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Jose Gallegos: Open Ending

By Joanie Harmon

Media Archival Studies grad and specialist at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and addressed the Class of 2022 at the SEIS commencement.

While Jose Gallegos wasn’t exactly working in the proverbial mailroom when he got his big break at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, his story comes close to a cinematic rise to success. The newly minted double Bruin (’13, M.A., Cinema and Media Studies) represented the UCLA Department of Information Studies at the SEIS Commencement ceremony for the Class of 2022 with his musings on the road ahead.

What were the highlights of your speech at Commencement?

It was kind of self-deprecating in the sense that, having been through a lot of commencement speeches, you kind of get the rhyme and rhythm of what people usually do. I like to poke humor at people that quote Dr. Martin Luther King or Dr. Seuss or Mother Teresa or Gandhi. But then I try and go back to my own self-deprecation of: “Right now, what you're listening to is this monotonous voice that's going to be speaking for six minutes.”

I try to keep it kind of on the light side, while also touching on a lot of the stuff that we've gone through, just because it has been a challenging two years,  and definitely, I don't want to be pandering in my speech to just kind of say, “Everything’s gonna be okay, the world is our future,” but  touch on the fact that we've gone through a lot collectively and we've learned how to adapt so that once we're out on the professional fields, we know how to react to different situations that might arise in the different jobs and professions that we might inevitably get down the line.

How did you land a job at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences?

During my entire time in the IS program, I was working for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and I plan to keep on working for them. I had started there in 2014 as a theatre usher, and had been working there consistently in that same position until 2019, when my [now-current] boss had noticed that I had been going to all of the International Feature Film screenings. So, she started asking me if I could help her out with some tasks. 

Inevitably, she asked if she could borrow me from my department. She pulled me away from being a theater usher and got me a temporary fulltime job in Member Relations and Awards. From there, I just kind of hit the ground running. I started doing a bunch of reports, started compiling data, and started reformatting a lot of the structures and practices that they had. They were extremely impressed with not only my knowledge of film, but my knowledge of how to generate a self-generating report. The one thing that I always take away is you can impress people with your knowledge of Microsoft Excel and the moment that you do that, people think that you're a wizard and want you to do everything. That helped me to become a permanent employee there and I’ve been there since 2019. 

My current title is specialist. One day I’ll promote up because I really love what I do in this job, and I want to keep on affecting change in the position that I have right now, and in any positions that I might have in the future. 

The Membership branches that I work on are the Directors branch and the Writers branch. The Oscar categories that I help administer are Best Director, the two Writing categories, the Animated Feature Film category, and International Feature Film category. I make sure that everybody's submitting what they need to submit and that we have the information we need to have these categories keep on happening every year.

Accuracy is extremely important because, as you know, we live in a society where it's oftentimes a court of public opinion, where people will take things at face value if they see it in an Instagram or Facebook post.

As a disclaimer, I do not speak on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but one of the biggest things that happened was #OscarsSoWhite. Around that time, #OscarsSoWhite had caused this catalyst for the organization to relook at all the data that we had in terms of demographic data, in terms of any data we had regarding awards and membership, so that we could see where the Academy was lacking, where it was excelling, and how they could move forward.

What drew you to the UCLA IS program?

Initially, I had one of many nervous breakdowns because I was working three jobs, and I wasn't feeling fulfilled in any of them. I had asked some friends what they thought I should do - should I just quit everything and just start over? A lot of them were talking about how I love to collect movie posters and that maybe I should go into something related to archives.

I started researching about film archives and programs because I had previously gone to UCLA for my master’s in Cinema and Media Studies. There was previously a separate program in Moving Image Archival Studies, but that had been assumed into the MLIS program. I was really intrigued and kind of had an a-ha moment, that this was the path that I wanted to take: not continue on with three jobs and just getting a paycheck, but [work in] something that I would actually be passionate about. 

What have been the benefits of the Media Archival Studies program?

What I've been taking from the [UCLA IS] program is a lot of information about data retention and archival practices and implementing that in our department, trying to find ways to revive it so that things are more accessible and that we're able to use data that's sound. A lot of what jobs in the field were asking for was knowledge of databases and metadata. The fortunate thing about the MLIS program is that it has a more holistic view. You weren't just on one track to do media archiving, but you could dabble in a whole host of areas and subjects that would make you more marketable, which is extremely helpful, especially in this economy to have kind of a one up …  about basic things that employers are going to want from you down the line.

Would you like to shout out to any faculty or classmates?

I’d like to give a shout out to [Professors] Michelle Caswell, Shawn VanCour, and Miriam Posner. In terms of some of the students that I’ve met, there’s a group of us that we call the “Meat Man” and that’s composed of Shawne West, Elizabeth Wood, Christine Chan and Sam Regal. I definitely want to thank them for their support.

What words of wisdom do you offer your classmates as they embark on their postgraduate journey?

The message that I would give my classmates is that you don't have to take on the world all at once. Sometimes it can just be piecemeal. Sometimes, you can fight one fight and just put another one on the back burner. You don’t always have to win – sometimes it’s good to fail, because you can learn from your failures and that also helps you to relish your successes. 

I don't know where the road leads for all of us, but it's always going to be an interesting journey regardless. I wouldn't say necessarily to enjoy the ride, because there are definitely going to be some bumps along the way, but at least learn about who you are in order to figure out where you want to go.

Photo courtesy of Jose Gallegos