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Aug. 27, 2014
Read about two other Northwest alumni who took their talents to Hollywood and turned the experiences they gained as students into careers in the entertainment industry.
Anna Jordan-Douglass '01 has made the most of seizing opportunities during her career and now works at The Jim Henson Company as vice president of digital development and interactive media.
Scott Jones '99 is applying the lessons and hands-on approach he learned at Northwest as a writer and producer for on-air marketing at Disney Channel.
Kazadi Katambwa might not be where he is in Hollywood today if not for a man on an elevator.
In 2001, Katambwa was three years removed from earning his broadcasting degree from Northwest Missouri State University. He had spent the previous year in Los Angeles toiling as a runner – a sort of gofer for production companies – and trying to build his network as an aspiring film director or producer.
His trajectory changed the day he stepped onto an elevator with Kevin Sewelson, the co-owner of Seismic Productions, a burgeoning film marketing company. Sewelson had been discussing a film trailer he was cutting when Katambwa mentioned his directing aspirations, to which Sewelson responded by suggesting Katambwa try producing film trailers.
“We got to the second floor, which was where I got out, and I said I would think about it,” Katambwa recalled. “At this time, I was a runner and making like 10 bucks an hour, bringing home like 500 bucks a week. As the elevator doors are closing, he says I should think about it because some of the top editors make about $200,000 a year. Then the elevator’s doors close.”
It was like a scene from a movie, starring Katambwa as the fresh-faced 20-something trying to catch a break in the industry.
The elevator conversation piqued Katambwa’s interest and the next day he sought Sewelson for more information about the film trailer field and some contacts. Sewelson referred Katambwa to Intralink, one of the premier trailer shops in Los Angeles at that time, and Katambwa launched his career there a short time later.
“It was just a great, exciting creative environment to be in,” Katambwa said. “I just started learning the system and observing editors and seeing how to compose a TV spot. I learned how to create a story in 30 seconds.”
Learning and observing as a Northwest student is what launched Katambwa into film and production. He graduated from Northwest in 1998 as digital technology was beginning to take hold of the film industry.
A native of St. Louis, Katambwa initially was attracted to Northwest’s emphasis on using technology. He found his footing in Northwest’s mass media program and began taking advantage of its resources, often checking out the department’s huge cameras and their brick-shaped batteries to make short films with classmates. He and his buddies spent hours in Wells Hall’s editing suites, experimenting with the equipment and producing short films.
“You had to get creative and learn to think out of the box,” he said. “That experience of taking raw footage and constructing a story with it was very helpful when it came to learning the process of trailer making.”
Katambwa had been working at Intralink for nine years and advanced to an editor role when he received a phone call from Sewelson. The two men had kept contact over the years and this time Sewelson was calling Katambwa with an offer to join him at Seismic Productions.
So in 2010, Katambwa joined Seismic and enhanced the company’s reputation from a shop known for producing comedy trailers to one that could help promote the blockbuster action genre, too. Within the year, Intralink closed its doors as a result of the recession’s impact on the entertainment industry.
In his role as a producer/editor at Seismic, Katambwa was responsible for bringing projects to the shop and participating in the editing process for movie trailers.
Last fall, Katambwa left Seismic to become a producer at Buddha Jones and has worked on TV campaigns for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Godzilla” and “Hercules,” among other projects.
He screens films with an eye for dialogue and scenes that could help tell the story in a trailer. He also works with a team to write scripts, design graphics and choose the music that appears in each trailer.
“The process of cutting a trailer is usually a two-week process, but there are times when you will get a call from a client in a panic,” Katambwa said. “He’s sending you a movie and says he needs a trailer in two days. That’s happened, and I’ve had to cut a trailer in 24 hours.”
Movie posters representing some of his trailer work adorn the walls of his office, including the 2010 summer blockbuster “Inception.” Thumping base, screeching tires and cinematic explosions echo through the hallways from editing suites like Katambwa’s throughout the building.
“I have to come up with this story full of dialogue, sounds and memorable moments, and I’ve managed to get there every time,” Katambwa said. “When you get all your sounds in, and you get your graphics in, and it finally comes together it’s a thrilling experience. There’s nothing I love more than when I’m sitting in the theater and my trailer comes on, or when I’m home watching TV and a spot of mine comes on. I still get a kick out of that.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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