Young Alumni Series

Geneva Willis ’16: Finding Home in Hollywood

By February 14, 2018 No Comments

From watching her favorite childhood Disney productions to working on them, Geneva Willis is proof dreams really do come true. Growing up, she knew she only ever wanted to do one thing — tell stories.

“I remember I would just make up stories, and I would read constantly,” Willis said. “As a kid, I had this impression that if you read a lot, you inevitably had to become a writer and a storyteller.”

That mentality acted as a catalyst throughout her college career, helping her land a job first working at Disneyland and now as a post-production assistant at Disney ABC’s upcoming television show, The Crossing.

An Auburn native, Willis found a second home working for the university’s media and television group, Eagle Eye. As one of two entirely student-run television stations in the SEC, she said having the power to decide what stories were told, who was on staff and what the shows looked like gave her all the experience she could have ever needed.

“I love Eagle Eye, forever and always,” Willis said.

It was there she worked as the Director of Web and ran the comedy sketch show, “In the Jungle” that aired for two seasons. After graduating with degrees in theatre and media studies, Willis watched her friends accept jobs as soon as they threw their grad caps in the air while she waited in her hometown saving up enough money for her dream.

“I was very fortunate in retrospect, but I was not happy about it at first,” said Willis. “So, after graduation, I did the humble thing and took two part-time jobs at a restaurant and as a bank teller. Because of that, though, I was able to move to California with a nice nest egg that funded all those practical things you need to achieve your dream.”

Willis had an interview in California for NBC’s prestigious Page Program while already being accepted into the Disney College Program for Disneyland.

“I hopped on a plane in January and flew out with three suitcases a day before the interview and moved myself out here with my back up plan being Disney,” she said.

Unfortunately, she did not make the Page Program, but it was through Disney where she learned valuable tools on how to market herself better.

Interning for Disneyland was similar to living another college experience — Willis lived in a dorm-like space and took classes, with the campus being the theme park. She was required to work on the grounds five days a week, ironically assigned to Disney’s California Adventure — essentially a fake Hollywood.

One of Willis’s favorite and most magical experiences as an intern was when she had the opportunity to watch the live action version of “Beauty and the Beast” on the historic Walt Disney Studio Lot two weeks before the wide theatre release.

“It was incredibly special to sit there and watch a film you grew up watching on the Disney Lot where the original was made, in the same theatre Walt Disney himself would have watched it in,” she said.

While selling turkey legs and churros to guests every day, as an intern Willis was also given access to the company directory. It was her Disney internship that led her to where is now, in a “weird roundabout way” she said. Wanting to work in the entertainment industry, she reached out to studios and television networks until she got a call back.

“People were very open to helping and willing to connect me with the right people,” she said.

She continued to contact people until eventually one of her networking contacts — a post-production supervisor on shows like Game of Thrones and Good Girls Revolt — opened up an opportunity for her to interview for her current role.

In just a week’s time she was interviewed, hired and started as the new production assistant for ABC’s The Crossing.

“I’ve moved myself to Los Angeles, and I’m doing this job, and I still can’t believe it sometimes,” Willis said. “I’m looking out my office, and I can see the Hollywood sign and Paramount Studios, and it’s absolutely mind-boggling.”

Post Production is where all the edits, special effects, and music are added to create the nice finished product that the audience sees on TV. Willis supports the editorial staff, the editors, and the post producer helping them with anything they may need.

“I’m basically Anne Hathaway from “The Devil Wears Prada”, but everyone is really nice in my office,” Willis laughed.

Working in her dream city, Willis hopes to progress to one day becoming a producer or work in development to find those special projects that audiences fall in love with.

“You’re basically the guardian of your own story,” Willis said. “It’s your responsibility to make sure that script is the best possible script it can be.”