Jason Hagen
BFA in Filmmaking
Producer with Lullskull Ltd.
Iron Mountain, Michigan, USA

What is your favorite thing about your job/work?

Creating and collaborating. On the creative side, I love generating a narrative, bringing it to life on the page with complex characters and motivated action, and then working with a team to make the narrative film or series a reality. If I'm tasked with supervising the editorial side of a project or series, I put great effort into creating a workflow that is as streamlined as possible to deliver a fully packaged product, including a main project, promotional material, graphics, and animation, to the distributor.

Why did you choose your major and what were your major classes like?

I had completed an associates video production program at the Art Institute of Phoenix and landed a solid internship, and during that internship I really wanted to learn filmmaking and strengthen myself to work in narrative. That is where my passion has always been; making up worlds, characters, and situations. I have been writing short stories since grade school, was always lost in movies, and would always create an escape from reality.

A good portion of my family lives in Minnesota, where I'm originally from, and so when I decided to attend MCAD they let me live with them. My major classes were extremely challenging and fun. I don't think I ever had a bad day in any of those classes. I soaked up and studied lighting, cameras, composition, dove into screenwriting, revisited creative writing, and fell in love with sound design. I just pushed myself as soon as I could get into those classes. My professors really opened my eyes to exploring style, voice, and studying artists in all mediums to see how it all coalesces to make film.

Favorite place on campus? Off campus?

On campus is the black studio. You could curl up in the loft or hide in one of the edit suites, and the day just goes by. Off campus, my pals and I would always find time to duck into Little Tijuana's, even it was just for sodas. One of my best friends and filmmaking partner Nathan Anderson would draw with the provided crayons on the butcher paper, and could kick out a portrait of anyone by the end of the meal.

Did MCAD prepare you for life after graduation?

Although I had a great experience at MCAD exploring the creative and technical areas of writing, shooting, lighting, and invaluable exposure to collaboration, I think I left MCAD with the ultimate skill of management, which has since transitioned into producing and supervising projects. I've had to start at the bottom a few times prior to and after MCAD, but management has always been the skill that has been the most developed since MCAD. Since I've worked as one and have been around so many technical professionals, I now can wrangle them, assess their needs, and forecast those points through a project. If I'm on the creative side, I can now lay the foundation of a project, and then switch gears to help guide everyone to the finish line.

How do you find inspiration when you are feeling stuck?

I tend to balance my brain by reading magazines (WIRED is my favorite and some ideas have come from it). I'm also on Twitter in my off-hours, so articles and discussions there usually help spark ideas. And movies and television always open up my mind.

What advice do you have for art/design students?

Go for it, if you want to create, go to art school or teach yourself. A four-year state college was not for me, I wanted some structure and the space. MCAD fulfilled my need. You have to find your path, let your interests inform you and drive you. If you are just starting out, surround yourself with the best in the areas you want to explore, and shadow.

Where did you intern?

Right before MCAD I interned for a year with the City of Tempe Media Services Center. I was very lucky, it was a paid internship. Although my supervisor (and mentor to this day) was kind, the job really put me front and center into a variety of tough video production situations, news gathering, shooting, lighting, editing, and writing for topical television. Since Tempe is a college town, the city really had the funding and resources to allow the Media Services Center to operate as a full studio, complete with master control, technical switch directing, audio mixing and editing. It was an awesome experience. It was through that internship that I gained confidence and was motivated to push myself into narrative filmmaking at MCAD.

Following MCAD, I was fortunate enough to secure another internship with IFP Minnesota. I heard about an opening from a staffer, a former line producer I had worked for on Comedy Central's Let's Bowl one summer. I jumped at the chance to see the inner-workings of the indie filmmaking chapter as they prepped for the Twin Cities Film Festival. I helped out with office tasks, helped prepare materials for the festival, and assisted membership to the chapter. It was a valuable experience that opened my eyes to see how a nonprofit functions for the greater good of helping the community and a specific industry to grow.

Has your work evolved since leaving MCAD?

I believe it has. When I was at MCAD, I tried to inject what I thought were emotional and complex ideas and layers into my science fiction or minimalist pieces. Honestly, I think I only succeeded a couple times, the rest was hampered by limited production value and lack of relationships. Lately, having a partnership with two other creatives, I've been able to collaborate with them and gestate stronger, world-building foundations and then dive into them and find root emotional and human connections that I think only come from life experience of family, kids, and major decisions.

Name your one biggest takeaway from MCAD.

I look back at MCAD and see it as four years where I learned technical skills, learned about art, and found out who I am. Today I would not be challenging myself to tell thought-provoking narratives, and would not be working with one of my classmates-turned-best-friends to explore fictional worlds with deeper understanding if MCAD hadn't opened the door.