Drew Sykes, Wittenberg class of 2011, has kept quite busy on the western coast of the U.S. post-graduation. He’s most recently been involved with the production of “Galveston,” which premiered at the 2018 South By Southwest film festival, later screening at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival and Deauville.
After graduating in 2011, Sykes found himself as an assistant to a producer at Low Spark Films, Tyler Davidson. Sykes moved around after his assistantship, working as a production assistant on “Whiplash” and as a production secretary on “Revenge of the Green Dragons.”
“From there, I was contacted again by Low Spark to return to the company in an Executive role,” Sykes said. “Since then I’ve been producing and fulfilling the duties of Head of Development and Production.”
For Low Spark, besides working on the production and execution of “Galveston,” Sykes finds himself in what he termed an “all-encompassing role.”
“When we’re not in production, my main role is to pour over scripts and projects to see if they might be a fit for Low Spark to produce,” Sykes said. “When we go into production, I perform the duties of a producer. Depending on the project, that may be involvement in the editing process of the script, the casting, pre-production, production, post-production, festivals, distribution, marketing and finally, release. It’s an all-encompassing role and I don’t think there is one function I’ve yet to perform.”
“Galveston,” Low Spark’s recent focus, is a drama-thriller based on the novel “Galveston” by Nic Pizzolatto, who was the creator of “True Detective.” The film features Ben Foster and Elle Fanning and was directed by Melanie Laurent.
The path to where Sykes is now started when he met fellow Wittenberg alumni, Parker Neff and Patrick Bierut, during his freshman year.
“I actually came to Witt thinking I’d go into business, but became rather disinterested in that idea early on,” Sykes said. “I happened to live near Pat and Parker my freshman year and they were hoping to pursue careers in television. We all discussed creating our own major at Witt using the resources available to us. They were the driving force behind that decision, so Iowe a lot to them.”
Together, these Wittenberg alums took a summer film class and found themselves furthering their love of the television field. When beginning the process of self-designing his major, Sykes cited a group of advisors and one person in particular that helped him further his dream.
“I got a lot of help from my advisors and a few teachers, specifically Miguel Martinez-Saenz, who encouraged me to design my own course alongside Parker and Pat,” Sykes said. “He laid out a sound argument for how a specifically designed major could be a differentiating factor when seeking a job outside of college. And, remarkably, his prediction was exact — when I met with Davidson outside of college looking for work, my mention of the self-designed major was actually a focal point of the interview.”
For those thinking about a similar kind of career, Sykes says he finds himself confounded by what advice to give when asked, but he did provide some words of advice.
“I do try to mention that film, unlike television, does not have a solid professional structure. No two people’s path is the same and there isn’t a normalized ‘ladder’ to climb,” Sykes said. “It is a freelance lifestyle with a heavy dose of luck.”
Producing a film can be stressful, Sykes noted, but in the end, it’s the relationships that keep the process moving smoothly.
“It takes a few years to complete a film and truth be told, most of that time is pure, raw stress,” Sykes said. “But, sharing dinner with a filmmaker or having a joke on set with a fellow producer keeps the ship afloat. And finally watching the film for the first time with an audience is a moment beyond explanation.”
Even though Sykes is out on the western coast in Los Angeles, he encouraged Wittenberg students to reach out not only for advice, but as a resource. Sykes is accessible over the LinkedIn platform.
“I keep in daily touch with quite a few Witt graduates and see them regularly,” Sykes said. “I think we’ve all helped each other get where we are, either directly or indirectly, and I suspect that will continue for quite some time.”