Passion Behind the Lens

KENNESAW, Ga. | Dec 5, 2018

Major creates professional networks for students

Austen Taylor knew he’d found his calling the first time he picked up a camera. The camera, a gift from his uncle, sent Taylor’s life in a new direction just as he found his footing at Kennesaw State University. Finding his passion behind a camera led him to focus in media and entertainment, a new undergraduate major in KSU’S School of Communication and Media.

The senior is one of hundreds of students benefitting from this new program. With the rise of film and media production in Atlanta, Kennesaw State’s degree in media and entertainment gives students the skills to excel in the media-rich culture of the modern world.

Austen Taylor

“Students learn digital production skills that they can use in a variety of media,” said Erin Ryan, director of the major in media and entertainment. “We combine theoretical and applied approaches to make sure students get experience, build a network, and know the history of the field.”

To help ensure students get a step-up in building professional networks, the Media and Entertainment program offered a Maymester tour of local Atlanta media hubs like Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Studios, re:imagine/ATL, Third Rail Studios, and featured many speakers meeting the students over a two-week period. It was during that tour that Taylor found the perfect opportunity to expand his passion for the camera.

That experience and his Music and Entertainment Business class taught by Keith Perissi, director of the Joel A. Katz Music and Entertainment Business certificate program, led directly to Taylor’s internship opportunity for the Fall 2018 semester. The 21-year-old assisted with photography at a gala event sponsored by re:imagine/ATL, a nonprofit that helps give teens resources and mentorships in media. Third Rail Studios was at the gala to support the mission and Taylor was able to reconnect with the studio. Ryan, director of KSU’s media and entertainment major, encouraged Taylor to keep in touch with the studio and ask about available opportunities.

The Dacula native soon found himself as a fall 2018 intern at Third Rail Studios, one of the newest film and television production studios in the Atlanta area. His first time on a studio set, he explained, was overwhelming. He witnessed the magic of television as sets were built and filming began. It created a new realm of excitement and possibility.

“Watching the sets come together was my first time seeing the behind-the-scenes possibilities. It really changed how I viewed my work with the camera,” Taylor said.

While he stills loves photography, his time with Third Rail has left him excited to do more work with video. Interning at the studio has given him a wide view of the entertainment industry, and he’s happy to have the opportunity to learn from some of the best. He’s been able to help with a few shoots at the studio and see the work that goes into every set.

This internship and finding a path to his passion solidified for Taylor that Kennesaw State was the right choice for him.

“When I first came to KSU, I wasn’t sure it was a good fit for me, but I became a resident assistant with housing and found mentors in my classes,” he said. “That’s really made Kennesaw State my home now.”

Ryan said she is thrilled to see Taylor’s success and that the summer tour made such an impact.

“The thing that came up in all of our meetings during those tours was the importance of relationships,” she said. “Your connections will get you where you need to be. These study tours help our students build those networks before they graduate.”

Ryan also put together an Adobe Spark project to showcase the incredible summer trip to the studios and shared the students’ experiences.

– Andrea Judy

Photos by David Caselli

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit