Tim Granlund is a Coordinator in the Partnership Marketing and Creative department at Disney Channels Worldwide. In this role he helps create and plan the schedule for marketing pieces that promote all of The Walt Disney Company’s businesses on the various Disney channels.
After graduating from UVA in 2005 with a degree in Drama and Psychology, he began his career in ad sales at the C-Ville Weekly before moving to LA to go into the entertainment industry. He started as an assistant at De Line Pictures, working on movies such as “I Love You Man”, “Green Lantern” and “Pain and Gain”, as well as the early days of this summer’s FOX hit “Wayward Pines.” He went on to work in post-production on TV shows such as “The Voice” and “Celebrity Apprentice” before ultimately landing at The Walt Disney Company. In addition, Tim is a professional air guitarist by the name of 6 String General, having won titles in LA, San Diego and Las Vegas, and performing as an opening act for Eels and Ali Spagnola. He also produces air guitar competitions, founding Air Guitar LA, and creates various related content which can be found at airguitarla.com.
Kate (K): Tell me how you got from UVA to LA.
Tim (T): After graduating UVA, I continued living in Charlottesville for 3 years working in ad sales for the C-Ville Weekly. I knew I wanted to be in the movie industry, so I was doing some work on the side with a small independent film company I helped start up. Eventually I realized I needed to pursue film full time and move out to LA. After doing some research and talking to people to get an idea of what to do and what to expect, I saved up money then packed everything I had in my car and drove out to LA with no job, no place to live, just a dream and a rough game plan. I stayed on a fellow Wahoo’s couch for a couple weeks while I found an apartment and a job. Luckily everything worked out OK!
K: How did your undergraduate education, summer jobs, and/or student involvement help you to develop your professional identity?
T: As an undergrad, I was a Drama major and worked on numerous productions in the Drama Department, First Year Players and LiveArts. So I had a lot of useful experience in storytelling, putting on shows, and entertaining people. Most importantly I learned to do all this as part of team of people, each with their own job and specialty. I enjoyed doing a little bit of everything from acting to set design to running lights, so I had a good “do anything” attitude that prepared me to take on any job I could find out here. I also worked for Vector Marketing, where I learned valuable sales and presentation skills that served me well in everything I do.
K: What skills have you found most crucial to success in your field?
T: Being personable and able to build relationships. It is important to have those skills to be able to connect with people and find jobs. Once you have a job, it is important to be able to work well with others. Hundreds of people are involved in a movie or TV show’s production, and hundreds more are involved at the studios that finance and distribute them. You need to be able to work as part of that big machine and keep it moving along. Also important has been the ability to communicate and idea or a story. Whether you’re selling knives or making a move about a superhero, being able to clearly and engagingly tell your story is important.
K: What recommendations do you have for developing a portfolio or online presence?
T: Just make stuff. Particularly if you want to be involved on the artistic side of the business as a writer, director, designer, etc. It is really important to show that you have those fundamental storytelling or production skills. Everyone has the basic tools with your smartphone and laptop. Your early work is going to be bad, but you’ll learn and each time you’ll get a little better. This is an industry all about hustle. If you can show the desire and the effort to do something, you will find people willing to hire and mentor you. Nobody is an Oscar winner right out of school; it takes years of working and training and learning and failing and then succeeding.
Focus on something you are passionate about. What do you love doing? Make a movie or documentary about that. For me, I got involved in competitive air guitar (yes it’s real, and it’s spectacular). When I started producing and hosting competitions in LA, I used that as a focus to design a website, shoot videos, and create an online presence to share all of that work. I essentially created airguitarla.com as a portfolio for myself.
Also, get internships. It allows you to test the waters and gain insight into the industry, you’ll have practical experience for your resume, and you will make connections and build relationships that will pay off when you are looking for a job. It’s the most common way young people get their start in the entertainment industry.
K: How have you maintained your connections to the arts?
T: I’ve made the arts my career and my hobby! My jobs have been in the arts doing movie and TV production. Professionally I’ve settled into entertainment marketing, so I am promoting the arts and helping create ads that are artistic works themselves. I initially started doing air guitar to simply have fun and continue performing in some capacity; I ultimately discovered a rich performance art and form of self expression, which gave me an identity, confidence and a diverse second family of fellow AIRtists. That even turned into a second job producing shows and getting hired as a paid performer. And being LA, I am surrounded by opportunities to see artistic works of every kind, from paintings to improv comedy to movies.
K: What advice do you have for students or recent graduates seeking opportunities in your area?
T: Learn at least basic shooting and editing skills, then start making your own things. Network and make connections; reach out to alumni or non-alumni you simply admire for advice. Be prepared to take on any gig, even if its just a low paying 2 day PA job. Be prepared to fail at times, and know its not the end of the world. Have a thick skin. HUSTLE.
K: Other thoughts?
T: Hollywood doesn’t necessarily award the smartest or most talented people. Often its hard work, risk taking, and generous dose of luck that gets people ahead. But being smart and well prepared will help you create more luck and opportunities and allow you to take advantage of them. And once we get our foot in the door, UVA alumni always impress!
This industry isn’t as steady or high paying as others that your fellow alumni will enter. You are going to be far away from most of your friends and family, and you will miss out on some things. Your path won’t be a straight one with defined steps you need to take. You are going to be on a roller coaster, but realize that’s part of the excitement and glamour of it all.