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Union-Tribune Article

Young filmmaker has a veteran’s touch

Quality of student's work surprised competition officials

By Karen Kucher | 6:04 p.m. June 17, 2011


Dylan Rohn was in the third grade when he made his first movie, a report on a Harry Potter book. It was praised by his classmates and earned him an ‘A,’ but the 12-year-old cringes at the memory.

“It was bad acting, bad filmmaking, bad transitions,” he recalled.

Since then, Dylan has made a film every year for school projects. The seventh-grader at Warren-Walker Middle School, a private school in Mission Valley, has amassed a collection of books on cinematography, sound design and special effects and watches all the special features and commentaries on DVDs in hopes of learning all he can about filmmaking.  Read More

La Jolla Light Article

Meeting Jeff Small

DreamWorks Studio chief talks business at The Bishop's School

By James Palen | October 22, 2015


   Students at The Bishop's School had an opportunity to talk one-on-one with DreamWorks Studios Chief Operating Officer Jeff Small recently, taking back to the classroom a message promoting hard work and hope for those dreaming of careers in the film-making industry.

   Small, who joined DreamWorks in 2006 and works there under director Steven Spielberg, was invited to the school Oct. 15 as part of The Bishop's School's Endowed Leadership Lecture Series, which dates back to 2003 and has included such speakers as the San Diego Padres' famed pitcher Trevor Hoffman and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

   After a light-hearted and joke-filled presentation about his rise from working at Walt Disney Studios to his role at DreamWorks today, Small fielded questions from the curious crowd of sixth-through-12th grade students, who wondered about everything from what Small's favorite movie was to how a studio knows when to take a chance on a little-known actor.

   One of those students was senior Dylan Rohn, who said that while he used to tell himself he wanted to be a filmmaker, he's realized he already is one.

"I've pretty much been making films as long as I can remember," Rohn said.  "I'm making one right now.

I keep increasing my levels of professionalism."


Known among the area's filmmaking crowd as a rising young producer of multiple short documentaries, Rohn has been involved in the Teen Producers Project since before he started high school.  His projects, including the seven-minute film "Problem Solved," -- written, directed and edited by Rohn -- have won awards and have at times been featured  on the KPBS "News Hour."

   Directing a question to Small, Rohn asked how industry professionals can find a balance between the money-driven business side and that part which drove them to enter it in the first place -- their passion -- while minimizing any conflict between the two.

   "I'm looking at it from the artistic perspective," Rohn said.  "This is something that really brings a level of joy to my life that nothing else can approach."

   Small said the basic economics of filmmaking make for a symbiotic relationship between artistic and financial motivations, making little need for a filmmaker to compromise his passion as his main source of motivation.

   The joke is that movies don't make money unless they're good," Small said in reply.  "It all starts with a great story.  It all starts with a great filmmaker.  And very few filmmakers make movies because they want to make money.  They really don't.  At some point they do want to make money -- let's be honest -- but they really make it for the reasons you say."

   Spielberg's movies, Small added, are made because the stories speak to him creatively, and that artistic connection to a film is what would give it a greater shot at economic success, he suggested.

   During the roughly 45-minute all-school assembly, Small referenced the varying roles and careers any of the students interested in the film industry could fill if filmmaking was their passion.

   "I got into the movie business, and I came from a long way away in Marietta, Georgia," Small joked in front of the school's packed gym bleachers.  "This is not the rubber tire business; it is the movie business.  But if you decide it's what you want to do, I have no doubt that you're going to do it."

   Discussions arranging Small's appearance at The Bishop's School began more than a year ago, he said, after separate planning had begun for him to participate in the school's annual auction to raise money for student financial aid and faculty growth.  School spokesperson Keri Peckham didn't reveal how much the "Lunch with Jeff Small" auction item raised, but staff said it raised enough to help with scholarship programs.  The idea of bringing Small in for an all-school assembly as a part of the package seemed natural, Peckham said.  

   "We realized in speaking to him (about the auction) that he would be a great candidate for the Endowed Leadership Lecture Series," she explained.

   Following the assembly, Small met for lunch with the auction winners, and later attended a private reception and pre-release screening of the DreamWorks film "Bridge of Spies," starring Tom Hanks, at La Jolla's new luxury cinema, The LOT. 

Dylan Rohn, 2011

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