Not many people can say that they spent part of the summer with Wonder Woman.
Shenandoah University sophomore Joe Fisher can.
Fisher, a media and communication major from Clarke County, Virginia, worked as a production management intern on “Wonder Woman 1984,” during the DC Entertainment/Warner Bros. movie’s weeks of filming in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. from late May through mid-July. The film is the sequel to the 2017 comic-book-character-based blockbuster “Wonder Woman,” which is the highest-grossing film ever directed by a woman. Patty Jenkins, director of “Wonder Woman,” is also helming the sequel.
Fisher said he sees his work on the film as the first step in a long process. “I’m in it to be the next Patty Jenkins,” he said. “I’m in it to be the next production manager.”
A longtime lover of comics, Fisher landed the job – which saw him working at the empty Landmark Mall in Alexandria, and seeing the recreation of places like Georgetown shop Commander Salamander for the 1980s-set film – after Shenandoah’s Film Studio Director Paul DiFranco suggested that he check out summer gigs available through the Virginia Film Office.
DiFranco understands how small steps and connections can build a career. “My first job as a music supervisor was worldwide vice president music for Roger Corman’s Concorde Pictures, an amazing way to start,” DiFranco said. “So with good fortune like that (and a few other fortuitous events), mentoring others became a very serious goal for me. I’ve given films to score to 10 or 12 neophyte composers who are now A-listers. My assistant for two years, fresh out of college, was Alexandra Patsavas, one of the best music supervisors in the industry. There is nothing greater than making a difference in someone’s life. That’s why I sought a teaching job here in my sunset years.”
Fisher followed DiFranco’s advice to contact the film office, and learned that a major feature was going to film in Virginia, but the nature of the film wasn’t revealed at that time. He again turned to DiFranco, asking “What do I say, and do, and put, in a resume?” DiFranco told him to introduce himself, and to talk about his journey in film and how much he wants to be in show business.
An Unexpected Filmmaker
Fisher’s story didn’t begin with his love of film. Instead, he intended to study physical therapy and play baseball at Shenandoah. But early in his freshman year, he learned that he hated biology and baseball didn’t work out. At that point, he said he asked himself, “‘What am I going to do with my life?’” He answered himself by writing a screenplay and walking in DiFranco’s office. His epiphany came after filming had ended on “Santa Girl,” the feature film Shenandoah has co-produced with Capital Arts Entertainment, but he was able to help out with post-production work on the film.
His story was enough to get him a face-to-face interview with the film’s executive in charge of production, Mark Scoon, who has worked in a similar role on films like “Ocean’s 8,” “Wonder Woman,” and “Dunkirk.” When Scoon asked Fisher why he should bring him on, Fisher answered that he was young, hungry and willing to do whatever was needed. “He could see that I was willing to do whatever it took,” Fisher said.
In essence, Fisher worked as a gofer. He drove actors and actresses when necessary, handed out water bottles, and carried fresh batteries for microphones. He was also part of recreating the 1980s at Landmark Mall. “We brought it back to life,” he said. Ultimately, if he was needed, he helped and learned.
Learning By Doing
Hands-on learning is where it’s at for anyone interested in a film career, according to DiFranco. “To those looking to better their skills – get a camera, some cheap sound equipment and some friends and MAKE A MOVIE. Then make another one. Come ask guys like me and Prof. Anderson for help. Film is just perfect for the ‘learn by doing’ model. And that’s what happened with Joe, he kept coming to my office saying, ‘I wanna work on a film! I wanna work on a film!’
Now that his time on the film has ended, Fisher said he’s excited to see the finished “Wonder Woman 1984,” because it’s set in a time period that allows women to unleash their full potential in a way they could not in the 1917 setting of “Wonder Woman.”
“Wonder Woman 1984” is set for release in the United States on Nov. 1, 2019.