Kalos Chu '23 is a junior at Harvard College studying English with a secondary in Art, Film, and Visual Studies. He’s a journalist and screenwriter interested in pursuing a career in feature animation. This past year, he interned at Nickelodeon Animation Studios and DreamWorks Feature Animation. Most recently, he helped found the On Campus chapter of Harvardwood.
Q. What inspired you to start Harvardwood on Campus?
A. This past year, I took a gap year and did a lot of work in the entertainment industry. I had to cold email many people and seek out tons of resources on what it takes to break in, and I realized that there weren’t necessarily that many Harvard resources where I could do that. There was OCS, and several upperclassmen that I knew of, but there wasn’t really a central place where people could get together and talk about these things with their peers.
And shortly after I started to break in, I did virtual Harvardwood 101, and I thought: "Wow! This is exactly what I was looking for! It’s everyone on campus who is somewhat interested in entertainment! Why doesn’t this group exist during the rest of the year?"
Shortly after that, someone from Stanford Students in Entertainment reached out to me and asked me to speak on a panel, and afterward I spent time speaking with their president and learned more about their on-campus group — which gave me the information and context for how to start a group like that at Harvard!
And even beyond all of the educational/logistical benefits, I think there’s value in having a place for peers to connect — to celebrate successes, to complain about failures, and to just have friends who are going through the same thing.
Q. How did you get interested in entertainment?
A. I came to Harvard wanting to study English, and sort of settled on one of two career paths - journalism or education. I had never considered entertainment seriously even though I really enjoyed movies, for the many reasons people don’t consider it: ‘it doesn’t make money’, ‘nobody can make it’, etc.
When the pandemic hit, it threw all my plans out the window. We were sent home, and it felt like the whole world was on pause. Also during this time, my father passed away from a five-year battle with cancer. There was a lot of turbulence, and it really made me reflect on what I valued and what I wanted out of life. And right at that time, I watched the Disney+ series Into the Unknown which is about the making of Frozen II — and I had this epiphany: “Oh my God, this is what I want to do with my life: I want to make animated films.” What struck me was how much everyone cared about what they did and the time and effort they put into the work and how much they enjoyed it. That was so infectious, and it made me realize that’s what I want to do.
Q. What did you do then?
A. I thought, "Okay, where the heck do I start?" I literally went through the credits of Frozen II, looked up everyone on LinkedIn, and cold emailed about 100 people! Something to the effect of “Hey, you don’t know me, but I would love to talk about your job for about 30 minutes on Zoom if you have time”. Of course, 90% of them ghosted me, but about 10% of them got back to me, and I got tons of helpful advice. I also talked to as many Harvard alumni in the industry as I could find, and listened to whatever podcasts/read as many books as I could. I just tried to learn as much as possible. Then, during my gap year, I interned at a few live action production companies in the fall, interned for Nickelodeon’s Creative Development department in the spring, and DreamWorks’ Feature Development department in the summer.
Q. What was your biggest takeaway from your DreamWorks internship?
A. Of course, I learned tons about the animation pipeline, about how the development process works, and what makes for good storytelling. But beyond all that, I also got to really understand a company’s culture. We were online the whole time, and it’s probably much harder to understand a culture virtually, but I think I was able to talk to a lot of people, not only in my department but from all corners of the company. From writers to recruitment to technical people, it gave me a sense of what kind of company DreamWorks is and how it’s different from other animation studios: How much people care about the community, why people come back and stay there for their entire career, and what they value.Read more