“You’re a Wizard, Harry…”

By Brooke Segal

What a day! Just when I think the trip can not get any better, it does! Though I am not the biggest Harry Potter fan, I enjoyed seeing my peers having panic attacks from the mere sight of the Warner Brothers building. I am part of the generation that grew up with Harry Potter, yet I have never felt a connection with the whimsical storyline.  I saw the first film as a child and was extremely terrified of the giant spiders and various characters.  Rubeus Hagrid still freaks me out. I never watched another Harry Potter film after the horror I endured as a youngster. I have a whole new outlook and appreciation of the sequence. I  plan on watching one of the films after posting this!

During a long morning of travel to Leavesden, I was awoken by the conversation of American politics going on behind me. The conversation was held by a group of younger women, I assume they were of college age. The upcoming American election is becoming more and more of a topic of conversation overseas. No matter what city we have toured, it has become a common theme of conversation amongst people. If I say I am American, I am automatically asked who I am voting for in the election. The group of young women were bashing how Americans act and how both political candidates are horrible for the United States. I dislike hearing people discuss America in a negative tone. On the other hand, I find it immensely interesting how frequent America is discussed within the UK.

Okay… back to the amazing Harry Potter studio.

We started with a conference with Josh Berger, the President of Warner Brothers UK, Ireland, and Spain. Not a big deal at all!!! Berger oversees and motivates all the teams of Warner Brothers and controls budgeting within the company. I felt like I was meeting a celebrity, and was extremely nervous to ask him a question. I found myself starstruck, yet I had never seen this man before. Berger was not only inspiring, but personable. You would expect a man with such an authoritative position at an iconic company to be disengaged and bored by a group of twenty college students. He was the complete opposite. He was insightful and asked us questions about growing up with the Harry Potter franchise. Berger reflected on his time as a student and how he found himself where he is, today.

He connected the dots on how to work your way up in a business when starting at the bottom. It is extremely important to “find what you love to do and get really, really good at it,” Berger explained. This was refreshing to hear while being overwhelmed by the thought of applying for internships next summer. As a student we are bombarded with the statements: “it is who you know, not just what you know” and “what will make you different from the other candidate in the interview”. It is easy to get lost in the crowd and feel like your dream job is not possible to achieve. I want to enter the fashion industry which is extremely competitive, similar to the entertainment industry. Berger made me believe if you are passionate about your work and learn all aspects of an industry, you can be successful. It might not come right away, but it is possible.

After the conference, we headed for the WB Harry Potter Tour. The exhibit featured original sets, props, and clothing. Basically everything that was put into the making of each film was in the studio. Walking into the iconic dining hall of Hogwarts (pictured below), I realized just how much goes into the making of a movie. The set was recognizable, but I would have never thought it was the original set from the film. I have much more appreciation for the production and all the behind the scenes work of films.

 

I took special interest in the wardrobe and makeup proponents throughout the museum. As Emma Watson said in the beginning of the tour, “Everyone that was behind the scenes are the real wizards of Hogwarts”. Actors devote themselves to characters, but the staff behind makeup and wardrobe bring the characters to life. Without the hair and makeup staff, the iconic characters would not be the same.

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The WB studio was my first interaction with movie sets, special effects, sketches, etc. I think of movies in two categories: animation and real life. Today I realized the two have to intertwine for the magic to happen. In any production, visual editing is a major component to any final product. Harry Potter may not have cartoon characters, but animation is definitely a key component to the visuals. Many of the sets had unfinished ceilings that were filled in with visual editing done digitally. The infamous quidditch scenes in Harry Potter are all done with green screens and animated through special effects.

The most astonishing component to the studio tour was seeing Hogwarts as nothing more than a prop. I always imagined Hogwarts as some magical university in the world. I realized the real Hogwarts was just a life size paper castle and was brought to life through visual editing.

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Here is more on how the editing works to create the Harry Potter films.

The experience made me grateful to be on this study abroad program. Even more grateful, attending a university that gives such amazing opportunities. How many students in America get the opportunity to get advice from the president of Warner Brothers? Not only the president of an iconic brand, but one of the key players in bringing Harry Potter to fruition. Harry Potter has become one of the biggest franchises in the entertainment industry, next to Star Wars. The franchise has also become the biggest sector of Warner Brothers. All of which Josh Gerber oversees. Many of us attending this program are studying creative or management majors. It was insightful to see how both sides of the spectrum are needed to make something special happen.

Now onto my Harry Potter marathon! Expelliarmus!

 

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