Alumni Spotlight: Nate Hapke

Nate Hapke

As a DGA Production Associate at Disney ABC Television Group, what are your major responsibilities?

As a DGA Production Associate at Disney ABC Television Group, my major responsibilities include but are not limited to: script supervision, preparing all production materials for the following days production (these include property breakdowns for each scene/item, cast/crew contact sheets, schedule/rundown and call times for all cast members), organizing the various director’s scripts based on pagination and/or production needs, coming up with the blocking schedule for when the directors are going to rehearse with the actors and delivering notes to and from directors/producers/actors. It’s an incredibly fast paced machine and I am honored to work with and learn from such a talented team of storytellers. I’ve been able to learn so much about what really matters on set and have become so efficient on my own film sets because of my experience with General Hospital over the last four years.

What do you find to be the most challenging and rewarding aspects of being an independent filmmaker?

The most challenging aspects of being an independent filmmaker are the ones I can’t control, such as having access to the “ideal” budget for a project. Like anything else in life, if it’s what you want to do, then you’ll figure out whatever has to be done to get it done. My favorite expression in indie filmmaking is “we’ll make it work.” If you can be positive, be clear in your expression of your vision, be adaptable, and have the confidence that you can figure it out, then the most challenging aspects of being an independent filmmaker become some of the most rewarding. They challenge you to think creatively, problem solve, and force yourself to confirm that this is what you moved out here to do.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned since graduating from Syracuse University?

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned since graduating has been that a strong support system around you really makes all of the difference. LA is not for everyone: It’s expensive, it’s unrelenting and unforgiving at times, and can make you question everything about yourself for all of the wrong reasons. It’s also an inspiring place filled with creative people who make things all the time. Having a strong support system full of reciprocal relationships is crucial in this marathon, and I’m so thankful for mine.

If you were an undergraduate student again, is there anything that you would do differently?

If I were an undergraduate again, it’s hard to say what I would’ve done differently. I kept myself incredibly busy with extracurriculars (CitrusTV (actor, writer, director, entertainment director), OTN (actor, writer), Independent short films and comedy sketches (actor, writer, director, producer, editor), Orange Pulse Dance Troupe photographer and videographer, Friday Night Flicks). All of that, on top of my heavy work load of classes trained me for my “real” life where I work in production 55-60 hours per week while also writing/directing 2-3 short films per year. My television, radio and film classes coupled with my english and textual studies (film and screen studies track minor), helped develop my love not only for filmmaking but also for film discourse and consumption. I was also fortunate to have met some of my very best friends during my time at SU.

What is your favorite Newhouse LA memory?

My favorite memory from my Newhouse LA experience is from the class that Robin Howard taught at the time. The assignment was to effectively pitch a movie in under 2 minutes. It can be pre-established or something you’ve written. Every minute you go over the 2 minutes, your grade goes down slightly. I chose to pitch a concept I had been working on at the time (it ended up being the basis for my short film Fugue, that I co-wrote and directed (winning the award for best director) during the filmmaker’s workshop at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2014). While I did effectively pitch the movie, I ended up setting a record that night: 6 minutes and 34 seconds. To this day, I am still very proud of that failure because it forced me to grow and realize that pitching is not easy. It’s something that requires diligence, focus and zeal.