Woodbury Senior, Aria Haley, Living Her Dream as an Aspiring Filmmaker

Woodbury filmmaking student Aria Haley has been dreaming of a career in filmmaking since she was a young girl. From Las Vegas, she realized the value of attending a reputable film school in Los Angeles to be close to the entertainment capital of the world. She instantly was intrigued with Woodbury when she came across the university at a local college fair. After a campus tour and learning about the filmmaking program, especially its faculty, many of whom are industry professionals, she was convinced Woodbury was the right learning environment for her. She also was impressed by the university’s small class sizes and mandatory internship requirement – one which faculty often help students meet with industry leads. Set to graduate in May 2022, Aria shares why she loves Woodbury, her internship experiences, and future aspirations.

What prompted you to pursue filmmaking at the college level?

I’ve enjoyed making video content since junior high. I was responsible for creating my school’s video announcements and had a natural grasp on the video editing software we used and how to make content unique and entertaining. I went on to attend an art high school and majored in filmmaking. I had an instinctual understanding of the steps within filmmaking, and the importance of great storytelling. I knew it was the right career path for me.

I understand you’ve had two internships while studying at Woodbury. Can you tell us about them?

My internships were amazing experiences. Woodbury’s Filmmaking program chair, George Larkin, hosts a Facebook group called the “Woodbury Entertainment Network,” where he posts internship opportunities. Professor Larkin guided me through the interview process and I was thrilled to land the job!

My first internship was with Heyday Films, which has produced many huge productions, including all the Harry Potter series, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood and Paddington. My responsibilities as a developmental intern were to read and analyze incoming scripts. I also got to pitch screenplays to the executive producer and it went incredibly well!

I was also an intern at Lollipop Theater Productions. Lollipop is a company that “brings movies to the kids.” Before COVID, Lollipop would entertain kids in person at Children’s Hospital. Now they broadcast Zoom calls in hospitals, featuring celebrities and guests who read to the kids. Animators, who have worked on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and The Loud House from Nickelodeon, have also participated, teaching kids how to draw. As an intern, my role was to watch the Zoom calls and capture the sweet moments to send to the editor for social media content.

What projects are you most proud of?

The project I’m most proud of to date is a film I created for my cinematography class called, “Drained.” It was the first project that I did at Woodbury that really captured the emotion of the story. It was about a girl whose boyfriend passed away in a car accident while she was driving. Later, she finds a necklace that he was planning to give her. When she puts it on, he appears, but when she takes it off, he disappears. Their relationship, briefly, seems healthy, but soon they start to fight a lot. It’s revealed that they were fighting before getting into the accident. Upset, she takes the necklace off and holds it over the sink, dropping into the garbage disposal. That’s how it ends.

Now, I’m starting to film my senior thesis, which is a final project where students create a film from start to finish based on their story written junior year. The student plans the entire production, from hiring a crew, casting actors to directing the film. It’s a huge project that requires a lot of collaboration, and love for your story.

My senior film is called “My Moon,” and is about a kid and his mom who is terribly ill. She tells her son that if he works hard enough and believes, he will capture the moon one day. When she passes away, that is exactly what he does. I’m really excited to bring this heartwarming story to fruition!

What motivates you?

I’m motivated by the fact that I’m following my passions – that every day I am one step closer to pursuing my dreams and doing what I love within my career. I know I will do big things!

What are your aspirations in the field?

Some of my aspirations in the field have changed over this past year. I love to edit, and I am good at it. However, my internship at Heyday Films made me realize that I also really love development. Additionally, when helping with casting for senior thesis films, I enjoyed this process! So, I have a lot of things that I really like to do within film, and I’d be excited to pursue any of these career options!

Who among the faculty has been most influential in shaping your academic career?

Filmmaking instructors, Xiaolin Yu and Sam Kim have been the absolute most influential in shaping my academic career. They have been in the industry for a very long time and do an amazing job encouraging students to take our films very seriously and professionally. They apply a certain amount of healthy pressure on students because they believe in our ability and know it will make us thrive. I have learned so much from them and am confident they are shaping a new generation of some seriously amazing filmmakers!

What stands out about Woodbury’s film program?

The hands-on experience is what stands out about the film program. The opportunity to help with the senior thesis film sets each fall has been an amazing opportunity to learn and network with people. This time of year has been quite memorable here at Woodbury.

What experiences in film production/filmmaking have been most meaningful/relevant to you thus far?

My peers. It has been an amazing experience to grow with my film class over the years. Some have graduated and others have joined, and they are always welcomed with open arms. It’s said that networking is important within this industry, and it’s so true! We are all a great team!

What films/filmmakers have most inspired you?

One show that has inspired me is Euphoria, which tells the story of a group of high school students as they grapple with difficult, age-related issues. Everything about that series is amazing, from the cinematography, the editing, the acting, the makeup, to the story, of course. I think it’s very well done, and hopefully one day I can be a part of something like this!

What advice would you give prospective Woodbury filmmaking students?

Try not to get overwhelmed with the story you want to tell. The idea that you can create any story you want can be intimidating. Just tell the stories that drive you and focus on emotion. That is the easiest and simplest way to connect with your audience.

I’d also emphasize the importance of volunteering on sets as much as possible. Not only can you refine and learn new techniques, but you can make irreplaceable memories and connections that can last a lifetime.

Last Updated on December 6th, 2021. 

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