What is life without a little risk?
By Colleen Ferguson
June 10, 2016
Sirius Black said it best, “What is life without a little risk?” This was the theme of today, one of our last days in London, as we went to Warner Brothers Studio. In fact, it has been the theme of this entire study abroad journey. As the trip is quickly winding down, and we leave a week from Saturday I have begun to understand that risk can bring wonderful reward.
One month ago I was sitting the Airport in Amsterdam alone with no idea of what was soon to come. I had no clue that with this trip I would meet some of the most genuine, kind people I have ever come across; all while uncovering the beauty and history of Europe.
Risk is the foundation of most successful people’s career, though, not all have had to take these daring leaps to attempt to grasp at success. Today, we had the pleasure of being introduced to Josh Berger, President of Warner Brothers UK, Ireland, and Spain. He sat with us for an hour and gave us the ability to ask him anything from questions about his career, to recommendations for each of us, and even questions about the Harry Potter franchise.
Josh came off very personable and confident as he peeled the layers back to explain his career. He started in Los Angeles being raised in the entertainment industry which was an obvious leg up to most. He explained that he went to school on the east coast and casually dropped the “h-word” (Harvard).
Here is where I started to notice that Josh’s story wasn’t exactly a rags to riches story (which is completely fine, just a little disheartening).
He took a year off to move to Italy and pursue an internship with a family friend (Silvio Berlusconi). Upon further research I discovered that Silvio isn’t just a random man in Italy, he served as the Prime Minister and has a net worth upwards of 7.1 billion dollars. So Mr. Berger was very fortunate to grow up surrounded not only by some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, but also successful people in other career fields across the globe.
It was almost frustrating to listen to someone so successful when offering words of wisdom say that they had a lot of help from connections. But looking back now, I realize that yes, his connections obviously gave him an advantage over many other people. But Josh utilized his resources while giving everything he had to advance his career. He took what was around him and made a career out of it.
You know he made it when he referred to the stars in the Harry Potter series (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint) as “the kids”. Josh Berger helped pave the way for what he called, “the most success film franchise ever.”
But he was right, he watched over the production of the Harry Potter series which captivated such a multitude of generations.
We had the opportunity to tour the set of the Harry Potter series after meeting with Josh. As someone who has grown up with waiting for each book and movie to be released, I can say that this was quite a unique and exciting experience.
This gave me just a little view into the world of production. I never realized how much work and effort goes into each detail of a movie. With Harry Potter specifically, the production team didn’t just have to create costumes and props, they had to create a whole new world. A world that correctly represented the books the J.K. Rowling wrote.
The tour took us through just about every aspect of the creation of Harry Potter. One part that I took much interest to was development of characters. The detail that went into each character in Harry Potter was something that was remarkable to me. Because this series was so inventive and unique, the characters were as well. Just one example being the characters at Gringotts’ Wizarding Bank. The bank is the only bank for the wizards and it was run by a number of goblins. These characters had features unlike any human, so those who played goblins wore a mask that was created specifically for each person.
But some of the characters in the movies were so unique that no one could just simply put a mask on. Characters like Dobby, the house-elf were created solely with CGI. Our tour through the set explained that since the characters were placed into the scene with a computer, the actors struggled interacting with a character wasn’t there. The director realized this and decided to place actors in these scenes in hopes to get a more natural reaction from the actors.
One of the other interesting things I took away from the Warner Brother’s Studio Tour was just how many of the props were real and not created with the click of a mouse. Props like the Hogwarts Express, Knight Bus and many more were created to scale. When we did the tour yesterday I was able to get up close to each of these props and see just how much detail went into creating each thing. One example is from Olivander’s Wand Shop; the set design team hand inscribed each one of the over 17,000 boxes with names and designs.
Traveling to Warner Brothers to meet Josh Berger and tour the set of Harry Potter was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had this past month studying abroad. Taking the risk to come on this trip gave me so much in return. We were given the ability not only to listen to Josh explain his career and the productions that have came with him, but also, we were shown just how the productions he talked about came to life. Sure, his story didn’t parallel everyone in the room, but it did show just how important resources are in growing a career. Reflecting back, I would say the two most important things I took away from today were understanding that everyone you meet can impact your life, as well as learning just how far hard work and dedication can take someone.