Otis College’s New Partnership with Netflix Creates Pathways to Entry-Level Jobs in Entertainment
The Access: A Netflix x Otis Entertainment Certificate Program was created with industry professionals to help students “turn their passions into promising careers.”
For many of us, a movie poster is the first and most indelible encounter we have with a film. The most iconic images—the great white shark lurking underneath the swimmer for Jaws, Uma Thurman smoking a cigarette on the cover of a trashy-looking novel for Pulp Fiction, Lupita Nyong’o’s fear-stricken eyes peering out from behind a mask for Us, the moth obscuring Jodie Foster’s surprised face for The Silence of the Lambs—can transport us to a film’s imagined world in an instant.
The latter poster has landed on numerous “best movie posters of all time” lists, and it’s the work of BLT Communications, a creative agency co-owned by Dawn Baillie (’86 BFA Communication Arts, Illustration). The agency also is credited with the movie posters for Dirty Dancing, Thor: Ragnarok, and Cruella, among many others. Not one to rest on her laurels, Baillie—who is on Otis’s Board of Trustees and also is the president of BLT Helps, the agency’s philanthropic arm—has been looking ahead to the next generation of talented artists and designers who could make an impact in the entertainment marketing field, where movie posters, trailers, and key art are dreamed up.
Baillie, along with her industry colleague and friend Kenny Gravillis—co-owner and creative director of Gravillis Inc., an agency that has created key art for such films as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and the James Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro—recently worked with Otis College of Art and Design to launch Access: a Netflix x Otis Entertainment Certificate Program. Access, which will enroll its first class of 18 students this Fall, offers every student full-tuition scholarships, professional mentorship, and a paid apprenticeship. Bringing together the expertise of Otis instructors and professionals across the entertainment industry, the 20-month career preparation program teaches students the basic skills required for entry-level jobs in entertainment marketing, with courses like Introduction to Trailer Editing and Writing for Visual Communication.
After providing students the foundational skills for researching, conceptualizing, and creating their own work, the program culminates in a six-month paid apprenticeship at one of Netflix’s creative agency partners.
Making Movie Magic
When Baillie and Gravillis discuss the importance and allure of movie posters, their energy is palpable. Baillie knew she wanted to make movie posters since she was in high school. Because music and film were always his biggest passions, Gravillis began with album covers. Both creatives know the hard work it takes to break into entertainment marketing and to keep pushing yourself once you start your career.
Through Zoom conversations with colleagues across the industry, Baillie and Gravillis noticed that while people were having many conversations about increasing diversity and lowering barriers for entry into entertainment marketing, there wasn’t a clear path forward.
“Technically, we’re competitors, and it’s a very competitive industry that we’re in,” says Gravillis. The two connected over conversations about people being dismissive of arts education, even as they both acknowledge the hugely important role theirs had on their careers. When Baillie asked him what could be done to fix the pipeline issues, Gravillis said he wanted to come up with something that “taught what we did in an environment that was not just educational, but really connected into our industry.”
Both Gravillis and Baillie approach Access through the lens of helping more people of color enter the industry—and helping them do so while feeling prepared, both through technical expertise and industry-specific insights.
A New Educational Model
Baillie and Gravillis saw how interns and entry-level workers whose lack of a strong foundation in elements like typography made it harder for them to enter the field. They realized that getting rid of certain prerequisites for job entry doesn’t necessarily fix the whole problem. Instead, it should be about giving students the chance to learn the skills they need to succeed in those jobs. And that means giving them a spot in educational spaces to learn those skills, which is why Access at Otis College is so essential. Gravillis adds that this is even more significant when it comes to Black and brown students.
“Especially when you talk about Black and brown families that are not part of this world, art school is sort of like, ‘Where do you go with that?’ I’ve met kids who’ve really been driven about doing art, but they’ve been pushed into going to business school because their parents couldn’t really understand where art could actually lead,” he says. “A lot of people—not just Black or brown kids—don’t know that the entertainment marketing industry exists. Here’s a career where you’re actually sketching freehand—someone’s doing that day in and day out. You’re not thinking that’s a real thing, but it is.”
Art and design school also offers space for critique, which Baillie says is helpful in preparing learners for jobs that often require a lot of back-and-forth between the creative agency and their film or TV studio client before seeing the end result.
“We need there to be an understanding of how to deal with criticism, how to improve the work using the criticism, and how to have the tenacity to stay on a project when somebody’s required you to do 35 revisions on something,” she says, “because that’s what we have to do… We get an assignment, we have a script. We’re getting revisions and criticisms continually. And you might have to work on the same thing 30, 40 times. So you have to have the fortitude to be able to withstand that.”
Both Baillie and Gravillis say that working with Netflix as a partner helped solidify the program and make it something that industry professionals would take seriously. It’s been a long, two-plus years of ideating that has finally come to fruition. Both of them love what they do so much that creating an opportunity for students from the next generation to find that same passion kept them going throughout the arduous development of the program.
“I want all the applicants to have a real understanding of what they’re getting into when it comes time for them to actually go get jobs in our industry,” says Gravillis. “One of the challenges is that even when you go to regular art school, our industry is very specific. It’s already going to be a tough thing. A lot of [our students] are going to feel like minorities in a situation and will probably be one of the only Black or brown kids in a bigger organization. They’re going to need to feel confident.”
The Access: A Netflix x Otis Entertainment Certificate Program aligns with other initiatives that Otis College has undertaken to better serve students of color of all ages and artistic abilities, and fulfill its mission to educate them to become highly skilled, well-informed, and responsible professionals. Like so many of the College’s partners, Netflix sees a clear upside for both the students and the industry.
“Securing a place for the next generation of creatives in entertainment marketing demands action—not in the future, but now,” says Rapha Vasconcellos, Vice President, Product Creative Studio at Netflix. “Without an emphasis on diversity and a concerted effort to include those from all backgrounds, not just a select few, our full potential for creative storytelling will never be reached. That’s why we’re excited to partner with Otis College on this new program that aims to provide just that—giving unprecedented industry access to underrepresented communities of color, and helping them turn their passions into promising careers.”