A Former ‘Eater an Oscar Nominee
At the start of his undergraduate career at UC Irvine, 2010 Alumnus Edward Patrick Alva had no idea that he would end up with a career in filmmaking, much less that the documentary that he worked on would be up for an Oscar nomination. “The Invisible War,” the 2012 film centered on the epidemic of sexual assault in the U.S. military shows the stories of a handful of sexual assault survivors, as well as the systematic cover-up the military has employed to keep this under the rug.
Alva’s career started when he became an intern for Chain Camera Pictures, the production company that produced the film. The director, Kirby Dick, as well as the producers, Amy Ziering and Tanner Barklow, had just begun the initial process of interviewing and filming the survivors when Alva began his internship.
“After interning and ultimately securing a job at Chain Camera, I was tasked with combing through all the harrowing stories that these men and women tell on camera,” Alva said. “It wasn’t until I was faced with literally hundreds of hours of footage, listening to story after story that I became more and more passionate about the subject and creating positive change.”
Alva’s formal title was “assistant editor” and he logged and captured footage to organize it for the main editor. He also made preliminary scenes based on the clips and give them to the editor to refine.
“I’ve learned that being able to wear different hats can be an asset,” Alva said. “There are many people who only look to do directing or only want to edit; and that’s perfectly fine! But with a smaller independent production company, having even a cursory knowledge of the different aspects of film production can help immensely, especially during a tight deadline.”
The film premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and received the U.S. Documentary Audience Award. It has also been nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 85th Academy Awards.
“I woke up to the news of our nomination with complete and utter disbelief. ‘There’s no way,’ I said. But sure enough, the film was nominated,” Alva said. “I think what’s most exciting, even more so than the Oscar nod itself, is the fact that the film has been making actual, tangible change in the military. The exposure that the nomination gave the film and the movement is incredible and has since been screened to the very top leaders of our country. In fact, President Obama himself recently made statements in regards to military sexual assault. The issue is still as pervasive as ever, but the work that ‘The Invisible War’ has done is definitely rattling the cage.”
What’s even more amazing about this nomination is that Alva never considered filmmaking as a potential career until he attended UCI.
“I actually came into UC Irvine as someone with no particular interest in filmmaking. I was interested in art and music, but did not see film as a medium that I’d actively pursue. However, the film classes I took with Bryan Jackson definitely changed my perspective,” Alva said. “I believe it was the very first film class that got me hooked. Bryan was able to show how film was the culmination of many different aspects of art and how they all come together to show a singular whole. His classes also really emphasized learning the techniques and skills needed to work in the industry.”
Alva found these classes to be instrumental for him since he learned about the equipment and gear, how to use them and the basics of film editing, which are all skills he utilizes on a daily basis now.
“While I grew to love film, it’s the department’s other classes that taught things such as graphic and web design, composition, social networking, etc. which allowed me to be a sort of one stop shop for supporting the team,” Alva said. “I ended up creating some of the film’s motion graphics, managing its social network presence, designing posters and pamphlets in addition to my duties as assistant editor.”
Currently, Alva is still working for Chain Camera Pictures on several new documentaries, one of which is for HBO. He also founded his own production company with friends and fellow UCI alumni called Classy Deer. For now, they will focus on short films, music videos and event coverage for their clients.
As for advice for students who may be interested in a similar career path, Alva believes that networking is a very important aspect.
“The old saying of ‘who you know may be more important than what you know’ definitely applies in this industry, unfortunately,” Alva said. “That said, I think what sets people apart is their willingness to set their egos aside and do what it takes to get the job done. Work hard and you’ll be recognized.”