Every so often, we’ll be spotlighting alumni and what they are up to these days. These Q&A sessions will give you a bit of insight into where the world has taken them since graduation.
This week, the spotlight is on Tara Hernandez (BFA/Film Production ’10).
DODGE: Share your career path with us – how did you get where you are now?
While I was a student at Chapman, I had several internships. One of those internships was with Warner Bros. Television — the studio that produces
Big Bang Theory
. After graduation, I followed up with everyone I had ever worked with and was offered the chance to interview with the executive producer and showrunner of BBT. I have to be candid here; I wasn’t really interested in working in TV. As a self-described film snob, switching teams was not a part of my plan.
But I went on the interview anyway, and thank God I did. I got the job and have been there ever since. I was an assistant to the EPs for two and a half seasons; during this time they taught me how to pitch stories for the show. When they produced several of my pitches, the showrunner said, “let’s make this official” and promoted me to staff writer. Three seasons later, I am currently a co-producer and couldn’t be happier to be slumming it in television.
DODGE: What was the biggest adjustment you faced after graduation and how did you overcome it?
I was always pretty terrified about the future, my career, and what the world, post-graduation, had in store for me. I’m so lucky to have landed a job that I love because people and mentors gave me a chance, but I’m still scared all the time. Fearing what’s next doesn’t go away because someone hires you, it’s just amplified when there’s rent and a car payment to make. I try to use the fear as something that makes me work even harder, but there’s really no “overcoming” it, it’s just there.
DODGE: What is the best advice you have received and/or what advice would you give current students?
I’ve tried to take a little something from every person I’ve ever worked with. One executive told me to always “be nice and be honest.” Simple, but so valuable. Another said: “Always pay attention to your boss’ kids. If someone comes into my office and doesn’t acknowledge the photos of my family — I think they’re a psycho!” This is really true! I try to relate to everyone on a personal level, and when you go out of your way for someone’s kid, that’s the most personal gesture of all.
My own personal advice is to do your best at the job you’re hired to do. We all have ambitions, but chances are you’re not going to be hired to direct a studio feature right out of college. Kick ass at the job you’ve got and I promise people will notice. And if by some miracle you do sell a pilot right out of school… Can you hire me?!
DODGE: What is your favorite memory from your time at Chapman?
Right after we wrapped my senior thesis, I took the whole crew to El Torito and my dad bought everyone (who was of legal drinking age) a celebratory tequila shot. It was a really special moment to toast my friends and crew. I’m still very close with most of them today. The friendships made in classrooms and on sets have always been the most important part of my film school experience.
DODGE: What have you taken from the classroom and applied to your career?
As stated above, the relationships you make in film school are a lot like the creative relationships you’re going to have in the real world. It’s all about collaboration. You have to be someone who can play nice with others, and that starts in the classroom. I have found that being successful in the real world is maybe 15% luck, 23% talent and 62% not being a d***.
DODGE: Have you received any awards or recognitions?
No awards yet, but my mom has seen every episode of the show SEVERAL times. She texts me photos of my screen credit. So in the Hernandez household*, at least, I’ve won the Best Daughter Award**.
*The Hernandez household only has one daughter.
**Not a real award.
Thanks so much to Tara for sharing!