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Meet Our Alumni

Compass College is so proud of our alumni. Their commitment to the film craft and determined spirit has led them to exciting heights in their career. Scroll to see some of their work.

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Alumni Stories

Compass College alumni are passionate and driven leaders, prompting change in the film and media arts industry. Together they form a powerful network of professionals working around the world in a variety of areas, such as marketing and commercial video, television series, news broadcast, feature films, film and digital production studios, acting and casting agencies, social media, church media, documentary filmmaking and more.

Jeff Terpstra Circle Profile Picture
John’s Project Credits (70+ Total Credits)

Stranger Things S4 2022
Spiderman 3 (Official title coming) 2021
The Suicide Squad 2021
The Tomorrow War 2021
We Three Kings 2020
Avengers: Endgame 2019
Black Lightning 2018
Avengers: Infinity War 2018
Black Panther 2018
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle 2017
Thor: Ragnarok 2017

 

John Terpstra – 2008

Lighting Technician – Multiple Production Houses

John’s Experience at Compass College

“When I was young I had an interest in art, photography and movies. Growing up the son of a painter and a adman it felt like I came by it naturally. Having access to my father’s Nikon DSLR at a young age helped me see the world through the frame of a lens. At the same time, being raised in a Christian home my parents instilled in me a deep desire to serve the Lord in everything I did.  So when I had to make a decision about where to go to college I felt convicted that I needed to go to seminary but I couldn’t ignore the artistic desires God had put inside of me. What I slowly came to realize was, when God gave the great commission He wasn’t calling all of us to be pastors – It was to serve Him in everything we did.  With that in mind I had peace to go to Compass and see where the Lord would lead me from there.  

Compass turned out to be a wonderful decision.  They understood the importance of giving artists hands-on experience in their field as well as connecting their students with professionals in the industry – locally and out of state.  Through experience making our own short films in class I realized very early on that because of my art and photography interests growing up I gravitated towards Cinematography and lighting. Compass was also responsible for placing me on my first two feature length films. On both jobs I was an intern working as a Production Assistant. It wasn’t very glamorous but it gave me an understanding with how a film set was run. After that I was hooked. My internship allowed me to build relationships that lead to more work, which in turn cultivated even more relationships and produced more work.  I have been blessed to work as a lighting technician on such films as Avengers: Infinity War, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Logan, and more. I have also been able to work as a gaffer on Christian projects such as Woodlawn and Unplanned. My prayer is that God uses me as a light, as I set lights, on whatever projects I get to be a part of.  I am forever thankful that I made the decision to go to Compass Film Academy over 12 years ago. I feel blessed that I am able to serve the Lord in a career that I love.”

Alex Craig - 2011

Alex Craig - 2011

Co-Owner: We Are Films

Alex Craig graduated in 2011 and began his career in New York City. Now, he has co-founded his own NYC-based production company named We Are Films, and his clients include the likes of Microsoft, Nike, and Squarespace, as well as music artists like Sufjan Stevens, Andy Mineo, and more.

I knew film was what I wanted, and something that I had to do when I was 12 years old. My brother and I made short films back then with all of our free time. It’s what we loved doing then and it’s what we love doing today.

It’s been a crazy journey. It’s not like a normal job where you put in time and hope to get a promotion. There have been all kinds of twists and turns to get me to where I am today, and I’m sure there are going to be lots more turns.

So many things happened after I graduated from Compass and moved to New York City. I started as an intern at a camera rental house. After that, I worked as a Production Assistant on Law and Order, followed by Men in Black 3, and some other shows. Then I started doing assistant camera. Then digital imaging technician, which transitioned me into coloring. I colored ten feature films, including one that won the grand jury prize at SXSW. (Also did VFX on five feature films, but that’s a whole other story.) While doing all that, I was shooting small things here and there. One day, I got hired to shoot a McDonald’s TV spot because they liked my reel. After that, I transitioned out of color and basically freelanced full-time as a Director of Photography. At the same time, my brother and I started a production company named We are Films. Now, we have a full-fledged production company where we direct together. Also, I still freelance as a Director of Photography. I shot my first feature film in 2015. That’s finally coming out later this year, called REM. It’s been a crazy ride so far, and I’m loving it.

It’s all a blast. I just love making things. And it’s nice to get paid to do that.

It’s a huge undertaking, but it has been amazing. Because of it, I have been able to travel to all parts of the world. It’s great to “be your own boss.”

I knew I wanted to “do film” before going to Compass. While at Compass, I worked on every single project I could, and it was nice that we got to learn what each role on set was. After attending, I knew more about what I wanted to do. I learned that there are a lot of different jobs within the industry.

If you want to work in film, do it. But you have to be all in. It’s a lifestyle that some people love, but it’s not for everyone. If you want to do it, commit to it and don’t look back. Also, you have to make a living. Don’t be afraid to work on commercials and corporate videos here and there. Make them better than anyone else would. Learn from those, and you can apply what you learned to narrative films or anything else you are passionate about.

Seth Steele - 2011

Seth Steele - 2011

Photographer: Fox 17 News

Seth Steele is a 2011 Compass College alum working in broadcasting at Fox 17, TV. Seth is also a co-host with fellow alumnus Michale McDonald of the cinematic-focused podcast for True Myth Media.

I always had an interest in movies and storytelling. But I think it was watching the behind-the-scenes on the Lord of the Rings DVDs that made filmmaking something that I needed to do.

My journey into the industry has been one of the best, most interesting aspects of my life. I have worked on a few small budget films, dozens of short films, hundreds of commercial shoots and three years (and counting) worth of television stories. There were plenty of times that I thought about trying something else or going back to school for something different, but I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied (in my work or with myself). Somehow, there’s always been something for me to do. I’ve been incredibly blessed in my journey, and honestly, I owe all the glory to God. He’s the one that’s been guiding my tiny, adrift ship, pointing me towards the next harbor.

My favorite part of my journey has been finding creativity within myself. Yes, I will always remember the nights that I stayed up until dawn on the set of a feature film, the days spent hammering out scripts in pre-production, and the people with whom I worked and loved; but it’s finding that bit of myself I can love and appreciate I feel has made me a better person. I know that’s cheesy and cliché, but hey, clichés are rooted in truths.

Broadcasting is 1000x faster than working on a feature film. There is no hurry up and wait. If you’re waiting, you’ve missed your shot. When I first started at Fox 17, this was a huge shock to me; and I had to quicken my pace to properly shoot for TV. However, once I got used to the fast-paced, non-stop feel of live TV, I found that it suits me perfectly. I am never bored, I get to travel, my schedule is amazing, I have creative control over the finished product, and I always know what’s going on around town and in the news. There are days that I will go out and shoot three segments in three different cities before I come back to the studio, and then I’m still done by 3:30-4:00 in the afternoon. My coworkers have, over the last few years, become something of a second family to me. We’re a tight-knit group that works together to find interesting stories and cool places to go. When I first started in TV, I wasn’t sure if it would be for me, but I’ve found I love this aspect of storytelling just as much as filmmaking.

Compass, more than anything else, taught me to work hard or get left behind. This is 100 precent true in every industry, but filmmaking and broadcast are cutthroat trades. Why? Because we love what we do, and we want to continue doing it. But, if you’re lazy, you’re not going anywhere; there’s another kid on deck waiting to take your spot. Do what you do well, and with a great attitude, and people will notice. Slack off and joke around, and people will notice that, too, you just won’t work anymore. Compass also taught me how to develop a good eye for shot composition, how to set up basic lighting, and it helped me develop my skills as an editor, all of those things I use on a daily basis.

This industry can be difficult, but it can also be the most amazing thing in your life. Be sure you want to do this, search your heart, know yourself. If this is the road you want to continue down, don’t let anyone stop you. Develop your own projects, try new things, meet new people, think for yourself, read, read, read, and learn to enjoy yourself and the life you’ve been given. We only get one.

Jeremy Landers - 2008

Jeremy Landers - 2008

Production Coordinator - Studio D

Jeremy Landers is a 2008 graduate of Compass College living in Los Angeles. He currently works at Stereo D, the leading company in high-quality conversions of 2D theatrical content into stereoscopic 3D imagery. Jeremy has worked on a variety of major motion pictures, such as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and The BFG.

When I was a teenager. I had a story in my mind that I wanted to tell through film, and I knew that I had to do it.

It started in 2009, a year after I graduated from Compass with an internship at a reality TV company in Los Angeles. While that particular genre of work didn’t interest me, it was the first time that I actually considered living in LA. By the next summer, my wife and I had come to the conclusion that we were indeed supposed to move to LA. So without any previously arranged jobs, we packed up our car and drove from Holland, Michigan, to Los Angeles. My first gig in production was as a Visual Effects Production Assistant on Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked in 2011. After that, I temped for a bit and then landed at DisneyToon Studios, where I first worked in operations, and then moved into development. In 2015, I was hired at Stereo D, where I started as a Production Coordinator and am now assisting our Chief Creative Officer.

At Rhythm and Hues

  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (Production Assistant)

 

At DisneyToon Studios

  • Planes (Operations Clerk)
  • The Pirate Fairy (Development Assistant)
  • Planes: Fire and Rescue (Development Assistant)
  • Tinkerbell and the Legend of the Neverbeast (Development Assistant)

 

At Stereo D

  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (Stereo Production Coordinator)
  • San Andreas (Stereo Production Coordinator)
  • Ant-Man (Stereo Production Coordinator)
  • Truth (VFX Production Coordinator)
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Assistant to the CCO)
  • The BFG (Assistant to the CCO)

I love working on projects that are known around the world. It’s cool to be a part of something that global audiences have the opportunity to see and enjoy.

The great thing about Stereo D is that we touch so many projects every year. It’s awesome to be able to work with clients, such as Marvel, LucasFilm, Fox, Universal, and DreamWorks. The quality of our studio’s work keeps opening up more doors for us as a studio, and I am excited about what the future holds!

Compass compelled me to make choices and act on them. Often in life, you think about doing something, maybe dream about doing something, or plan on doing something. Compass made me ACTUALLY do something. Also, Compass connected me to my internship in Los Angeles, which opened up my mind to making the move out west to pursue my calling.

Make sure it is something that you are called to do. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to test you in ways most people never want to be tested. So you have to KNOW that this is what you HAVE to do. Knowing your calling will get you through the hard times that all people who try to make it in this industry face.

Elizabeth Nelson - 2011

Elizabeth Nelson - 2011

Freelance Production

What began as a love of photography, has developed into an exciting career working on the production-side of network TV shows like Top Chef. In this interview, 2011 graduate, Elizabeth Nelsen, talks about her journey into the film industry, the truth about working on reality TV shows, and more.

I loved photography from an early age, and I had an affinity for understanding how things worked. My Grandpa gave me his old 35mm SLR camera, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Eventually, I served on the media team at my church. We had to make a lot happen with a little and really teach ourselves as we went along. I enjoyed that process and wanted to learn more, and that is what led me to Compass.

I started out working on anything that I could – paid or not – local or not. I just wanted to get experience and a feel for how productions worked. I focused on finding work within the Camera Department, but if I couldn’t find it, I would do anything just to meet people and learn. I ended up briefly working at Birns & Sawyer Camera House in North Hollywood, and I learned an incredible amount in that time. Afterward, I worked on indie features like Old Fashioned and Short History of Decay …and a number of random super low budget features, shorts, web series, and commercials.

Eventually, I fell into Reality TV. I had never focused on that part of the industry, but I grew to like the multi-camera style and frenetic nature of the format. Things change quickly because the story is developing as you go, and you have to facilitate for multiple crews. I love multitasking, so it was a great fit. I’ve worked on several seasons and variations of Top Chef, and working with the same company has allowed me the opportunity to work in both Production and Camera.

There is always an opportunity to learn something new. If you’re bored, you’re doing something wrong!

Reality TV is very different. I find that the pace is much quicker, and the scheduling is a lot more aggressive. There are several cameras to manage as opposed to one or two. There are complex wireless systems. Setting up a control room is much more involved because there are so many camera feeds the Director and DP need to see. Depending on the show you need to incorporate tools from the live broadcast world, and I enjoy the constant puzzles and problems to solve.

The experience was invaluable because they really put you out there and let you go for it. Afterward, you dissect the experience and evaluate what should have been done differently. Sometimes we made decent films. Sometimes we made terrible ones. Each experience was worth something. The pace of Compass was pretty intense, and I think that was helpful because the industry will require you to run a little bit faster than most other work. You have to put in effort and be a self-starter. Compass structured the program this way by design.

Get out there and work. Even if you are settled on a certain position or direction, be open to other opportunities even if they seem beneath you. Each experience is an opportunity, and you have to keep yourself in that mindset. Work hard and work honestly. Do things that other people aren’t willing to do. Do what needs to be done before someone has to tell you to do it. Don’t just be looking out for your own interests and goals, make sure you are focused on helping others succeed as well. People are looking for the self-starters and problem-solvers— be that person! It’s all the basic stuff, but if you do it, you will stand out from all the others in your same position.

Paul Rice - 2017

Paul Rice - 2017

Editor: ProGuides

Paul Rice, a 2017 graduate of Compass College, is an editor living and working in Los Angeles. He recently completed his internship at Toy Box Entertainment, an LA-based motion picture advertising company. Now, he works at ProGuides as an editor working on gaming tutorials and more.

I don’t think there was really a single moment when I decided film was what I wanted to do. It sort of just happened organically. I made some videos and said to myself, “that was fun,” and a few years later I had a nice little skill set. Since I enjoyed the work I thought, “why not go to film school?”

This is probably not true of all entry-level jobs, but my favorite part has been my ability to be creative. ProGuides has given me a good amount of freedom to take things where I want with projects. I can put little goofs or gags in the videos because it spices things up. A little seasoning goes a long way when it comes to tutorial videos and guides. Also, the money is nice.

Working at ProGuides is awesome. It’s crazy and lots of work, but because it’s a start-up, I think that’s expected. It’s fun working in such a relaxed environment where everyone has similar interests as well.

I learned a lot about production at Compass. It is nice to know that I can use, or easily figure out, whatever equipment is thrown at me. However, since I’m mainly an editor, I don’t get to use my production knowledge too much. I also learned a lot of useful theory. Before Compass I would always just do what I felt would be cool for the video, but now I try to give everything I do in a video reasoning. It shouldn’t be cool just for the sake of being cool, at least most of the time.

My advice to graduates is work hard. If you go above and beyond and do good work people will notice. Just keep trucking along and getting better at whatever skill you are learning. Make sure to put conscious effort into improving your skills. Skills pay bills, and it feels even better to pay bills doing something you enjoy.

Jesse Harbold - 2012

Jesse Harbold - 2012

Post-Production: HBO + Netflix

Jesse Harbold is a 2012 alum of Compass College living in New York City and working in the post-production departments of award winning shows like VICE and Orange is the New Black for HBO and Netflix.

My sophomore year of high school, I received a video production class instead of all the architecture classes I had requested. However, after beginning the course, I realized I was having a blast and just seemed to naturally understand the concepts better than any of my peers. From there, it blossomed into more classes and independent studies. I researched film and story on my own and took a film history class. My life soon became consumed by it. I got into theater as well. I think what struck me was that, up to that point, I had nothing I could confidently say, “I enjoy this, and I’m good at it.” Sports were my thing, but never my thing. It was a little bit of a forced identity. Film allowed me to express myself in its purest form.

During my time at Compass, I started working professionally in the industry; primarily with Mark Baas, a connection given to me via Compass alum Karl Koelling of Taproot Pictures. I spent many weekends working on local commercials as a Production Assistant and creating my own projects for different classes. After completing the final thesis project, I received an internship with an independent production company in New York City doing script coverage.

In August 2012, I moved to NYC, couch surfed for two weeks, and then finally found an apartment. I spent two months at my internship doing script coverage, then was given the opportunity to work on Darren Aronofsky’s NOAH as an extra. Immediately following that, I was offered the chance to be a Production Assistant on a film the company I interned for was about to start shooting. That first feature introduced me to many people I would collaborate with over the next three years. From there, I worked on an additional 14 to 15 feature films, as well as various commercials and music videos.

In July 2014, I stepped into the role of Assistant Director on a half-million dollar movie. After that experience, I moved off set and into post-production. I worked as the Post-Production Assistant on season three of HBO’s hit show VICE. After seven months, I wanted to get back to scripted TV, so I moved into a facility doing dailies for network TV. While working there, I learned how to use Avid, which is a requirement if you want to work in network TV. A year and a half later, I moved on to work on season five of Orange is the New Black as their Post-Production Assistant. Following the season, I moved back to VICE as an Assistant Editor on their new nightly news show for HBO.

My favorite part of working in this industry has to be the flexibility to do anything I really want. I’ve dabbled in everything, from development through post-production. You can experiment while making a living and never be tied to any one company. I love that. It’s such a sense of freedom. Also, I enjoy the casual atmosphere of most work environments. A suit and tie, commuting to a 9-to-5 job, just isn’t me.

To clarify, I think this is an important note, the post-production departments at Netflix and HBO do not actually make the show. Their roles are usually administrative in nature, overseeing all of their shows. I work for the companies contracted by Netflix or HBO to produce the content; this is a privilege because they rarely deal with individuals outside of an established circle of trusted people and independent companies. Working on their shows is by far the best of the best. I’ve been fortunate, not just to be a part of the HBO and Netflix lineups, but also to have been a part of their Emmy Award-winning lineup. The extra level of care this entails is surreal. They both give thorough story notes and care deeply about the quality of material they’re producing. Learning set etiquette, story structure, and artistic vocation at Compass was so crucial to being able to keep my head above water starting out. Set etiquette was especially crucial in the early days. I’ve seen interns and production assistants get fired on the spot because they possessed poor etiquette. I also feel Compass gave me a humble view of the larger picture. This is fundamental, understanding how the small stuff impacts the larger stuff. Compass was terrific at showing how everything connects. I think the best advice I can give is to be patient and humble. They both will be tested greatly. Never lose sight of what you love about this business and art form. I have a core set of films I always go back to when I feel this happening. They re-inspire my joy and love. Don’t let negativity seep in.

Like what you hear? This could be you too.

If hearing some of the stories about our alumni (and there are many, many more) made you excited about a future in film and media arts, then Compass College is the right place for you. Take the first step toward launching a successful career in the entertainment industry by applying today.