The Ithaca College Los Angeles Program is an internship-based program that provides juniors and seniors with a major or minor in communications an opportunity to gain professional experience in their chosen fields while taking industry-related courses.
Ithaca alums bring HBO's True Blood to life: The HBO series True Blood, a show about vampires and the inhabitants of a small Louisiana town, is known for its interesting characters and great special effects. It takes a massive amount of people to bring the show to life, two of whom are Ithaca College alums.
Victoria Tidmarch ’04 was a cinema and photography major at IC, where she worked on film projects of her own as well as other student productions. Her interest in film led her to the Park School’s L.A. program, where she interned for an agent who represented cinematographers.
“The L.A. program was very valuable to me,” says Tidmarch. “It gave me a taste of the industry, and it was that experience that made me confident enough to come out here [after graduation].”
Prior to True Blood, Tidmarch worked as a camera assistant on the pilot of the show Life, and on the movie Prom Night. Then she was offered a job as a film loader on the True Blood pilot. When the show was picked up, she stayed on the set as a camera assistant.
While the work is hard and the hours are long, Tidmarch loves it. In fact, she says True Blood is probably the biggest project she’s worked on to date. An average day on set runs 14 to 15 hours -- some days she shoots from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., since the show has a lot of night scenes.
Actors (l-r) Anna Paquin, Rutina Wesley, and Sam Trammel film a scene. Photo courtesy of Jaimie Trueblood/HBO
Those longs hours can take their toll, though. “It’s really exhausting because I have to be there earlier than everyone else to set up, break down, and send the film to the lab. I can’t really sit down all day,” she explains.
While Tidmarch is busy filming the show, fellow IC alum Chris Salamone ’01 is working behind the scenes as a grip.
“[Grips] are the go-to guys on set,” Salamone explains. “We are in charge of all non-electrical lighting, lighting control, lighting color, and light shaping. We are also in charge of camera rigging, camera movement, stage rigging, stage lighting, and on-set construction. Anytime you see a shot in motion, a grip is behind it.”
Salamone, who was a writing major, didn’t participate in the L.A. program, but moved out there soon after graduation to pursue his career in the entertainment industry. He held many jobs before becoming a grip on True Blood, working as an extra on shows including Scrubs and ER, and as a production assistant on others, where he learned how all the equipment worked. He’s also worked on such popular shows as Heroes, Pushing Daisies, Californication, and CSI.
Much like Tidmarch’s, Salamone’s days as a grip are long.
“A typical day would be waking up at 5:00 a.m., driving to location or stage, and off-loading our 48-foot truck with the tools we need throughout the day,” he explains. “There is so much equipment that we have our own language.”
The work is demanding, but Salamone says that the best part of working on True Blood is the talented crew.
“Having a great crew makes it a lot of fun to come into work each day, despite the workload. Plus, if you’ve seen the show, you know we have a lot of laughs and a good time creating the special effects,” he says.
While Tidmarch and Salamone are pursuing their goals on the West Coast they haven’t forgotten about what it was like to live in Ithaca -- or what it was like to be a student.
“There’s a certain magic, and an energy about Ithaca that sticks with you forever,” says Salamone. “I was blessed to make a number of friends outside of my department. Those friends helped ease the transition out of Ithaca into Los Angeles, as most of my best friends caravanned out here with me and are still a major part of my life.”
“I’m still in touch with students who graduated my year and are out here,” Tidmarch adds. “It makes me proud to know that others have come out here from Ithaca to make a living.” Even if that living is with the undead.
Fuse is a student produced publication about the Ithaca College experience. All content in the print and web versions of Fuse is developed by current Ithaca College students in a breadth of different areas of study.