For many students pursuing degrees in the arts, graduation demands an answer to the age-old question begged by parents, grandparents and uncles — “What can you even do with that degree?” For Class of 2022 alumna Karen Zipor, the answer is easy.
Since graduating, Zipor has used her drama and computer science degrees — alongside strong connections she has formed with University alumni since graduating — to carve her path in the entertainment industry out in Los Angeles.
“Everything I've gotten is because of the U.Va. alumni because they're so strong out here [in Los Angeles],” Zipor said.
As an associate producer for the marketing agency BLKBX Creative Group, Zipor has produced content for companies like Disney, Dreamworks and Warner Bros. Her role allows her to oversee the production of content every step of the way, from pitching pieces to facilitating their delivery to clients.
“We do a lot of social media initiatives,” Zipor said. “It's great to be in a pitch meeting where you're like, ‘I saw this meme and I think we can do something with ‘Scooby Doo’ for it’. You’ve got to be a little creative with your ideas.”
Before starting at BLKBX, Zipor worked as a production coordinator for the Walt Disney Company. During her time at the University, Zipor gained an impressive amount of work experience, interning with both Lex & Otis Animation and the Television Academy Foundation.
As someone who was heavily involved in the arts on Grounds, Zipor stressed the importance of being involved in many activities and organizations as a student.
“Do a lot — do a variety of things,” Zipor said. “You never know what you're going to be applying to, and having a diverse portfolio and resumes — that's [important].”
Early on in her studies, Zipor performed with First Year Players and the drama department. Later, she participated in Light House Studio’s Adrenaline Film Project, in which groups collaborate to write, record and produce a short film in 72 hours. She also enrolled in Overcranked, a program that allows students to create short films for class credit.
Despite her ambition, Zipor didn’t always have her sights set on being a filmmaker. She initially came to the University hoping to pursue theater, but her plans shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All of a sudden, the world changed when a pandemic hit and there was no longer any theater,” Zipor said. “I had to really reevaluate and readjust like, ‘What am I interested in? What should I give a try?’ And that's actually when I started writing.”
Her newfound interest in writing led Zipor to write for Overcranked, as well as to submit a play to the drama department’s New Works Festival, a program that allows students to write and direct their own short plays.
As a computer science student, Zipor was also interested in the intersection of art and technology — specifically in animation. She completed a thesis in 3D Animation and Motion Capture technology.
Since moving to Los Angeles, Zipor not only has not only found success in her marketing roles, but she also has begun investing more time in her independent creative endeavors. She recently penned a feature-length script and developed a script for a short film that will go into production next month.
Zipor said that moving to Los Angeles reinvigorated her creativity and allowed her to begin working on her own films again.
“Once I had a place I was living, a job, a good solid friend group and a support group out here, I finally had the room that I didn't have [before],” Zipor said. “I was very burnt out once I graduated, and I finally felt like I had that energy to create again.”
Zipor said that if she has any advice for students looking to be successful in the film industry, it is to form bonds with other students.
“Make a lot of friends,” Zipor said. “Make so many friends at U.Va., because it will amaze you how that one person who was in that one class, all the way back in first year, all of a sudden we're hanging out in L.A. and reading each other's scripts. We're helping each other through.”