Columbus State University film production program alums Ginger Steele and Rena Thompson cashed in on their degrees in June working on the set of “CA$H OUT”—an upcoming thriller centered around a bank robbery and featuring John Travolta, Kristin Davis and Quavo from the rap group Migos. Filming occurred in Uptown Columbus, home of the university’s RiverPark Campus.
In all, 11 students and six alumni represented Columbus State through a variety of internship and crew roles, according to Dr. Danna Gibson, chair of the Department of Communication.
“This project injects money into the Columbus economy and moves our city one step closer to its goal of being a film hub,” Gibson explained. “Not only did our students receive six credit hours through their internship, but they had opportunities to build their professional film industry portfolios. The fact that the production hired six of our alums to work on the set speaks well for the caliber of students our program is producing.”
Steele, a Columbus native, began her CSU studies as a communications and sociology major. With the 2016 creation of the Georgia Film Academy (GFA) program in partnership with Columbus State’s Department of Communication, she changed her degree path. Steele has always had a passion for the film industry, so in May 2017, she graduated from CSU with an associate of arts degree in film production, then a month later, she received her GFA certification. She believes that her education at CSU as well as professors like Chris Robinson and Chuck Kerr best prepared her for a career in film production.
“Chris Robinson and Chuck Kerr prepared me most for the film industry,” said Steele. “Mr. Robinson was my professor for the video production class, and although Mr. Kerr was not my professor, I was able to sit in his production design class while I was a COVID-19 monitor last year. We also share an interest with props, like searching for and creating them.”
After interviewing with GFA’s production office coordinator, Trevor Brotherton, and co-line producer, Marcus Cooley, Steele received the art coordinator role for “CA$H OUT.” In this capacity, she worked under the production designer to help plan, organize and conceptualize the vision and design for the production sets.
“I loved working with everyone in the art department,” she mentioned. “It truly is a team effort to navigate with so many moving parts during the production.”
As a film production student, Steele completed an internship with Pinewood, now Trilith, on the Netflix film “Candy Jar”—a 2018 romantic comedy starring Christina Hendricks, Helen Hunt and Uzo Aduba. Steele explained that this internship assisted her with her “CA$H OUT” work because of the hands-on experience. With two film production credits under her belt, Steele recently landed a job with a film production company in New Jersey.
Born in Germany, Thompson has lived in Columbus for most of her life. Starting college later than most students, she first received an associate degree and then decided to continue her education through CSU’s GFA program. In December 2021, Thompson graduated with a bachelor’s in communication after focusing her studies on the Integrated Media concentration.
Thompson is currently a graduate student assistant at NPACE and is currently in her first year of the Master’s of Arts in Communication at CSU and is focusing her studies on the Creative Services Management track. She plans to receive her GFA certification upon completion of the summer 2022 semester.
“Columbus State not only provided me with the tools and resources I needed, but with my experience in the Department of Communication, I gained the confidence and knowledge that helped me on the set of ‘CA$H OUT’,” Thompson stated. “The department offers the best professors at Columbus State and the GFA program prepared me for the film industry and what working on a set is like.”
Thompson interned in “CA$H OUT’s” Locations Department during the production. Her daily duties included filing paperwork to get permits, calling the city of Columbus about street closures ahead of outdoor filming, and placing street signs around town to guide the other departments to set locations.
“It was great seeing communication students working together on this film and ‘CA$H OUT’ filming in Columbus provided other GFA students the opportunity to work on a local set,” she said. “It was really great to be one of the so many awesome people who worked on this film.”
For more information on Columbus State’s Georgia Film Academy program, visit https://gafilm.columbusstate.edu.