with a smile. “Where ever the wind takes me, that’s where I’ll go.”
By Kim Hunter