What Is "Entertainment and Media Studies" Really About?

When I first got to UGA, I wasn’t exactly sure what major to choose. Crazy, right? I’m sure you’ve never heard this story before. An 18-year-old who doesn’t know what they want to do for the rest of their life…imagine that! The first question that people ask when you’re searching for the major that fits you best is “what do you like to do?” And if we’re being honest, that question sometimes isn’t all that helpful. I like to do a lot of things, but I don’t think I can make a career out of going on walks with my dog or binge-watching television shows with my best friends. One can dream though. A better question to ask yourself if you’re still not sure what to major in is “when you are doing something in the realm of academia, what makes you feel most like yourself?" Now, that probably sounds kind of ‘out there’, but if you really think about it, I bet something will come to mind.

One of my friends is a marine biology major and when she is memorizing the anatomy of every fish and getting her scuba diving certificate, she knows she is doing what she’s meant to do. Another friend is in law school and even though she spends hours each night reading pages filled with words I will never understand, she is certain that this is what she wants and she's going to be one heck of a lawyer someday because of it. A lot of my friends are in one pre-med track or another. This means that when they’re studying biochemistry and working with cadavers, they are excited about the work they’re doing and the career it is setting them up for. I mention all of these amazing women to say that I couldn’t picture myself in any of those careers. I don’t have the skills for research, the stamina to be a lawyer, or the stomach to be a doctor, let alone the strength to endure that many years of school. But I’m so glad they love those things and that they’re becoming these women who they’ve always dreamed of being and I get to watch.  

I came into college knowing two truths about myself: I loved to tell stories and I loved to fangirl. And yes, I am using fangirl as a verb. Writing is something that I’ve always enjoyed. But more than that, it was something that made me feel like myself. I love the idea that you start with an empty page and end up with this whole new place of existence that you can travel to while you're reading. People are living in the stories you write and that is practically magic. My mom even pointed out that I’d always preferred English classes in school. That doesn’t mean that I was ecstatic every time my teachers assigned a book report on a “classic” novel because I have questions about when we are going to get some new classics, but that’s a conversation for another day. Nevertheless, this was the part of academia where I thrived, but UGA showed me that I could dream bigger. 

I love the escapism of storytelling. I love falling in love with people and places that don’t exist and living a thousand different lives vicariously. I also love the outlet that entertainment creates for tweens, young adults, and everyone for that matter who might not have someone in their personal life who gets them. This is what I want to help create. If all I have to offer is a little bit of joy in an otherwise gloomy day, that is what I feel convicted to give. I’ve always loved telling my friends and family stories. Storytelling creates connection and empathy and a full spectrum of emotions. Entertainment allows people to feel heard, seen, and understood. Stories can be told in novels, television shows, movies, or even in publications like this! I’m interested in writing all kinds of stories in all kinds of mediums and UGA's School of Journalism teaches its students how to do just that. EMST classes provide hands-on experience creating short films, writing feature-length screenplays and television pilots, learning how to tell stories in different mediums, understanding audiences and fandoms, and learning the jargon, rules, and lifestyle of the industry. 

Entertainment and Media is one of the four majors that falls under the school of Journalism at UGA. There are students in EMST that want to do a variety of jobs within the realm of storytelling and production. I’m trying to make fangirling into a career and I’m having a great time doing it. EMST classes provide hands-on experience and teach you to collaborate with your peers much like you would be doing on a real television or movie set if that is the path you choose to take after graduation. It creates a network of people who you grow to rely on, learn from, and love. When I took my introduction to EMST class as a freshman, I was hooked. I haven’t doubted that I was on the right path since.

With all this in mind, here are the five best things about being an Entertainment and Media major at UGA: 

  1. 1. The Teachers

    Overhead view of Students In Class

    The EMST professors at UGA are top of the line. They’re passionate about the entertainment industry and they want to see the students succeed. I’ve never known an EMST professor that didn’t want to give a helping hand or a piece of sage advice. Much to the students’ benefit, EMST professors come from many different facets of the industry. Every professor has some kind of experience in entertainment before coming to UGA to teach us. Some worked in writers’ rooms, on set, or in academia researching how the entertainment industry functions as the living and evolving thing that it is. Within the Grady building, you can find someone with expertise in all phases of production. That means that you can come into the major with a passion for just about anything, and there will be someone there to help you reach your goal. I’ve met my absolute favorite professors through this major and they’ve taught me skills that I will take with me for the rest of my life.

  2. 2. The Homework

    Disney plus on tv on stand showing disney plus

    Now listen, don’t hear me say that Entertainment and Media Studies is an easy major because it’s not. EMST students get overloaded with assignments, papers, and projects just like everybody else. Sometimes it feels like there are literally not enough hours in the day to get everything done, especially when you need to shoot a daytime scene and your actors aren’t available until the sun goes down. Just cute student film things. But the homework in EMST is so fun. Homework for me often looks like researching the transmedia components of Harry Potter, writing a script for the pilot of a romantic comedy television series, adapting foreign programs for American audiences, researching the presence and effect of Netflix in Latin American countries, oh and watching a lot of content. “What did you watch this weekend?” or “Don’t forget to watch something today!” is an EMST professor's favorite phrase and, let's be honest, who doesn’t want to hear that from their teachers? When I raise my hand in class to discuss the most recent episode of Wandavision, it’s actually relevant to the material. That is a dream come true. For me, at least.

  3. 3. The Journalism Building's Lobby

    Colleagues sitting at a table

    Every major has a hangout spot. It’s just a part of being a college student. That being said, EMST kids’ hangout spot is superior and that isn’t me being biased. All four of the Grady majors meet in UGA’s Journalism building. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but most of the majors are separated on different floors. Entertainment and Media students typically find themselves on Grady’s first floor, where tiny circle tables and upholstered chairs are dragged around the carpet, so you can be near your friends. The Grady lobby is where some of the best ideas are born. I’ve made some of my closest friends there, laughing over the newest episode of who knows what. I’ve stayed up until 2 AM finishing scripts there and, to no one’s surprise, I’ve cried there quite a few times. And if all goes well for my peers, and I have a strong feeling it will, I met some future Oscar-winning directors, writers, and producers in that little lobby.

  4. 4. The Friends

    oscars ceremony academy awards

    I have some good news for you. No matter what you major in, you’re going to make friends. It’s the magic of loving the same things. I’m willing to bet that most of the friendships that you have right now came from some realization, whether big or small, that you liked the same stuff. I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve made because of Harry Styles. This is why it’s important to find the major that is going to set you up for a life that you like. And I realize that is a luxury that we should all be incredibly grateful for. The friends I made in my cohort are people I hope to stay connected with for the duration of my career and life. They're a ridiculously talented group of people who have so much to offer the industry and the world. 

  5. 5. The Career

    Hollywood sign

    I’m a senior at UGA and that means I’m making the terrifying and exhilarating transition into adulthood. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what my post-grad plans look like yet (give me a break—we’re still in a pandemic). But, I know that I’m excited for the future and I think that says a lot. Whether I find myself on a production set in Atlanta, writing for an entertainment publication, or scribbling away in a writers’ room someday, I know I’m going to be confident that I’m doing what I love. And that’s enough. Just do what you love and the rest will follow.

Sometimes this major seems a little elusive and confuses other students at UGA. And that's okay! We keep plucking along with our short films, pilot scripts, and pitches anyway. Because it's true—storytellers don't save lives in the same way other professionals might, but I sure wouldn't have near as much fun in this life if my favorite characters didn't exist. Humans don't know how to live without stories. We rely on entertainment more than we might think.