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ASU alum on making it in the film industry and how Hollywood is pivoting

When Eric Dachman graduated from ASU in 2013 with a bachelor's degree in marketing and a minor in film, the Scottsdale, Arizona, native already knew he wanted to move to Los Angeles to work in the film industry. He took the leap after working for a marketing agency in Scottsdale, and he credits ASU’s Film Spark initiative in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre and its director, Adam Collis, with supporting him through the transition. Dachman became Film Spark’s first official employee, helping out with film festival logistics for “Car Dogs.”

ASU alum Eric Dachman at the premiere of the film "Midway" in 2019.

“The Film Spark experience was beyond valuable,” Dachman said, “as I was able to help connect other ASU students together looking for jobs in Hollywood.”

In his current role in marketing at Lionsgate, he is overseeing the social media strategy for Lionsgate Live, a four-week campaign in which some of the most popular Lionsgate films are being streamed for free on YouTube to raise money for furloughed movie theater employees. This Friday, May 8, Lionsgate Live will stream “John Wick” at 6 p.m.

Below Dachman talks about what it takes to make it in L.A., how the industry is grappling with the impact of COVID-19 and Chris Evans’ iconic “Knives Out” sweater, among other things.

Question: When did you become interested in film and the film industry?

Answer: I was always interested in movies, and since I was 13 years old I’ve had a passion for cinema. That’s when I started playing around with my camcorder and making my own little videos. I entered lots of film festivals in high school.

Q: What kind of movies did you make?

A: Very silly parodies. I once made a bowling movie (based on) “300.” I did an interview show called "Da Eric D Show" — a parody of "Da Ali G Show" — where I interviewed my teachers. It was a silly thing I could do with my friends.

Q: What did you study at ASU?

A: I started as an architecture major, and that lasted for about two days and I realized I needed to switch to film. I was film production at first, but then I switched over to marketing and film studies. Film marketing and the business side was more my passion. I did film studies as a minor.

Q: What was your first step on the road to the career you have now?

A: My final semester, I got an internship at a company in Scottsdale called Fingerpaint. Their clients were Disney, Universal and Lionsgate. They were a field marketing agency, boots on the ground, grassroots outreach for Phoenix. We were an extension of the studio, to host promotional screenings, word of mouth screenings, ways to spread the word for our studio clients. As an intern, I had this screening of “Monsters University” — this was the turning point for me. I was in charge of filling the room with college students, and not just from ASU. I got Sparky and the antelope from GCU and the artichoke from Scottsdale Community College — I grabbed a whole bunch of mascots, and we had a monster-filled screening. Being able to own that was when it turned for me. And they offered me a full-time job after I graduated.

Q: What do you think caused them to offer you the full-time position?

A: I gave it 110 percent. I gave my full effort there, and even when my hours were complete, I’d stay and talk with my bosses to pick their brains about the industry because I was very curious. As I was onboarding and training the new interns, I told them, “You get out of it what you put into it.” Taking advantage of the opportunity and the wealth of knowledge that was there was what made me successful and what made my interns successful.

I was genuinely passionate about the film industry. I was hungry always to learn more. Some people fake it a little bit, but I really truly wanted to know as much as I could. I always knew I wanted to end up in L.A. in the film industry, and this job was a step in the direction I wanted to go. I was basically trying to prepare myself for the future.

Q: When did you make the move to L.A.?

A: I was (at Fingerpaint) for a little over two years, and then I realized in order to grow I needed to move to Los Angeles. I took a trip (to L.A.), I met with about 10 different people who all said, “Just move out here and worry about the job part later.” So I moved out with no job. I crashed in my aunt and uncle’s house out in the (San Fernando) Valley, and it was a full-time job filling out applications. That’s when I started with Film Spark. Two months after that, I landed my first job at Imax headquarters, as the digital marketing coordinator working on the new imax.com.

Q: What did you do there?

A: I was responsible for a lot of digital marketing initiatives, but I also wore a lot of hats. It was an incredible opportunity, because Imax works with every studio, so I got to see how every studio works. Eventually I switched over to social media and I was running all the Imax social media accounts across Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. When I got this job at Lionsgate, I was a little sad to leave Imax. We had a great team. That’s where I first started doing red carpet coverage. They’d send me to premieres to interview the cast members for content.

Q: Why did you leave Imax?

A: It was just time to take the next step toward another opportunity to grow. Very often at Imax we were an added layer in a film marketing campaign. On the Lionsgate side, we get to own the campaign completely. On the studio side, I get to come up with the ideas and there’s more flexibility. You see the ideas from the very start to the very end. Lionsgate has lots of room for flexibility with our creativity. If you have a great idea, it doesn’t have to go through layers and layers of approval.

Q: What’s something you’re proud of in your current job?

A: One of my career highlights was our “Knives Out” social media campaign. Our team had an opportunity to really try something new and create some noise within a crowded social media space. Too many studios are often repetitive on social media. So the question was, how do we break through the noise?

From the very beginning we knew we had a great movie in our back pocket, but we had to find a way to separate ourselves from other murder mysteries. It was being released during Thanksgiving, in a very crowded marketplace for movies. 

In the social media space, our team is always talking about the difference between talking at fans and talking with fans. Talking at fans is a little bit bragging about yourself. We decided to talk with fans — joining in on the conversation, whether it was cultural moments within the social media space or picking up on a discussion. It was more enjoying the conversation and talking like the fans talk. We used some tools for social listening to see what topics were popping up the most. The main driver of conversation was Chris Evans wearing a sweater. To capitalize on that, we had a full day where we changed the official Twitter name on our Twitter page to “Chris Evans’ Sweater Stan Account.” The whole day we tweeted about Chris Evans in the sweater, thirsty captions of us enjoying Chris in knitwear. We really created some noise to separate ourselves, because then we got press mentions, and whole stories about our focus on a simple sweater.

Q: How’s the pandemic affecting things for you?

A: It’s definitely affecting the industry in that we don’t know what the future of the moviegoing experience is going to look like. We are hoping that when the world is normal, people are going to be excited about going to the movies. But are people going to be rushing back to the theater to see a movie with a bunch of strangers?

We are doing this pretty cool experience now, Lionsgate Live, where we’re streaming some of our best Lionsgate films for free on YouTube to raise money for furloughed movie theater employees, through the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation. It’s a four-week campaign, every Friday, and we’re showing “Hunger Games,” “Dirty Dancing,” “La La Land” and “John Wick.” Jamie Lee Curtis will be our host throughout the campaign. We loved working with her on “Knives Out.” She’s a sweetheart.

It’s tough to say what the future of our industry is going to be. We really truly want to preserve the movie theater-going experience, because there’s nothing like it. But who knows what the future holds? So we will have to continue to get creative.

Lionsgate Live event details:

“John Wick” — Friday, May 8, at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET

ASU students and alumni can either join the watch party using #LionsgateLive on Twitter or donate to the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation dedicated to helping furloughed movie theater employees at lionsgate.live/donate.

deborah.sussman@asu.edu