UCLA Extension

Instructor Interview – Vernon Mortensen

Meet new Entertainment Studies instructor Vernon Mortensen! Vernon will be teaching Starting Your Own Entertainment Production Company this spring. A filmmaker and development executive, he wrote and produced the movies Army Dog and A Sierra Nevada Gunfight, and produced and directed the limited series, Universal Dead, as well as the pilot for the new animated series, Mars Bar. He is in pre-production on Dakota, starring Megan Fox.

We sat down with Vernon and asked him 5 questions to get to know more about him and his course.

What about teaching for Entertainment Studies are you most looking forward to?
When I started out more than 20 years ago, there weren’t a lot of “business” classes for entertainment people and filmmakers. I’m hoping to help people who are just starting the journey, or who already have the creative side figured out and just need to know, what are the next steps and where are the roadblocks ahead?

What do you hope students get out of your course?
Starting and operating a media company is more complicated than just making a movie or TV show, which is hard enough on its own. There are so many regulations, legalities and pitfalls ahead of you and knowing what they are before you reach them will save your bacon.

What is one thing you want students to know before they begin your class?
Students need to be caught up on the “public version” of the industry, i.e. the trades (Variety, Hollywood Reporter, etc) so that we can dive in and “read between the lines” and figure out what’s really happening in the biz.

What are you watching or listening to these days that you are enjoying?
I’m so busy I hardly watch anything anymore! I try to watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Expanse, His Dark Materials, Avenue 5, Rick and Morty, etc. I listen to the Script Notes podcast when I can. Honestly, if I have free time, I’ll read a book before anything else.

What’s the best piece of advice you would give to someone aspiring to break into your field?
If you’re called to this, then you’ll survive the avalanche of people telling you “no” and the endless false-starts and failures ahead of you. If you’re here for the wrong reasons, like fame or wealth, there’s a very good chance you’ll quit and try something else in the next few years.