When we watch a movie or television show we see it with seamless shots and edits.
We often leave the viewing with the performances of the actors as the main
takeaway, but what we normally do not see is everything behind the scenes that makes that finished product perfect.
Jamelah Neal, daughter of St. Louis County Police Detective Willie Neal, Jr., EOW 1/29/97, is one of those people that makes everything we see in our favorite movie or TV program happen. She shares how entering a career in the entertainment industry comes only with hard work, elevated training and experience.
Knowledge is power, and Jamelah has acquired multiple degrees including a Bachelor’s degree in Film Production from Brooks Institute in Ventura, California.
At Brooks Institute, she was taught by professors with film industry experience and was right away given assignments that would help her transition from a film
student to a film professional. Jamelah speaks on her time at school, “Brooks was a place where practical application, not theory, was king, and the curriculum
allotted me experiences that I truly believe I could not have had elsewhere.” These real-life applications include learning how to handle a set from Larry Mole Parker, Hollywood’s earliest lighting company, walking the Paramount and Sony Studio lots, sitting through a lecture taught by Anne Beatts and even shaking hands with Douglas Kirkland!
At Brooks Institute, Jamelah was able to build on her skill set by learning how to use different types of cameras, lighting equipment, editing labs, sound stages and more. This elevated learning experience prepared Jamelah for twice being the official photographer and videographer for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. She also landed a production designer role for a short film where she built a motel bathroom on a sound stage with her fellow film students.
Jamelah looks back on her time at Brooks, “I created my first ‘film’ on my very first day of classes. In many other traditional film programs, students don’t begin to create media until their sophomore or junior year. I graduated Brooks Institute ready to take on a career in the film industry.” Along with the practical lessons, Jamelah also comments on how her time at film school gave her a new perspective on life, “One thing I learned that has elevated my growth as a person is to not second-guess my vision. The story that you are telling or the way that you see and experience the world is naturally unique because of who you are. Use this to your advantage.”
With her degree and experience on hand, Jamelah began a basecamp production assistant job on the set of Brockmire, an IFC Network comedy starring Hank Azaria. In this position she helped manage actors and other talent as they arrived, got them camera ready, and made sure that they were squared away upon leaving the set. “In this role, I also did more than I had before in the way of making sure that production paperwork was handled and completed correctly.”
Today Jamelah is working towards becoming an Assistant Director in the Director’s Guild of America. “In just two and a half years, I am more than two-thirds of the way there!” As Jamelah navigates her way through the many facets of the film industry, she reflects on how she mimics her father’s spirit to serve, “There isn’t a day that goes by that my father doesn’t cross my mind, and I try to honor him by emulating the kindness that he always managed to show others. My father was called to serve others. In a similar fashion, I find that a large part of my job as a set production assistant is serving others. With the crazy shooting schedules and long hours, sometimes this proves a tad difficult, but I always think of my dad and how kind, patient and genuine he was. He was truly a man that was full of understanding and slow to anger. It was one of his most beautiful qualities, and I constantly aspire to be just like him.”
Det. Neal’s sacrifice will never be forgotten, and we are honored to serve his family. Jamelah addresses how BackStoppers made an impact on her life, “Anyone who knows me knows that I always loved to be behind the camera, but I never thought that I could do so for a living. With the support and generosity of the BackStoppers, I’ve been privileged to dream. I have been able to conceive of, and more important, bring to fruition a life that I didn’t think was possible for myself. I am forever grateful that I will be able to do what I love for a living. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to dream. I am forever grateful for the BackStoppers.”