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womens history month gabriela grimmett ucf
womens history month gabriela grimmett ucf
Photo by Gabriela Grimmett

From UCF To Universal: Production Coordinator Gabriela Grimmett On Working Hard & Doing What You Love

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCF chapter.

Some of us may have grown up wanting to be a Disney Princess, but what about a Disney Princess who dreams of working in the film and the T.V. industry and labors hard to make that her reality? Meet Gabriela Grimmett, a UCF Film BA alum who’s now a Scheduling Specialist for the Entertainment department at Universal Studios. Grimmett, who was a party princess throughout college, is an Aquarius artist with a mission and a lot of heart. She’s a career-driven young woman eager to become a Broadcast Producer and encourage other women in the industry along the way.

I had the opportunity to have a great conversation with her, and as a UCF film student myself, I was incredibly inspired by her strong work ethic and infectious ambition. 

HCUCF: Did you enroll in UCF knowing you wanted to work in film?

Grimmett: I didn’t, actually. I’m actually from Seattle. So I grew up there, and I went to school there. I was born here [in Florida]. So my parents had the Florida Prepaid, and that’s where the free college was. I applied to UCF under an English degree. I wanted to go into law; I had a minor in Legal Studies and a major in English. However, I did a lot of theater, and I did film in high school. Why I went into law? You know, the belief that the entertainment industry is unattainable and you can’t make money in it. And then I realized about a year in: ‘I think I’d be good at law, but I think I’d hate it.’ So I changed my major with a minor in event management because I knew I wanted to produce, and that’s what I stuck with. And that’s what I’m doing.

Gabriela\'s grad photos
Photo by Gabriela Grimmett

HCUCF: Did you find your work opportunities through UCF? Or was it after you graduated? 

Grimmett: Yes, and no. I learned a lot with UCF. And I made connections because people, especially in Orlando, place a lot of value on you as an employee in film. A lot of reasons why UCF students specifically will get chosen and, well, why I choose UCF students, regardless of the fact that it’s my alma mater, is because UCF has such a huge network of people. And half the time, I’m constantly looking for people to be PAs, or drivers, or utilities are cam ops, and UCF just has a big network.

I got involved with Universal in early 2021. I applied to be a front desk agent at a hotel, and while I was there, the Tokyo 2020 Olympian families came. Their families were being sponsored by NBC, which owns Universal, and they were all staying at the resort. I worked at Sapphire Falls, so I got selected to be the Teen USA front desk agent. I checked in this guy named Todd Ferrante, and I mentioned to him that I did TV and film, and one of the other front desk agents also did film, and they invited us to go watch a taping of it. So we did, and it was so so cool. It was insane. They redid the event space, and we got to meet all the people and see all the big cameras and all that kind of stuff. And then I got everybody’s phone number because that’s what you do in film, you get everybody’s phone number, and you get everybody’s name and all that. And that’s what I did. And a year later, early 2022, I got a text from that guy Todd Ferrante because I did the networking thing, you know, ‘hi, I still exist, this random film student you met once on one day.’ And he texted me a year later and said, I need a production coordinator for this TV show that’s filming in Universal. At the time, I still worked at Sapphire, and he asked me if I could do it, not really knowing if I was capable. So it was really cool. He took a risk, and I’m so glad he did because now I work with them every month. 

HCUCF: What drew you to producing specifically as opposed to other positions in film and T.V.?

Grimmett: I’m definitely an artsy person. But artsy in a different way. I did theater a lot growing up, and behind-the-camera stuff like directing was never something I enjoyed as much as pre-production. And I’ve always been very type A; I like to plan, but at the same time, I really like to see the outcome of my work immediately. It’s not that TV isn’t a long process, but with TV, it’s just constantly moving 100% of the time. It’s always so fast-paced, and I like learning, you know, doing different things and understanding where I fit in the Career Network here. Fast-paced is where I thrive; if I’m under pressure, I tend to perform way better than when there’s a really flexible timeline. When they chose me to be Production Coordinator, I remember thinking, ‘Okay, this is going to be really indicative as to whether or not I messed up with my major. Let’s see if I enjoy it. Because for all I know, I’m gonna hate it.’ And I didn’t, I loved it. 

 HCUCF: What kind of projects do you like to work on most, if you have a preference?

Grimmett: I would have never anticipated liking sports just because I don’t like to watch sports, but I would like to produce for sports. I love producing sports shows, specifically fights, because there’s so much that goes into it, and there’s much more preparation. It’s this guy versus this guy, and you kind of follow them as they start to prepare for these matches, and there are other things that we’re sent out to do, like, film this tape because we have to bring the hype up for this fight. There’s much more marketing, I feel, that goes into fights than a lot of the other sports shows that are happening because you’re marketing these specific people. Rather than just this team, you’re marketing this guy versus this guy. Why do we care that these guys are fighting? I feel like it’s just more personal than football or basketball or whatever other sport may be broadcast.

Gabriela as Production Coordinator for Karate Combat
Photo by Gabriela Grimmett

HCUCF: Talking about your other passions, did you do any theater in UCF, or did you kind of just stick to film in UCF and did theater outside?

Grimmett: I didn’t do theater at UCF. I really did consider minoring in theater instead of event management. However, as much as I love to do theater, I don’t want to make a career off of it. I kind of want to keep a safe space and keep something that’s only a hobby and not something I make my money off of because that, to me, is film. The second that theater becomes work, I’m not going to do it anymore. But I love doing it. In college, before I worked at Sapphire, I worked as a party princess with a local party company. That was how I made my money; it was great. It was just a lot of work, but I’ll do it every once in a while if they ask me. 

HCUCF: Do you have a favorite princess you like to be?

Grimmett: I have a favorite princess, and that’s Belle. I don’t know if she’s necessarily my favorite to play. My mom’s Puerto Rican, so growing up, I had very, very dark features, and Belle, at the time, was the only one that looked like that. So I resonated with Belle a lot, and my mom obviously loved Belle because my mom had very dark features. To be [a princess], there are too many; I have too many favorites.

HCUCF: Speaking of favorites, what are your favorite musicals or T.V. shows?

I think my favorite musical is Legally Blonde. So good. I love, love, love that musical. Anybody who’s doing it, I’ll go watch it. My second favorite is Mamma Mia. It’s also one that my mom grew up with, and I’ve just inherited the love for it. Third favorite: I saw Hadestown, and it was everything that I expected it to be and more. I love, love that musical. TV shows, maybe it’s controversial, but I love You on Netflix. I think that show is so well done. But the show that I watch that is easily not only the most entertaining to watch but beautiful and visually enticing, and the writing is great, and the acting is great is Why Women Kill. Every single person I’ve recommended it to loves it.

Gabriela performing in the musical Urinetown
Photo by Gabriela Grimmett

HCUCF: Are there any powerful women in your life that motivate you?

Grimmett: I have a very tight-knit friend group, and as I’m getting more into my 20s, I’ve realized just how important it is to have a group of people who support you unconditionally. I think, especially for women, there are a lot of societal expectations to hunker down and get into a relationship and have kids, and get married, and that determines your value as a person. If you’re not married and have babies by 25 or 26, then you’re less successful or less valuable than someone who maybe did, and that’s definitely not something I really grasped until this group of tight-knit friends that I’ve had. Without every single one of them, I would not be, not only not as successful but not as happy. I think it’s very important to allow them to be a support system and allow myself to lean on them when I need them, and that happens a lot. I need them a lot, and then vice versa. They’re all independent women, they live on their own, and they have big girl jobs and all that fun stuff. We all are very different. We all kind of work in the entertainment industry in some way, shape, or form, just very different segments of it. They have a bunch of different little successes, and we share them, and we have a group chat and share them. Anytime we need to unload, we unload, and everybody’s there for everybody, and I know how rare that is, and I’m so grateful that I’ve, over time, created this little community for myself.

HCUCF:  Are there any women’s issues or just general issues or ideas that you hold there that you want to take a second to platform in this article, things that are important to you?

Grimmett: It’s impossible not to talk about what’s happening with women’s healthcare right now. And I say healthcare because that’s what it is; it’s healthcare, and abortion is a big thing. There’s a discussion about a six-week abortion ban in Florida, and I think there are a lot of people, especially people who maybe are on the fence about this kind of thing, that don’t realize that that is a ban. It’s an outright ban because an abortion or a pregnancy goes by your last period, so you’re still testing negative sometimes at six weeks, and it’s just so scary. It’s hard to focus on other things and be happy and do all the things that I want to do and learn who I am in my 20s if I’m constantly worried about health care and not being able to be entitled the same freedom as other people in different states because we’re in Florida. I’ve heavily considered moving just based on that. I think it’s just such a hot topic, and anytime this gets brought up, it’s a healthcare issue, and it’s a human rights issue. So that’s just something that if I can talk about it, I’ll talk about it. And it’s very important not to be nonpartial. That’s something that I hold dear to my heart. It’s very important to speak on that, especially given the opportunity to have some kind of platform. 

It’s hard to focus on other things and be happy and do all the things that I want to do and learn who I am in my 20s if I’m constantly worried about health care and not being able to be entitled the same freedom as other people in different states because we’re in Florida.”

Gabriela Grimmett

HCUCF: Do have any advice for anyone who might want to pursue working in T.V., or even just general life advice that you feel like you’ve learned?

Grimmett: Networking is really important. How you present yourself is very important. It’s so crucial to constantly be selling yourself. You’re told in theater that you’re always auditioning, like the second you walk in the room, you’re always auditioning, and it’s the same for film. Someone told me this: someone will much rather hire you if they feel like they can sit next to you on a plane, and that’s interesting. I don’t look at resumes, I text you, or someone texts me, or I get a recommendation from someone I know. Nine times out of 10, it’s just a guy that they knew, who mentioned that he could come up, and he’s done a couple of things, and they really liked hanging out with him for that gig for those three hours. So just sell yourself. Be nice, be respectful, and present yourself in a way that you would in an interview, always if you’re talking to people in the industry. For women in film, people are going to underestimate you, and that has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. Do your best, and that’s all you can do. I think especially starting out, I questioned myself all the time, just because I felt like when I was having these conversations with people who had a lot of power and were really established in the industry, I wouldn’t say how I felt, and I wouldn’t say the thing that I felt was going to help. Then when I finally did, people respected me and were like, ‘that’s a great point. Let’s do that.’ So I think it’s really important to own your knowledge, own your work. You know what you’re doing; you belong. Imposter syndrome is a real, real, real, real thing with everybody in film, but specifically for women because we’re taught that sometimes when we say things, it’s not as valuable as when a man says the same thing in the same set. So that would be my advice is just to own yourself. Walk in with your head held high.

Gabriela as an Entertainment Coordinator for Halloween Horror Nights
Photo by Gabriela Grimmett

You can find Gabriela on Instagram, and make sure to keep an eye out for any projects she may need help on!

Ariana Martinez (they/them) is a Florida-based freelance writer and filmmaker currently pursuing a degree in cinema studies. Their work gravitates toward explorations of gender and sexuality in film and T.V., and they have a Youtube channel and website, Awake in the A.M., dedicated to film analysis. In their free time, they enjoy traveling and yelling at the television with their friends.