Lauren Armstrong: Dirty Robber Production Intern, Art Student, Filmmaker & More
On her twenty-first birthday Lauren Armstrong relaxes on the patio of her Providence apartment as her friends who are in town for the occasion chain smoke around her. Having just completed her third year at the Rhode Island School of Design with an internship secured for the summer, she’s enjoying the break while she can. Lauren’s recently returned from a visit to our shared hometown, and the conversation begins with the now standard exchange of gossip about our former high school peers.
I’ve known Lauren since middle school. We attended the same kindergarten through twelfth grade school in Huntsville, Alabama. A star of our high school’s art department, Lauren has always been the ‘artsy’ friend of our social circles. It was always assumed, by teachers and friends alike, that she wanted to pursue art professionally and that she would.
Lauren is a rising senior at RISD majoring in film, animation, and video or FAV. She switched into the program from graphic design around a year ago, and will graduate in 2019 after five years of study. Contrary to our shared friends’ and previous teachers’ views, she did not always know that she wanted to pursue art professionally.
Most young people with a pssion for the arts are skeptical about choosing to go to school for it or pursuing a career in the field. Art school’s high cost combined with the competitive nature of the field and low guarantees of financial stability dissuade many.
Lauren was originally no different. “I have always really loved art, but I have never thought I was good at it…it was not something I knew I could make a career out of.”
In the end, support for her work from high school art teachers and friends convinced her to pursue art professionally. She was one of only a handful of people from our hometown to even apply to an art school, much less attend one. Those supportive relationships have influenced her work to this day, and is the reason she wants to utilize her work in film and animation to give something back to others.
Concerning her goals of social activism through her work, Lauren recognizes that the industry she wishes to go into has some issues of its own. Although not yet working in the industry, she begins work as a production intern with Dirty Robber in a few days.
Dirty Robber is a production company located in Los Angeles and New York, whose work strives to be socially conscious. They were nominated for an Academy award and received a Cannes Lion award for their #Mamming social media campaign. This seems to be what drew Lauren to the company.
“The film industry can be sexist and racist, there are so many problems (in the industry), and the way people are tokenized is so messed up. The bright side though is that from speaking with people who work in the industry it seems that they do want younger talent, especially those that bring more diverse views to the table.”
Lauren managed to secure the completive Los Angeles internship position by eschewing traditional Internet applications. Instead, she simply googled the names of production companies and relentlessly emailed out her resume and portfolio. When she didn’t hear back, she emailed them again and again, until a number got in touch with her offering not only internships but full time employment.
Lauren’s interests and experience in the fine arts range from painting and drawing to sculpture and installations, and she could have easily gone into any of these fields. Instead, she chose to go into FAV, which is technically not a ‘fine art’ field, because it had several qualities the fine arts did not.
“I really like how it’s accessible now, more so than other art forms, especially with growing social and new media, and how much film (including animation and video) plays a part in that.”
Film allows an artist to reach a much wider audience than fine art forms such as painting or sculpture. These don’t translate as well over social media or other digital formats, whereas shorter animations, films, and videos can be shared via platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.
This aspect of FAV is especially alluring to a young millennial artist, as a wider audience for your work translates into financial stability and the resources required in order to produce it.
This increased accessibility has other benefits as well. Lauren points out that the program and industry are more accessible financially for young artists to pursue. She points out that “Once you have the necessary tools, you can start making work, you can also find jobs a lot easier than if you’re working with other mediums.”
Lauren explains that with painting, sculpting, and other fine arts, the “tools” required are often not usable after you’ve worked with them. For instance, a painting assignment requires purchasing new paint colors, canvas, and often brushes, which are expensive.
With film, all you need are the updated versions of cameras and editing software (among a few other things), which the artist is able to use repeatedly. This is more financially feasible for most than having to buy new paints and canvases for each new painting.
“If I were to get my jolly way, I would be a fine artist. But at the end of the day, I realized what about using the opportunities that I have can better other people’s situations.”
Lauren plans to work in film, animation, and video production after graduation. She intends on using her work and her field’s wide audience and accessibility to all demographics to help improve representation of marginalized groups in the media. Additionally, she hopes to utilize her future work in the industry to create platforms for underrepresented identities, specifically trans women and men, as well as women of color.
Although still a student, her future career in film looks promising. An internship with a production company whose credits include an Academy Award nomination and two Cannes Lions awards is no joke. In the future, a Lauren Armstrong production may very well be coming to a theatre near you.