My Experience with the YEP Program

By Dominic Koponen

HPA Young Entertainment Professionals

What do engineering and the entertainment industry have anything to do with each other? The answer: both nothing and everything at the same time. In most settings, entertainment is thought of as the expression of creativity to an audience. On the other hand, engineering is typically thought to be a very logic-based field in which math and science are combined to create something. However, the entertainment industry is fueled by engineering and technology that allows creators to bring their creative visions to fruition. As time progresses, this becomes more and more true every day.

Like many working in the entertainment industry, I started working with cameras at a very young age. I was absolutely enthralled with how you could tell a story with the use of different video sequences shot with a camera. I worked through college professionally as an editor and video producer to pay my way, but due to not being able to afford film school, I decided to major in mechanical engineering. Luckily, I found some internships that allowed me to merge my passions and work on the engineering side in product design for the entertainment industry. After graduation, I was offered a position with Panavision, where I currently work designing camera systems, camera accessories, and a multitude of types of products. I have learned a tremendous amount about the technical/engineering side of the film industry, and I still have much to learn. There is such a vast amount of information with standards, on-set best practices, ever-changing technology, etc. that will undoubtedly keep me learning until the end of my days.

In my spare time, I am still able to spend time on my greatest passion: directing and producing my own films that I write with my brother. Most people think that it is very odd that I am a filmmaker as well as an engineer, due to the idea that the two disciplines are typically viewed as opposite sides of the spectrum of creativity. However, in the field of work that I am in, they complement each other very well.

When I first applied to the YEP program, I had no idea what to expect and the benefits it could bring. I had imagined that it would be pretty amazing, but it has already far superseded my expectations. During our first orientation day, we met with all the fellow members of the program and talked about what to expect this next year. It was during this time in which it all clicked for me: this is where I needed to be. It has been challenging for me to find other young professionals who are obsessed with film and entertainment as much as I am, and now I was in a room full of them. As we went around the room, I became more excited as I learned what each YEP did for a career. It was especially interesting to hear the YEP alumni speak about their experiences and how much the program has helped them to grow. The YEPs came from just about every company relating to entertainment you could think of, with a whole lot of knowledge and an eagerness to learn more.

Since the YEP program is a mentorship program, we spent a large portion of the day learning a lot of great insight from the mentors of the program. The mentors, many of whom are leaders in their respective companies, all come from similarly diverse backgrounds throughout the entertainment industry and have a lot of working knowledge. Later in the day, we were able to have roundtable discussions that gave us insight about many different aspects of working in entertainment, both the good and the bad. You could ask any question and not feel intimidated, as the setting was so casual. The unique opportunity to communicate with great people from many different disciplines, both mentors, and YEPs, at any time means you can learn at any moment from any expertise, which then allows you to continue learning aspects of the entertainment industry that you might not be exposed to through a direct position.

Since orientation, I have kept in touch with mentors as well as my fellow YEPs. I was graciously invited by mentor Lynette Duensing to visit Instinctual to check out their impressive quick-turnaround workflow for color and VFX. I also had the opportunity to go to the 2018 HPA Awards and see some of the beautiful creative work done this past year in color, editing, sound, and VFX. These opportunities, among many others planned this year, are all thanks to the YEP program, and they allow me to continue learning more about this vast creative industry. I am learning from some of the most knowledgeable minds of the industry in the two fields I am most passionate about: technical and creative. Not only that, the program has given me an exciting opportunity to network with other young professionals in entertainment who are just as passionate about the industry as I am. This program has been one of the best decisions I have made in my young career. If you are on the fence about applying next year, absolutely do it. You will not regret the decision. I know I don’t.

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