Michael Jones

Michael Jones

Collaboration is intended to use the skills and strength of those around you, but is never a substitution for your own good judgement. Michael Jones , Adjunct Instructor, Media , The Art Institute of California—San Diego, a campus of Argosy University
What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

The defining moment in my life when I knew I was destined to become a creative professional was really by chance. After 2 years of college, I was not sure of the next step. My father had just died, and my mom said she would send me to any college I wanted to attend. I went to the counseling office and pulled out a catalogue for the University of Southern California, and opened it to a random page, which turned out to be page 57, which was the first page describing the Department of Cinema. I remember saying to myself that I liked movies and this looked very interesting. That got me there, but the real ah-ha moment was on the first day of the first class. Being surrounded by creative people, teachers and students alike, I was immediately taken and knew I had made the right choice; telling stories with pictures would be my life. I left USC Film School with a BA in Cinema. 


How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran’s sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the
profession?


I weave my professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran’s sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession by relating my experiences in producing and directing almost 2000 TV commercials and programs. I tell students about the pit falls I've encountered in 50 years of film and video production and business in the hopes that if they encounter them they'll remember how I solved the problem and came out a better person, producer and business person on the other side. Some of the most valuable pieces of information I impart are the short-cuts I've learned over those years planning productions as a Producer, managing people as a Director, holding and using a camera in my hands as a Director of Photography and sitting in the dark in an edit suite as an Editor trying to fit it all together. Of course, there is nothing more rewarding as a job well done, when the client calls me to congratulate me rather than my having to call them to ask how the program was received. Perhaps the strongest recommendation I have received from a client was their reaction to my asking them for a written recommendation. Their response was "write whatever you want, make it big, make it fit what you want...and I'll sign it."

Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

There is a class assignment that exemplifies my approach to teaching and mentoring. For the first few weeks of the video production class, students learn the basics of storytelling, shooting and editing. Then it is time for the student make what is perhaps their first film. I assure them no one but me will see it, but in many cases I ask if I can show it to the class because it is that good.
My approach is constructed to inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits. That is essential with creative types. I tell them I want to review their treatment, script, raw footage and final edit as they go along, not to impinge their creativity, but to keep their project to a reasonable size where they will be very likely to succeed. I tell them "we're not making Gone with The Wind here," just your simple story.

For my business students I would have them write a business plan over the course of the entire semester. For many this is the first time they have thought about and committed to paper what they really want to do in life as a career. Here also is where the stories about business pit falls really become interesting. Times and places where had I misstepped, I would have been crushed. Details about company structure, hiring people, getting paid, complying with the IRS are all important to a person operating their own company. I tried to present the vast material in a way to say that it was really common sense and easy, you just need to know a few rules and get help whenever you’re not sure.

What role does collaboration contribute to students’ success…especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?

Collaboration definitely contributes to students’ success... especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project. My philosophy is that no one person can know it all. With Digital Cinema especially, every pair of eyes on the visuals and ears listening to the audio are important. I teach to listen to everyone's suggestions, not be embarrassed about one that it really good that you didn't think of, but never relinquish control of the project. Collaboration is intended to use the skills and strength of those around you, but is never a substitution for your own good judgement.

In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

In my opinion, the single most important thing I impart to my students to help them succeed in my class and in the real world is integrity. In the creative world it is just expected that you can work the equipment and complete a job on time, on budget. What is required past that is that clients trust you, that you are fair, that you are great at problem solving, creativity and have great compassion. Attitude is everything, humility is the key and just being nice is a winner all the time. Maya Angelou once said “People will never forget how you make them feel.”
Alternatively, the most critical advice I offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career is to always tell the truth, that way you never have to remember what you said. 

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you, your experience, or your role as a faculty member at The Art Institutes?

I began teaching as a way to give back after so many years of my chosen career that made life a wonderful experience for me. It was important to me that I helped to "replace" myself in Digital Cinema content creation so that when I finally retire, so I could sit back and enjoy what some of my students have created. That has been a wonderful part of the last 5 years of teaching, but I must also mention that seeing my students land successful jobs, or being successful in life have become the highlights of my teaching experience.