March 1, 2018 : By Tobi Walsh-Laukaitis
Liberty University cinematic arts alumna Corey Knef (’16) can only explain her success in the film industry by the connections God has brought her at the right times.
“You never know who you’re going to meet on projects,” Knef said. “It really was God just giving me these opportunities and putting these random people on these sets that got me the next job.”
Just beginning her career, Knef has already worked on several high-profile projects. She worked as a production assistant (PA) on CBS’s “Hawaii Five-0,” the blockbuster comedic hit “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan), and this summer’s upcoming prehistoric sequel “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” (“Jumanji” raked in over $900 million, and the first “Jurassic World” is one of the highest-grossing movies of all time.)
But it all started with the opportunities Knef had during her senior year at Liberty, including shooting a small independent feature film in rural Grundy, Va., over Spring Break.
“At first, I was there to ‘day play’ (work for a single day), but they asked me to keep returning.” said Knef. From there, she went on to a commercial shoot, where her big break came.
“I had a Hawaii sticker on my car because that’s where I was born, and I’m very proud of that,” she said. “One of the crew members saw it and asked whose car it was.”
The two struck up a conversation, and Knef learned that he had worked on sets in Hawaii, including ABC’s hit series “Lost.” He shared some contacts with her, and she followed up, leading to an interview for set job on “Hawaii Five-O.” After graduation, Knef took the risk and flew out to Hawaii for the interview.
“It was just an interview; it wasn’t a job guarantee,” Knef said. “I thought, ‘Am I really going to fly out to Hawaii just for an interview? That’s insane.’”
Her tenacity paid off. She was offered the job on the spot and was a PA for 12 episodes. Through the show, she was able to meet people who would help her land the jobs on “Jumanji” and “Jurassic World.” But it still took perseverance.
“Working on ‘Jumanji’ was a little intimidating,” Knef said. “Every day was like an interview. You have to prove yourself every single day because your job is not secure. It’s only based on how you perform.”
Knef pushed herself, succeeded on each set, and was able to work with celebrities she had grown up watching.
“It’s so surreal,” she said. “They’re really amazing, nice people. Jack (Black) was talking with the crew, and so was Kevin (Hart). … It was so bizarre to just see them.”
“By the time ‘Jurassic’ came around, I was a little more used to it,” Knef added. “But it was so surreal seeing Chris (Pratt). I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.”
While at Liberty, Knef worked on the feature film “God’s Compass,” where she learned a unique skill that would help her stand out on set: walkie-talkie lingo.
“We had an assistant director teach us the walkie codes,” she said. “I remembered some of those things, and that really helped when I got onto a high-profile set. It helps you stand out, so you don’t look as new.”
But the biggest asset at Liberty was the encouragement she received from associate professor Doug Miller.
“He allowed us to be creative in a safe space,” Knef said. “I think that was a huge positive. He never limited us. He never put down any of our ideas. He let us grow and develop.”
As Knef continues to pursue more film opportunities, she said she would encourage others looking to break out in the industry to take risks.
“The movie in Grundy started this whole thing for me,” she said. “It was kind of a small job. I would genuinely not be where I am today if I did not go to that job that day. Seize every opportunity you can.”
Read more about alumni working in the television and film industry in the latest issue of the Liberty Journal.