Film and Media Studies Graduate Named to Forbes 30 Under 30 List – UofSC News & Events



Herman Phillips has always loved movies, but having grown up near beef farms in White Oak, SC, the nearest movie theater was 50 miles away.

Films became an escape for him, and one film in particular paved the way for his future. The first time Phillips watched star wars at age 7, he says he immediately identified with the character of Luke – a child living on a farm in the galaxy’s Outer Rim who is drawn into a grand adventure.

“Movies and TV were my own little virtual window into other worlds, lifestyles, cultures, experiences,” Phillips says. “I could go anywhere, including a galaxy far, far away. It was pure magic.”

Watching this movie sparked his sense of adventure, but it was Ken Burns’ Empire of Dreams about making the Star Wars trilogy that inspired Phillips to become a filmmaker.

Shortly after seeing this documentary, he got his first camera and started making stop motion animated shorts, writing scripts and delving into the world of Hollywood.

To fulfill his dream of becoming a filmmaker, Phillips enrolled at the University of South Carolina as a double major in English and Film and Media Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences as well as Honors College. He has worked on productions with HBO, Hulu and Netflix. And he started his own production company to pay for his studies.

While still at the UofSC, and with two years to go before graduation, Phillips was recruited as a set production assistant on HBO’s Insecure in Los Angeles. One of the show’s assistant directors asked Phillips if he would be willing to drop out of school to start working full time. That wasn’t an option for Phillips, so he compromised.

“I knew I had to finish school, so I dropped out of my English major, wrote my thesis, graduated a year early, then moved to Los Angeles,” Phillips says. .

“I graduated May 12, went to LA, and arrived May 25,” he says.

That date turned out to be coincidental, as May 25 marked the 41st anniversary of the release of Star Wars, the movie that started it all for Phillips.

Since then, Phillips has worked on award-winning productions including Lucasfilm’s
The Mandalorian, Boba Fett’s BookHBO Euphoria, Silicon Valley, Insecure and more.

And recently it has been recognized by Forbes for co-founding Cinapse, a film and television production management application that is revolutionizing the way studios manage production – removing paper from the process.

We spoke with Phillips about his time at the UofSC and Los Angeles and how both contributed to his success.

What has the Forbes 30 Under 30 list meant to you and your business?

It was a big surprise and a huge honor to be on this list. It’s a little out of place to be on it, especially with some of the other people on the list; there’s someone on the list revitalizing the drive-in movie experience; [actress] Miranda Cosgrove is on the list. I’m a very behind-the-scenes person, so being on the list was a little shocking that way. But being recognized for the value we bring to the industry was a validating moment for our business.

Tell me about your company and how the Cinapse application supports digital production management.

Cinapse allows a film or television production to easily organize the flood of information, documentation and production documents generated daily. Everything in the film industry still runs on paper or spreadsheets, and when you’re managing a crew of 500 people, that’s around 1.5 to 2 million sheets of paper or more on any given production. What we hope to do at Cinapse is make sure you never have to use a sheet of paper in your production, saving trees and saving everyone time. And we collect measurements. We take that information about the schedule and what’s happening on set right now, and we generate a statistical breakdown of how much time you spend in each category.

What was your vision when starting your business?

I saw how archaic and chaotic production is when everything is done on paper, and I wrote my undergraduate thesis at UofSC on production management software and labor relations in the Film Industry. So I’ve always had an interest in solving this puzzle of logistics, communications, and on-set operations.

How would you describe the success of your business?

A big part of our success so far has been connecting with crew members, from props to hair and makeup services, from special effects to transportation services. We’ve done hundreds of user interviews with crew members. Taking their experiences very seriously [and] having empathy for the users of our platform is essential to creating a product that works and solves the problems of our customers.

How would you say your time in Carolina prepared you to enter the film and television industry?

Honors College and Carolina in general prepared me very well to network and interact with all kinds of people from all walks of life, which is a big part of my job now.

I took a course as part of my film and media studies major called Ward One Critical Interactives with Duncan Buell and Heidi Cooley that helped me in ways I never imagined. The class was a human-computer interaction class. We have developed an application on the history of urban renewal in Colombia and the process of urbanization and gentrification of the Ward One district in Colombia. We researched Celia Dial Saxon and worked with software engineers, creatives and others to help tell the story. And now I’m building an application for the film industry, so that was a good connection.

Also, thanks to the Honors College, just being able to do what I wanted with my own thesis really helped me. I got really interested, after spending two summers working in Los Angeles, in the hierarchy of our work structure and how it hasn’t changed in the 100 year history of the industry.

Why study film at UofSC instead of a dedicated film school?

I have a group of friends who went to those film schools, and I don’t think it would have really made a difference for me. What matters is what you do with the weather and the opportunities of whatever location you find yourself.

Do you have a favorite memory of Caroline?

In fact, it was just to build these relationships with my classmates who have now become my closest friends. I met my partner in Carolina, and a lot of my close friends that I went to school with moved here with me; many are literally my neighbors now. Having this community of friends should be my favorite part.


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Subjects: Alumni, Academics, College of Arts and Sciences