CHICAGO, Ill. — Andrew Carter has loved cinema ever since he was a child. But it wasn’t until he transferred to the University of Colorado Colorado Springs that he realized making movie magic could be his career.
Since graduating with his Bachelor of Communications in Digital Filmmaking & Media Arts in 2018, he has been putting his degree to use in different video production jobs. Recently, he has helped bring multiple hit TV series to life, including “Chicago PD” and “Chicago Med.”
Carter first began toying with video production by joining his high school audio-video crew, where he was introduced to properly operating a camera and capturing content.
“I didn’t really like being told what to do,” Carter says, with a laugh. “To be able to film whatever you want, within reason, and do okay —I fell in love with it.”
After high school, however, Carter drifted away from film. He just didn’t know if he could become a cameraman on a big-time TV show or create a silver screen blockbuster. Instead he focused on his second passion of teaching and enrolled in Pikes Peak Community College (PPCC) to become a science teacher.
“If I was asking myself in high school, I would have thought I was crazy, because I was terrible at math and definitely didn’t care about science,” Carter says. “It was kind of … self-exploration. Then at some point I said, ‘Maybe I can be a teacher later in life?’”
With that, Carter decided it was time to stop simply watching films and try his hand at making them. To fulfill his passion, he transferred from PPCC to UCCS, only to dive into film and media arts classes within this Communications track.
During his first class, Carter was panicking. What if he made the wrong choice? What if he wasn’t fit for film? But, soon, UCCS Communications Professor Matt Morgan re-established Carter’s confidence.
“He was the first teacher I ever had a class with,” Carter recalls. “I remember getting into his classroom and being absolutely terrified. Within the first week, I felt like it was the absolute right choice.”
With the right professors and practical experience, Carter quickly learned essential video production skills that would help him later on. In one hands-on production class, Carter was part of a staff that helped produce the UCCS school web series, “The Bluffs.”
“You spend the entire semester working as a team to film this show,” Carter says. “You have a tight schedule and you have people with things going on, just like a real set. That was probably the closest thing I got to the real world at UCCS.”
Before Carter graduated, Professor Morgan encouraged him to seek video production opportunities wherever possible. And after doing a few jobs in and outside of Colorado, including working with Dr. Oz to profile athletes at Colorado Springs’ Olympic Training Center, Carter set his sights on Chicago.
“Like a lot of people, I thought that Hollywood was the only destination other than New York,” Carter explains. “But as I started doing more research, having spent time in LA, I thought it wasn’t the very first step for someone who wasn’t as experienced.”
Hollywood, Carter explains, isn’t the only place with a booming film and television industry. New York, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Chicago also host many studio lots and sets that produce beloved shows and films.
In July of last year, Carter landed in Chicago and quickly began working on HBO’s “Batwoman.”
“I showed up with — not a whole lot, other than a work ethic and knocked around,” Carter remembers. “In about a couple of weeks I was getting professional experience on big sets, for the first time.”
But Carter’s role didn’t have to do anything with a camera or dolly. Instead, he was tasked with lighting a few cars on fire.
“They were already meant to be set on fire,” Carter says, with a laugh.
That’s the beauty of working in film and television, Carter notes. With so much content being created come thousands of jobs for countless behind-the-scenes production workers who help light up the screen.
“There are a lot of job opportunities — you can either find them, or make them yourself,” Carter says. “In filmmaking, you can do anything from sound, to set decor, to craft services. There are so many jobs on so many sets.
While making it in show business comes down to having a willingness to work, it helps to know people. Carter got hired on “Chicago PD” and later became a Dolly Grip on “Chicago Med” after asking a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend for a reference.
On “Chicago Med,” which is a three-camera production filmed on multiple TV sets, Carter’s role as a Dolly Grip is to work with the First and Second Assistant Camera Operators and the main Camera Operator to move, frame, and focus the camera, capturing key shots.
“It’s a great thing to do because you’re really involved with it,” Carter says. “When I’m working on the dolly I can say, ‘Hey, let’s move it this way or you should try that.’ It gets filmed and ends up on TV, so it’s cool to be able to see that.”
Eventually, Carter wants to give LA a shot, where he hopes to write, direct, and produce one of his own creations like a series or film. For a kid who grew up watching awe-inspiring classics from Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, it would be a dream come true.
But for now, Carter is happy to be learning so much on “Chicago Med” because it has a culture of support that has helped him grow.
“On ‘Chicago Med,’ there are a lot of people there to support you and who want to see you do well,” Carter concludes. “When you do well, they do well, and the show does well. It comes from a really genuine place, from leadership down — it really reminds me of UCCS.”
If Carter could, he might give a “Best Of” award to UCCS and the professors who have helped him along the way, making his dreams come true, just like in the movies.
The UCCS Success Stories series aims to highlight an array of graduates from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. Do you know of someone we should feature? Submit a nomination here.