Explosions. Glass shattering. Elephant stampedes. Just another day in the life of then-University of West Georgia film student Taajera Jones ’22 on the set of Marvel’s blockbuster film “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” which premieres in theaters today.
Before she graduated from UWG in May, Jones already had a stint as a lighting intern under her belt. It’s all part of her master plan to become the next great director.
“To be part of this epic franchise means that I can only grow and become better,” she beamed. “If I can start with this opportunity, then the dream is achievable.”
Jones’ fascination with the silver screen began as a young child watching her mother’s VHS movie tapes. She let her imagination run wild, creating images and storylines in her head as she started writing. Jones picked up her first camera at 15 and began studying cinematography and taking A/V tech classes in high school while learning the fundamentals of editing.
Jones, a Lithonia native, said she chose UWG due to its affordability and the reputation of the School of Communication, Film, and Media’s film and video production program.
Through an association with the Georgia Film Academy (GFA), UWG students can work in the film industry in various capacities while completing their degrees. GFA is a collaborative effort of the institutions of the University System of Georgia supporting workforce needs of the film and digital entertainment industries, ultimately striving to place students with union-covered film and television production craft internships and placement in film, television and digital entertainment apprenticeships and jobs.
“After completing key courses within the partnership, I was placed in a raffle with all GFA students to gain an internship on ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,’” Jones explained. “I was chosen after considerations of drive and work ethic. I worked on the set from January through March.”
The internship allows for students to work eight hours for a total of 20 days in an area they show interest in. Jones chose lighting, a department in which she drew schematic diagrams of the lighting setups.
“In between takes, I tried to talk to someone new every day,” Jones recalled. “With the set being so huge, there was a new crew member I’d never seen before. In this industry, networking is a must – plus I was curious about other filmmakers’ experiences.”
After graduation, Jones served as a wardrobe intern for the upcoming Sony show, “Shadrach,” and the networking she did between takes on the “Black Panther” set landed her her first professional role as an assistant prop master on season two of Amazon Prime’s “Them.”
In addition to the GFA connection, Jones said her education, experiences and relationships with faculty were critical to her “Wakanda Forever” internship and the successes following.
“Being a student at UWG was fulfilling and fun,” she stated. “Deon Kay, my favorite professor, made the experience smooth. Through his curriculum, I made my first group of films. UWG allowed me to learn the fundamentals of making a film – writing, shooting, editing and sound. The physical practice of craft has pushed my experience to the next level.”
And for those who wish to follow in her footsteps, Jones advised dreaming big and taking action.
“If you want to pursue film, start writing, get a camera and start shooting,” she concluded. “Start now and grow while you have the time. Take advantage of opportunities UWG provides, such as the GFA program, that can expand your horizons of film knowledge with even more hands-on activities.”