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Alumni Story: Austin Esposito Finds His Place

Austin Esposito is in constant motion, always moving from one place to another and going from one project to the next. This fresh BFA graduate from the School of Communications & Media Technologies (minor in Motion Pictures & Television) was a former track and field athlete throughout high school and college, and currently is obsessed with cycling. “I am extremely hyperactive—I am always having to do something,” he says. This “something” usually involves him capturing the moment on film while being in the thick of the action.

With his boundless energy, Esposito personifies passion, drive and dedication—values he developed and nurtured in the course of finding his place both in San Francisco and at the Academy. How will these values guide him as he transitions from being a student to a full-fledged professional?

Passion: An Early Start

Austin’s interest for images and media technologies started at a young age. He used to make videos with his friends using his mom’s point and shoot camera. Shortly thereafter, he moved on to editing and incorporating sounds and music to his works. Eventually, he realized that he wanted to do more, and so got himself his first ever digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera.

In high school, he took a couple of video classes, where he made school-wide video bulletins that played once a week. His early inspirations included Hollywood filmmakers and fun YouTubers, but he prefers his personal style to have more of a cinematic documentary feel.

“I like to create art that’s based around other things that I’m passionate about, such as cycling and other action sports,” he said. “I guess I would much rather prefer to be on my feet getting as close as I can to the action. That’s what excites me most about filmmaking. It’s just being in the action and getting those unique angles, getting as close as you can, kind of putting your viewers in the middle of everything.”

Austin Esposito
Image Courtesy: Austin Esposito (@espo_photo)

Red Bull “Out of Bounds” Drone Photography Competition

In 2016, Austin and his classmate Kris Everett won the Grand Prize for the first ever Red Bull drone photography competition, “Out of Bounds.”

“I was living close to Lombard Street, and I saw this freeboarding guy coming down the hill. I approached him, told him about the project, and he immediately said yes, he would love to be a part of it. About a week later, we were filming the shot for the Zoom-Out category.”

This competition falls under Red Bull’s campaign wherein the brand partners up with different universities, takes on students, and gives them the brand ambassador role. The student ambassadors will then come up with events for the rest of the student body.

Cool Red Bull swag and gear, invites to official brand events, and the prestige and recognition of being Grand Prize winners were some of the things they enjoyed. Their winning video was also showed at the Red Bull headquarters, which for Austin is “a little step in the door,” since he ultimately wants to work for the company. “I would say my dream job is working with the Red Bull media house creating their sports documentaries on action-sports athletes.”

Austin Esposito Athlete
Image Courtesy: PacWest Conference

Drive: Moving Towards Success

Initially, Austin was only looking at local colleges near his hometown in Southern California. As luck would have it, however, the Academy’s Track & Cross-County coach stumbled upon his Facebook page, saw his artsy banner photo and sports activities, and then got in touch with him through a private message. There was no time to waste. He scheduled a campus tour in San Francisco, and in a matter of days, he went on to make the biggest move he’s ever had to make thus far—earn a Communications degree at Academy of Art in San Francisco.

“San Francisco’s very fast-paced, and everything is always changing… always up to date on the latest and greatest. I think it was about my second year here that I really started to get in the groove of the pace, and now I feel like this is where I belong now.”

Admittedly, it took him a while to adjust to the big city, but eventually, Austin did find his footing and, more importantly, his tribe, thanks to the local cycling community.

Meanwhile, his student life within the Academy also allowed him to explore various opportunities to expand his skills and network, while offering stability in his chosen academic track. Particularly, the School of Communications takes on a highly proactive stance when it comes to nurturing the creative talents of their students. In Austin’s case, he was able to pursue a multimedia communications track by taking a minor course in the Academy’s film school, the School of Motion Pictures & Television, while at the same time majoring in Communications. This combination fortified the path for him towards a future career in cinematography.

This flexibility to customize the student’s academic program provides opportunities to constantly meet creative people. More importantly, however, it allows them to push boundaries as to what they can do as creative individuals within in academic setting.

In 2017, Austin became one of the subjects in a school project filmed by a professional crew. Fast forward to today and he now collaborates with them on a regular basis. “I’ve always been driven by the people around me, like other small artists and independent filmmakers. I’ve always been sort of a hustler in the sense of finding work. I’m always on the lookout for the next gig.”

This partnership helped him grow and improve his craft outside classroom walls, and continues to present him with exciting professional opportunities, such as travel to New York, London, and Milan. “I kind of owe that to the Academy of Art University, because if I was not going here to the school, I probably would never have had that opportunity.”

Austin Esposito Academy of Art
Image Courtesy: Austin Esposito (@espo_photo)

Dedication: Playing the Long Game

Austin credits the Academy for helping him develop his technical and networking skills—both of which he believes to be extremely valuable in the professional industry. He advises being open-minded about creating relationships for your own development. “At least give it a try.”

Going through all the prescribed classes, taking in as much information as possible, and having all those learning experiences are equally important too, as opposed to merely cherry-picking those focused on specific career tracks. His favorite projects, for instance, turned out to be assignments for classes not necessarily related to filmmaking. This is also why he also looks to the instructors as a crucial factor in having a fulfilling and productive program. The curriculum becomes a lot richer because they bring their real-world knowledge and experiences to the classroom and impart it with students like Austin.

These are just parts of an even bigger equation, however. Ultimately, being a student at the Academy requires drive, dedication, and passion. “Maybe you don’t have it in the beginning, but at some point you have to have a goal set, and you have to follow all the way through to get the most out of it.” The bottom line is that it’s important to complete the program. “Nowadays, it’s best to have that degree.”

Now armed with the skills, know-how, and an Academy of Art University diploma to boot, how does Austin foresee his future?

“20 to 30 years from now, I would expect that I would still be creating films and working in the industry. I definitely think that I would be looking back a lot to my experiences at the Academy of Art, and I think I would definitely be proud that I had followed through the whole program and gotten the degree.”

Austin shows that he moves not simply for the sake of action, but to further expand his horizons—and this is exactly where he’s meant to be.

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