2014 Video Production alum Jamie Gagnon first came to NESCom because, as he put it, “I had wanted to get three things: Friends/Like-minded people/connections, hands-on experience, and to test my desired path against other potential careers and NESCom succeeded all of my expectations”. Since graduating, Jamie has been quite busy pursuing that path and it has lead him all the way to California. Jamie took some time out of his busy day to fill us in on his latest achievement, working on seventh season of the hit FX television series American Horror Story.
Q: What have you been doing since graduating from NESCom?
A: Immediately after graduating NESCom, I spent the majority of my creative time writing and eventually, directed a short film before leaving Maine. Since moving to Los Angeles, however, I’ve done some freelance editing, grip work on a music video and a short film, and currently assist a film producer.
Q: What was your role on American Horror Story?
A: I’m a Set Production Assistant (PA).
Q: What was an average day at work for you?
A: First, I check into the Production Trailer, gather call sheets and sides (the segment of the script we are shooting that day), and usually distribute walkie-talkies to our crew. Then from there, I typically assist in a range of duties from coordinating First Team (actors of the day) or Background actors (extras), distribute paperwork, parrot calls to action like “Picture’s Up!” “Rolling!” “Cut!,” lock-up the set (to prevent any noise or people from ruining the shots) and continue to do so for the majority of the day. Finally, we spin the walkie channels to relay information and collect paperwork at the end of the night.
Q: What’s been the most stressful part of your work on the show”
A: There was this one day in Orange, CA. We were shooting only exteriors of the “Butchery On Main” (the restaurant featured in the show) and word had gotten out the night before that American Horror Story was going to be there and so, our set was littered with teens and twenty-somethings who were out to get a peek at Sarah Paulson or Evan Peters. They would constantly try to get past me so they could snap photos and let’s just say it made for a stressful day.
Q: What have you learned through your experience?
A: The sheer level of professionalism on American Horror Story is astounding. These shows have such a rigid system of coordination and execution that few in Maine have ever witnessed. It’s not that we’re incapable of such a production in Maine, it’s just that we don’t have the infrastructure to support it as of yet.
Q: Do you have any plans for the future?
A: My next goal is be staffed on a show so I can have a steady source of income and grow and learn on set at a more consistent pace; I’ve actually already been asked to work on two other shows. I also continue my writing projects. I’m nearing the end of my autobiographical self-help book about my battle with Leukemia which has the placeholder title, My Cancer Story. I put a first draft chapter-by-chapter on my blog, www.guyonawire.com every Monday. I am also reworking a cartoon show that I had put away years ago that is also based on my life– but my childhood, growing up in Northern Maine. Other than that, I’m developing a short film that I’m writing and directing soon, record and host a podcast every week called Not Quite Hollywood and, last but not least, I co-host a Youtube show with fellow alum, Brandon Doyen, called We Need Movies.
Q: What advice would you give NESCom students interested in your field?
A: Keep busy. Life will not hand you anything and therefore, you must work hard for what you want. I keep busy because it A) helps keep me sane and B) spreads my reach far beyond one platform. I believe podcaster and all-around multi-hyphenate Chris Hardwick, said it best: I put lots of fishing poles in the pond. Something eventually bites.” Of course, his poles all went off at the same time and he has juggled several gigs at once, but that’s not likely for everyone.
Finally, do what you love, love who you want, and most importantly, love yourself.