By Mia Wallace
June 10, 2016
Did I stay up until midnight for the book release of The Half Blood-Prince? Of course. Have I gone to the nearly all the midnight movie premieres? Damn straight. Did I draw a scar on my forehead and wear a makeshift cloak to these premieres? Only when I didn’t wear my “Hairy Otter” t-shirt. How many times have I read through the entire series front and back? Nearly every summer since I was 9-years-old. Does it ever get old? Absolutely not.
I know that I can ask all twenty of my fellow students on this study abroad trip these exact questions and definitely have more than half and most likely more than 2/3 of them have similar answers. I truly believe that no piece of media has touched and influenced my generation more than J.K. Rowling’s series about the little boy who lived, Harry Potter. We grew up with Harry Potter as an inspirational figment of our imagination and with Daniel Radcliffe as the human embodiment of him spanning nearly his entire adolescence, as well as ours. Harry Potter taught us the importance of friendship, how to stand up for what is right, to always be yourself, to never back down from a challenge and it showed us the power and magic of words. With nearly 73 translations of the book, 450 million books printed worldwide and the eight movies grossing $7.7 billion from around the world, it comes at no surprise that Harry Potter is one of, if not the most successful franchise and brand in history.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
It is a $15 billion brand and international household name & today we sat down with and met the president of the Harry Potter Global Franchise Development team, Josh Berger, who is also the president and managing director of Warner Bros. U.K., Ireland, and Spain. To say that it was an incredible once in a lifetime learning opportunity wouldn’t do it justice. As someone who really wants to go into the management side of the entertainment industry, this helped to only confirm that this is the path I want to follow. One piece of advice that he gave to us that really stuck out to me was that “we craft our own luck”. You can attribute everything to chance or opportunity and leave everything up to fate, but if you want to succeed and have your dreams come true, you create your own destiny and do not leave it up to fate. You make your luck through your ambition, drive, and passion. If and when I land my dream internship on CONAN or any other late-night TV show, it won’t because I was in the right place at the right time or got “lucky”, it will be because I worked my ass off and put in the effort to land it. I have always known that the entertainment business is hard to break into, but listening today to Berger about what it takes, only further inspired and motivated me to go out there and take a sledgehammer to it.
But, I think what will sadly stick with me the most about this experience is when Josh Berger, this incredibly powerful and influential man in the film industry, used the word “retarded” to describe how poorly he used to play baseball. Being the face of an entire company and one as big as Warner Bros., it was so incredibly disappointing and off-putting to hear him say that. Not only is it so insensitive and offensive to use this word as a description for his “lack of skill” but it’s shocking to see someone who is a representative of a branch of a Fortune 500 company show no filter and unhesitatingly use this word completely out of context and incorrectly. Many people think that my generation is too “sensitive” and too easily offended but if being easily offended by someone using a very real and very serious learning disability as a negative descriptor, then color me offended. I don’t think it’s ever appropriate and I think it is incredibly unprofessional to use that term to describe anything that does not relate to the disability itself. So, I guess now I really hope that I can break into this industry so I can make a small difference in the professionalism and humanity that it seems to currently be lacking. As Albus Dumbledore once said, “it is our choices that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities,” even if it’s something as seemingly trivial as choice of expression.
Do Not Dwell On Dreams
Walking into the Making of Harry Potter at Warner Bros. Studios felt like I walked straight onto a page in the book. Not only were all the props there the actual props and costumes used in the movies, they had actual physical sets that were completely furnished and set up just how they were in the movies. The great hall, the Gryffindor common room, the meeting at Malfoy Manor and the house on 4 Privet Drive. You truly felt like you were in the wizarding world and that all these characters, conflicts, places, and monsters were real. Walking past the set from the meeting at Malfoy Manor especially made me feel like it was all real. A shiver went down my spine seeing Nagini frozen in mid-slither towards his “dinner”.
It also made me really want to spend the 19.6 hours it would take to watch all eight movies in a row as soon as I got home. I’ve never really felt exceptionally moved by a place before but walking through all these sets and seeing all these characters that were such a fundamental part of my childhood really brought me on the verge of tears. Which is so silly for me to think about but even now looking back through pictures it brings me back to my childhood and I think about all the things that have changed for the better or the worse and it’s incredibly moving. These emotions I felt while walking through the studio tour assured me that this is exactly what I want to go into. I want to work in an industry that emotionally moves people to grief, fear, joy, or nostalgia from something as simple as an iconic pair of circular glasses.