Media Production Senior Expands Creative Horizon with National Miami Internship

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Behind every TV series or blockbuster movie, there’s a team of creative leaders with expertise in shooting, editing, and visual storytelling.

Gary Clay, a media production senior, is one emerging leader from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi who is making his mark as a creative industry professional. He interned with the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) earlier this year and is the producer and assistant director for the upcoming student film “Jehovah.” Clay is set to graduate in May.

At the NATPE Miami Marketplace and Conference, an event that draws thousands of creative leaders and content professionals, the Waco, Texas, native had the experience of a lifetime. During the six-day internship, Clay networked with established and burgeoning industry professionals and met role models like Mara Brock Akil, an American screenwriter and TV producer known for popular shows like “Girlfriends” and “Being Mary Jane.”

In one of the panels Clay attended, he was inspired by a speech given by Tyler Perry, an American actor, playwright, filmmaker, and comedian known for the long-running Madea franchise, “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” and “The Haves and the Have Nots.”

“Hearing Perry share his journey about how he went from living in his car to becoming a big force in the industry made me feel like I could climb Mount Everest,” said Clay. “He emphasized how important it is to work hard and never lose focus on your craft. Even if you land in a writer’s room, you can push yourself to keep going and reach greater heights.”

The internship gave him the opportunity to forge valuable friendships with his fellow interns and connect with a producer, who shared advice with him.

“It’s a hard industry – you can be super talented or have a lot of experience, but you have to be in the right place at the right time and know the right people,” said Clay, who was the only Islander student selected to be one of 40 interns from across the United States. “We foster these relationships with each other – the next generation – and it gives you a better professional chance.”

Clay first learned about the opportunity from Dr. Ethan Thompson, professor of media arts. Over the course of several weeks, the two worked one-on-one to write a recommendation letter, a personal statement, and prepare Clay’s application.

“Professors like Dr. Thompson are behind you every step of the way,” said Clay. “Our media production professors are very passionate. They bring that energy with them and engage with us on our off-campus sets, give us tips, and push us to grab more experience. That’s what I like about the program.”

Thompson also attended the NATPE annual conference. He was selected to be a faculty fellow and took part in a special day of faculty programs with media industry leaders held prior to the start of NATPE Miami. He and other faculty fellows gained critical insight into the current state of the TV and online content industries.

“I’m really proud of Gary for being selected for this internship,” said Thompson. “Throughout the past couple of years, I’ve watched him come out of his shell and develop as a student. In Miami, he experienced how the TV industry works firsthand and saw things students aren’t typically exposed to in the classroom setting.” 

As an Islander student, Clay is an active member of the Islander Film Society, a student organization dedicated to the art of cinema. Through the Islander Film Society, he wrote, directed, and edited his first film “One of the Good Ones,” which tackles casual racism.

Clay’s latest film “Jehovah” is currently in production. In his capstone course, MEDA 4312 Advanced Production: Narrative, his pitch was one of two scripts selected out of a class of around 20 students to be made into a short movie that will be later submitted to a film festival. He and members of his class are taking on many different roles of industry professionals, such as producer, lighting technician, or camera technician, to create the compelling horror/thriller.  

“My experiences at the Island University gave me the confidence to place an idea that only existed in my head to making it tangible,” said Clay. “Before, I didn’t know how to do anything but write, but now I can find the right people, maintain the vision of the film I have in mind, know what equipment I need, and create a visual story.”