Communication Week at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point concluded with a visit from one of the university’s most renowned alumni. Peggy Rajski helped the university celebrate the end of Communication Week on Sept. 26 by providing a master class to students, networking throughout the day and partaking in a question and answer session,following a screening of her Academy Award-winning short film, “Trevor.”
“I was here from 1971 to 1975, but I still remember very distinctly what it was like,” Rajski said. “The stuff I learned here was foundational.”
Rajski has been in the film industry for 30 years. The films she has worked on have been nominated for Golden Globes and Academy Awards. Rajski’s passion for producing and filmmaking lies within the process of character development.
“As a producer, I want to work with people who have a strong point of view,” Rajski said. “Artistry is something I take pride in.”
Rajski told students who partook in her networking session that she did not go to school thinking she was going to get a job in the industry.
“School cultivated me in so many ways as a person,” Rajski said. “Maybe I’m one of the rare ones who actually got a chance to work in the field.”
Rajski told students she was privileged to get the opportunity to work within a growing company. In a year’s time, Rajski was able to move from being a receptionist for a small production company to making films for it.
“I don’t know what the answer to success is. I don’t think there is one,” Rajski said. “What I can say is that in the art of creation, imitation is educational. You won’t know what your own voice is as a producer at first, it requires a lot of experimentation.”
Matthew Bonde, co-president of the UWSP Filmmakers Club, said he learned lessons from Rajski he would not have achieved in the classroom.
“During the networking session, Peggy talked about some of the thoughts that should be going through a filmmaker’s head as they create and work, ideas such as ‘Why would an audience want to watch this?’ and ‘What connection to this idea do I have to make me motivated to see it through?,’ ” Bonde said. “Those questions really stood out as something that was incredibly important to consider as a filmmaker.”
Ashley Hommer, co-news producer at SPTV, said the biggest takeaway from Rajski’s master class was her passion.
“I learned a lot from her about what it means to be a producer and how much time, energy and money it takes to make a film,” Hommer said. “She taught us that you really need to know what your story is about and to be passionate about it, otherwise you will never get others to be passionate about it.”
Rajski said that movies have been an ethereal gift to drive her personally.
“Movies help me understand things outside of myself,” Rajski said. “I have always found them to be a deep, visceral experience when they are at their best. The people who survive the industry know it’s crazy.”
“Trevor” was screened in the Dreyfus University Center theater at 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Following the screening, Rajski told the audience she recently found out “Trevor” is going to be made into a Broadway musical.
“If you think it’s hard to make a movie, it’s just as hard, if not harder, to get a musical on Broadway,” Rajski said.
Though Rajski has had success, she admits to disappointments in her career. Rajski explained that part of the production process sometimes means stopping it altogether. Not all films get seen or even made.
“It’s a certain kind of quiet death,” Rajski said. “These experiences have made it much clearer to me what my own strengths and weaknesses are, personally and professionally.”
Rajski is undeniably joyous and passionate about her work. She said she was happy to be able to travel to Los Angeles and New York to work on productions and continue to support The Trevor Project that was created as a result of the impact “Trevor” had on audiences. Returning home was her own intrinsic reward.
“The riverwalk is beautiful,” Rajski said. “It’s not new to you all, but to me it is. It fed my soul.”