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ACP: Humans of Universal City

Humans of Universal City

A session at the Associated Collegiate Press National College Journalism Convention | Los Angeles | Feb. 26-March 1, 2015

For every kid that I bump into who is wandering the media industry looking for an entrance that is closed, some time ago, I come across another who is a bundle of ideas, energy and technological mastery. The next wave is not just knocking on doors, but seeking to knock them down.

BRIAN STELTER in a keynote address quoting David Carr

Photo by Abhinav Gautam

Photo by Abhinav Gautam

The hardest thing was to read a book on computer graphics and create a photo book on photos of blue and white fences, concrete walls, and clouds.
I wanna visit Greenland and meet people from all over the world there.

Photo by Abhinav Gautam

Photo by Abhinav Gautam

From Tokyo, Japan — This is my first time in America. Most fun thing was “riding my motorbike on the highway” through Japan.


Photo by Matthew T. Alexander

``I was looking for a job and trying to get some money for college, I was going to school to be an engineer. Got a security gig, my friend said 'Hey you wanna do it?'
``Sure, how much does it pay?``
``100 bucks.``
``Okay. I show up and it turns out to be a set, and I was like 'oh, okay I'm here to guard your gate. Where do I go?'
``Well we don't need you anymore today. Do you wanna PA?``
``Okay, what's that?``
``Oh, you just help out on set.``
``Okay, I can do that.``
I started from there. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, pure luck.``

Photo by August Frank

Photo by August Frank

I’ve worked with a lot of troubled teenagers through the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program. It’s helped me grow as a person, changed my life. I’ve never done anything bad, but it’s made me a better person. I’ve been doing it for 27 years. Every chance, even if I see kids on the street, I buy them a pizza. I say go back to school, do positive things because what you're doing is negative.

Photo by August Frank

Photo by August Frank

Vietnam was pretty dramatic—seen lots of personalities, met a lot of good people. We were a band of brothers and we still are. And we still remain that way the rest of our lives. It makes you really cherish life. Makes you become a better human being. Makes you respect lives and makes you a better person.

Steven Smith 1_web

Photo by Steven Smith

I own a business and she came in selling insurance. That's how we met. We dated for about eight years and we just got married last year in Hawaii… Travel, not work, and enjoy life. We’ve worked hard, both of us, all of our lives, so it's time for us.


Photo by MatthewAlexander

I'm a native, everybody in my family is. One of the biggest blessings in that I work with people everyday. You see people, talk to these people that come here to see celebrities. And I'm blessed and I don't take it for granted to ultimately be part of a production team here at universal that can do something. Universal has been a huge blessing for me. I've been at Extra for 21 years and Soul Train for 24 or27 years.

Photo by Alina Moss

Photo by Alina Moss

I broke off from them (Jehovah Witnesses) because I said I didn't need it anymore. what they do is they expelled me from the congregation, threw me out like the apostle. So I've been on the streets since then.

Nicole Smith 2_web

Photo by Nicole Smith

What's the best or worst parts of parenting? I'll focus on the worst. When they're babies it's the fatigue. Then they into toddlerdom it's the lack of cooperation. They get into everything and make a mess. It's fun to have a kid that looks like you and, I guess, acts like you.

Ian Lobdell 2_web

Photo by Ian Lobdell

I like to dance the funk, ballet, and hip hop. Everything. I dance everything a lot. I think beauty inspires me. Yeah beauty. Everything has beauty…like the fashion, like beauty. When I dance I try to express my feelings, but with beautiful. Okay, maybe my feelings are not beautiful at all but I try to.

Nicole Smith 3_web

Photo by Nicole Smith

Erica Sinnott 1_web

Photo by Erica Sinnott

I came to America 40 years ago. Even though I'm just park services, I love my job. I get to see Universal Studios in a whole new light. My favorite movie is ET.

Erica Sinnott 2_web

Photo by Erica Sinnott

What started off as a job to me became something I love in a fun atmosphere. Popcornopolis makes popcorn in a healthier way and has over 17 flavors, which are all really good. Even though I love work, I love going home to my Chihuahua Daisy. I'm just an ordinary person I guess.

Ian Lobdell 1_web

Photo by Ian Lobdell

What defines us as people is our family. Obviously, Trina here is a special needs adult and a triumphant experience is when she finished all her surgery...and that is one of the most triumphant things—the triumph of human spirit.

Ian Lobdell 3_web

Photo by Ian Lobdell

I like baseball because, I don’t know, just the adrenaline, being with my teammates, having the company of them… These are friends that you make like in high school and after high school, college, adulthood. I mean basically, friends for life. Before baseball I was not shy but silent to myself, but now I’m like more energetic. Talk a lot more. I show more feelings on the baseball field then I do right now.

"What's her name?""Miracle"

Photo by Jayaruwan Gunathilake

``What's her name?``

Jayaruwan Gunathilake_web

Photo by Jayaruwan Gunathilake

The greatest accomplishment in my life is my family. I have two daughters. One is 27 and the other one is 32. They just split up, you know, end studies and get married. I live with my wife... just my wife!

Megan 1_web

Photo by Megan Razzetti

Biggest hurtle in my life was taking on four stepsons ranging in ages 4-14. I am an only child so I had no idea what to do with six kids—we already had two girls and all of a sudden it went from zero to 60 in two years. We learned a lot together.

Melany Mcangus 2_web

Photo by Melany Mcangus

In my life, there was never really anything that I wanted to do. I moved to LA from Hawaii, where I had lived for four years, just for a change of scenery. When I got here, I only had $400 to my name. I needed a job, so I got one as a dog groomer and I love it. I’m really lucky I found my true calling in life.

Nicole Smith 1_web

Photo by Nicole Smith

``I got to hold this one guy's baby. He wanted to play a game but he didn't have a shoulder or anything so he kept asking me to hold his baby. I was like 'Nah, I can't' but he didn't speak a lot of English so I just held his baby while he played the game.
``She's met all the celebrities—Selena Gomez, Kevin Hart, Kendrick Lamar, David Beckham, Rhianna. The reason I know is because it's always when we switch shifts.``

Justin Quebral_web

Photo by Justin Quebral

Laurie was training Theo for another person. After a year, he stopped growing and the other person he was being trained for needed a larger dog, so he got rejected by his original owner and I wound up with him instead. So I'm the lucky one.

Megan 2_web

Photo by Megan Razzetti

What makes me happy?
``Life...waking up in the morning. I am basically a happy person, but being with dogs doesn't hurt. I spend a lot of time with dogs...I train service dogs. I love it, it is so challenging.``

Humans of Universal 4

Photo by Hailey Williams

Why did you end your last relationship?
``I dated him for 2 1/2 years, and broke it off for 'distance, but I really was having a secret relationship with his cousin.``

Humans of Universal 3

Photo by Hailey Williams

What was your weirdest date?
``My ex-boyfriend's family owned a funeral home, so he asked me if I wanted to go watch an autopsy. She was a Puerto Rican woman who overdosed and died of asphyxiation. I will never forget the smell of burning skull.

Our thoughts

Here are notes from Linda and Bradley.

  • Good job talking to folks and getting interviews.
  • My only disappointment was when a few students were discouraged and gave up after one rejection.
  • It was great to see you embrace the concept.
  • Some beautiful examples of using lighting to your advantage. Just look at how the sidelighting in some of these images adds texture.
  • You were all thinking about storytelling. Take that lesson home. Whether it’s a 1,500-word feature or a standalone caption, it’s a story.
Points to consider
  1. Remember the follow-up question “Why?” to clarify vague quotes.
  2. Look for quotes and pictures that go together to make a story. When the quote and photo don’t work together the result is confusion.
  3. When selecting the info to include in the published quote, don’t be afraid to edit out information that detracts from the story. Some of posts submitted were just too much. Find the kernel that clearly tells the story.
  4. There’s a story in everyone. Find it. Get the “gotcha” quote. Tell that story succinctly.
  5. It’s never easy approaching a stranger and asking to take their picture. But when you do, don’t forget the basics of lighting and composition.
  6. Watch the background. The arms, the people, the poles can all be distracting. Think about using layers: foreground, middle ground and background.
  7. Get the names of all identifiable people.