Now line producer on television sensation, “The Walking Dead,” GSU alum Tom Luse originally returned to academia in the 80s to study psychology. He ended up making movies instead. One of the first film students in what was then the Urban Life Studies program, Luse made the switch when then professor (now-DAEL director) Kay Beck spoke with him about taking a few film studies classes. Luse chose to make a film for his Master’s thesis–a 30 minute documentary, “Who’s Killing the Cities?” The piece was funded through GSU and through grants, and was shot by Luse and his fellow students.
“We really enjoyed it,” Luse recalls. ”I got the full film experience from writing to posting it—the whole nine yards.”
Luse’s debut film caught the eye of the American Film Institute, which awarded him an internship at Paramount Pictures where he worked under Martha Coolidge.
“ Thats a big achievement I’m proud of,” he said.
From academia, Luse went on to work in various capacities on numerous sets: grip, A.D., prop master, location manager. The experience, he said, has made him a better producer.
“There is no single path to someone’s career in the film business. The best way is to just jump in and take any job you can get to figure out where this will take you,” Luse said. “Occasionally someone will have a movie in their head that has to get out or a vision, but for average mortals the best way is to just jump in and see where it takes you.”
Despite his breadth of experience, Luse is likely best known for his current work on “The Walking Dead.” One of the show’s strengths, Luse says, is the ability of the production team to work together. Luse said he has a similar experience on the set o “Hachiko,” a project of which he is very proud.
“To me, filmmaking is a process, so what I am most proud of sometimes is not what becomes the most popular or most prestigious,” Luse said. ” I really liked directing second unit in Japan on ‘Hachiko’ with Richard Gere. I had to use every bit of my ability to create an opening of the film. It took everything I had to pull it off, and that’s what filmmaking is about, to me.”
Luse said his strength is in development, a path which he hopes to pursue once his time on the production end is done. But whether pursuing development or production, Luse said his experiences at GSU were the launchpad to his career.
“Georgia State gave me the opportunity to find my own path. I had an unbelievably great graduate experience. I got to make films everyday. I got to make a film as my Master’s thesis. I had great advisors. I had a great internship. I was a lucky winner,” he said.