Alumni Feature: Seth Parks (MCA ’15)

Four years out of college, Seth Parks knows he’s still young. But he’s come to embrace the time that it takes to become an excellent filmmaker—and to live a meaningful life.

Seth Parks
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During his senior year at King’s, Seth Parks (MCA ’15) had an internship with Ignite Studios working on a documentary about welfare in America. “We were talking to people who were on welfare in every situation you can think of, like a formerly incarcerated man and a single mother who had a child with special needs,” Seth says. “We wanted to ask the big questions. What is really helping people?” During development, a former executive producer at National Geographic, Thomas Skinner, visited the studio for a few days to review their footage.

That short time hearing suggestions from Skinner made a lasting impression on Seth. “He was looking at the things that we were looking at, and just seeing everything: the way the camera should be helping to tell the story, the parts that are really interesting that we should dig into. His narrative understanding set in me the desire to find someone older I could work for, even if that meant working at a smaller company for a lot less money. I think it’s something that God set in my heart to seek.”

For Seth, encountering difficulty has meant coming to respect “the long game of a career.” Especially living in New York City, Seth sees many young people at the crossroads of technology and innovation doing intriguing things. There’s an emphasis on celebrating the “30 under 30.” But watching an experienced producer in action gave Seth an alternate vision for how he wanted to pursue film. His conclusion: “You can’t rush 30 years of experience.”

The few years he’s worked within the film industry have corroborated this idea that becoming respected in the field takes many small steps. His first interaction with the film industry came during his freshman year at The King’s College. Jonathan Coleman, the vice president of Guy Walks Into a Bar Productions (known for Sully and Elf) was visiting King’s to talk about an app he was developing. After the event, Seth struck up a conversation with Coleman about potential internships at the production company. The following semester, he decided to enroll in only four classes and interned with Guy Walks two days a week. One big takeaway from the internship was seeing how much work goes into writing a script. “It’s not just someone with an idea sitting down and writing it out. It’s years of work.”

Even after the internship concluded, Seth stayed in touch with the team at Guy Walks in hopes that they would keep him in mind for future opportunities. If the company’s founder and president Todd Komarnicki needed help moving furniture, Seth would be there. “I made sure that I was there in person. I wanted to put in their minds that I’m reachable and reliable.” The one time that he couldn’t make room in his schedule, Seth connected the Guy Walks staff with a trusted friend who could do the job instead. He got coffee with Coleman once or twice a year to “make sure he knew I was still in New York, and was still interested in what they were doing.”

Meanwhile, Seth stayed alert to additional opportunities to work in film, learning about the Ignite Studios documentary through the College’s Office of Career Development. A few months after graduation, when the commitment with Ignite was wrapping up, Komarnicki and Coleman reached out to Seth to “just to hear what he had been up to.” It turned out that Guy Walks had an opening for an assistant position, and they wanted Seth to interview. When they asked what Seth’s ideal situation would be, he shared his hope of learning under someone with three decades of experience, a description that Komarnicki matched perfectly. “I basically described back to them their company. It feels like a very prepared-interview type of situation, but I wasn’t exactly thinking that at the moment. I think God had put that in my heart, and that He opened this door.”

The formal interview process involved analyzing scripts and making edit recommendations, and Seth found himself exercising the skills of critical analysis he’d developed at King’s. As a student, Seth had taken as many film classes as possible with associate professor of English and film Bearden Coleman. (The beloved Professor Coleman now teaches at Houston Baptist University, but maintains relationships with King’s alumni and faculty.) Coleman, and other professors at King’s, pushed him to think deeply about theme and narrative techniques. “I remember the feeling in college of being so frustrated. I would look at the film and think, ‘What does he want from me?’” But then, looking over scripts in the Guy Walks interview, he found himself leaning on the hard-won instincts he’d gained in college. “I had nothing to rely on but my years of studying film in class. I went with those instincts, and they were really impressed, and I got the job,” Seth recalls.

Like many a first job, the assistant position at Guy Walks was full of mundane tasks, like scheduling meetings, booking doctor’s appointments, and buying plane tickets. After years of school, filled with milestones and measures of achievement, it was hard to tell if he was progressing in his assistant job. However, there came a point about a year in when Seth found a way to connect his daily projects with his long-term goals. “Film is so relational, and it’s so much about trust. To trust someone with a big project, you have to see their body of work. I had to learn that right now, this is my body of work: being reliable, and being one hundred percent diligent in every little detail. Jesus talks about this principle. How can you give someone a big thing if they aren’t reliable in getting their schedule right?”

From that moment on, Seth had a renewed energy for doing each part of his job well. When he would occasionally be asked to review scripts, he felt fully able to focus on the creative task, knowing that he’d fulfilled the logistical, administrative side of the job with excellence. In one instance, he was asked to review the pilot episode of a buddy comedy set in New York City, written in a similar style to Brooklyn 99. “My bosses were not keen on it, but I loved it. I thought it was really funny and had so much potential as an audience hit.” Seth’s advocacy for the project convinced his boss to keep working on the script, which ended up getting optioned by a large British production company. “It was a really big moment,” Seth says since he had been the first one to believe in the show. Thanks in large part to his involvement with the pilot, he was promoted to Director of Development about three months later.

This lesson of choosing to be faithful in the little things has extended into the way Seth approaches life outside of work. During his time at King’s, Seth saw faculty and staff—even ambitious, high-achieving people, like Prof. Brian Brenberg or Dr. Anthony Bradley—making time for relationships, both with students and with family. That example has stuck with Seth in the last three and a half years since graduating. “It has been so important to have a strong Christian community around me, to seek out friendships and to make time for others. With all the money in New York City, the most valuable thing is time. If you are willing to give people your time, they will feel valued,” Seth says.

One night a week, Seth picks up donated food from Trader Joe’s after the store closes to bring it to the food pantry at New York Gospel Ministries. (Incidentally, King’s also partners with this ministry during the Annual Day of Service, and NYGM has an ongoing service partnership with the House of Ronald Reagan and the House of Queen Elizabeth I.) The commitment can feel taxing at times, since he doesn’t get back to his apartment until after 1 a.m., but he says that this is the kind of life he wants to live. “Right now, I am young. In the same way that now is the time to ‘put your head down’ and grow at the start of my career, it’s the same thing with community and with the Kingdom of God. There is no better time than now to find a place where you can be useful to God.”

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