Everyone loves films, but do we ever see who is actually behind the camera? A State College native, Grant Donghia is pursuing a film major with a theatre minor and attends film festivals like Sundance, the biggest film festival in the United States every year. It is the world premiere for films competing in different categories, such as narrative, documentary and a midnight category for horror movies and intense thrillers.
“Going to Sundance this past year was one of the most refreshing and passionate experience I have been given the opportunity to have. My favorite part is the panels after the films that are open to the fans and audience for a Q and A,” Donghia says. “It allows for me to talk to one, celebrities and professionals in the industry as well as understanding their artistic vision.”
4th Row Films won the documentary category at Sundance for their documentary, “Bisbee ’17.” The company is well-known for their non-narrative work with two offices in New York City and Los Angeles. Donghia will be working with 4th Row Films as an intern in New York City this summer where he will be working on-set, doing script reviews and talent hunting.
“The passion that every person in film has for their industry and projects draws me to these festivals. The festivals open up the industry to newcomers and the growing field that is film.”
Though he’s been making home movies since he was in second grade, it was in 2016, when he attended the New York Film Academy that he truly discovered his love for film. An environment filled with people who were all passionate about film really helped to cultivate the desire for a career in film for Donghia. In New York City, Donghia spent one week in classes on different aspects of film and the next week he got to work with actors on-camera.
“You kind of just get put in an environment where everyone is just building each other up in a way and creating something really cool,” Donghia says.
Some of Donghia’s favorite films include the “The Conjuring,” “Interstellar” and “Super 8.”
“I’m a big fan of “Super 8″ because it’s a really big son/mother storyline, and I feel I can connect with it,” says Donghia. “As for “The Conjuring,” I’m just a big fan of [Director] James Wan’s work, I like his style and admire the content that he’s able to produce. He’s definitely one of my role models and one of the reasons I’ve gotten into film.”
As a current freshman, Donghia has explored on-campus opportunities working at the CommAgency as well as PSNtv on two networks: The Valley and After Hours.
“CommAgency produces TV spots and ad campaigns for companies around the area, and I work at PSNtv as an affiliate; I just kind of help out behind the scenes on the studio work and behind the camera when we make sketch comedies.”
Aside from on-campus opportunities, Donghia also makes time for off-campus activities that give back to the community that helped shape who he’s become as a person.
“I volunteer at the local high school helping art students and creating paths for creative, young minds,” he says.
One of Donghia’s favorite parts of being a film major is the people he gets to interact with on campus. The collaborative nature of the industry is part of what drew him to this field.
“My favorite part of the film major is getting to meet all of the great creative minds that are inside of it. Being in a collaborative environment where everyone has a creative voice has been one of the more humbling things that I have experienced here at Penn State,” he says.
Right now he is wrapping up a production that he intends to submit to the Screamfest Horror Film Festival, the largest horror film festival in the United States, in Los Angeles. Most of Donghia’s films tend to lean toward intense topics that have meaning simply because they are more fun to play around with.
“I feel like a lot of my inspiration comes from the people that I work with — I’m very much a people person, and I feel like I can draw a lot of ideas based off of who they are.”
Donghia feels that through making his own films or acting, he is given opportunities to all ends of the creative spectrum while networking with people who share a similar dream and passion.
“My theatre minor acts as a great way to talk and learn with the actors that I have in my films, understanding their learning background and allowing me to work with them better with my creative vision,” he says.
Donghia believes that one of the best parts of being a film major and participating in student films is the endless possibility for creative freedom. It is a combination of these things that created the push for him to take his passion and turn it into a career.
He encourages creativity and passion in all aspects of his path at Penn State. Whether that is being involved with on-campus clubs or participating in film festivals, Donghia brings inspiration and purpose to everything he does.
You can read more about Grant Donghia and his work on his website.