Immediately after the Creative Emmy Awards in September, California State University, Northridge alumna Brooke Noska ’14 (Cinema and Television Arts) pulled her phone out and made some phone calls.
She was part of the team at Burbank-based FuseFX that won an Emmy for Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role for its work on American Horror Story: Freak Show. Still beaming from the experience, of course she had to tell her mom and dad the news. Then she called CSUN television production professor William Stratford.
“I remember two things about the call,” Stratford began. “I was thrilled that she won the award with the rest of the team, because of all the hard work she put in. But I was honored and touched she would call me.”
Beyond being a cog in an Emmy-winning machine, Noska, 26, has moved quickly in a short time as a professional. She is a visual effects editor for FuseFX, a visual effects company that contributes to many of TV’s most popular shows, including The Walking Dead, Scream Queens, Criminal Minds, Masters of Sex and True Detective to name a handful. Noska has worked in some way on all those shows for FuseFX. Not many people her age, or with her work experience, can say they have achieved so much in such a short period of time.
She owes Stratford a debt of gratitude for opening a door. Stratford, though, said his former student helped create opportunity.
“The thing I did is I probably gave her opportunity and got her foot in the door. But once she got her foot in the door, it was all her,” Stratford said.
When Noska was one of Stratford’s students, she approached him after class, hungry for more knowledge than she could find in a textbook. Along with teaching, Stratford also worked on the set at E! Entertainment Television Studios in Los Angeles as an associate director of the show Fashion Police.
“I approached him and said, ‘You talked about the real work industry. I want to get my hands dirty now,’” Noska recalled. “He said, ‘OK, but you have to be there at 3 in the morning,’ and I was like, ‘Alright — I’ll be there at 2:30.’”
She was there at 2:30 a.m. as promised.
Noska ended up being a helping hand on the set on later visits. Stratford said it got to the point where Noska got to know so many people on the set that she was invited to show up to the set even if he wasn’t there.
The fact that she followed through on her request is a rarity, Stratford said. He’s been teaching at CSUN since 2003 and according to him, perhaps five students have asked him if he could show them some “real-world experience.” Only one of those students followed through — the one who can put the word “Emmy” on her resume.
“I showed up and he was like, ‘You’re actually here,’” Noska remembered. “I think that was the proof that I’m in it to win it.”
Noska later became Stratford’s teacher’s assistant, and immediately after college, she worked as a video logger on the MTV show The Challenge. Within a couple of months, an opportunity arose with FuseFX, and Stratford was the one who told her about the job opening.
“The first thing I thought is I have to give (the opportunity) to Brooke,” Stratford said. “She represents the university, herself and me at a very high level. I’m proud of her. She’s such a good person, and the good people win every once in a while.”
It wasn’t a sure thing, though. Freshly out of college and with comparably less experience than many seeking an editor job, Noska was more than likely competing against people with lengthier resumes and visual effects backgrounds. She was fearless, though.
“I think I was hungry enough and have pretty much no fear,” Noska said. “I wouldn’t let anything get in my way like, ‘I really don’t know anything,’ or ‘I might not be qualified. Why would I apply?’
“I had friends who knew about this job who said, ‘I don’t know anything about visual effects.’ I was like, ‘Well, I’m going to take this as my open door. Why not step in instead of closing it?’”
Three months after taking a job as a video logger, Noska got the job at FuseFX in October 2014 — a big leap.
“It is very rare,” Stratford said of someone to jump from logger to visual effects editor. “It takes some luck or you happen to be at the right place at right time. But you also create your own opportunities. Luck is the result of opportunity and preparation combined.”
Just the Start
Months after the Emmys, Noska is buried in work. Sometimes, she’s in the office every day of the week, she said. She works long hours. But she’s still beaming — you can hear it in her voice.
“It’s kind of like Vegas,” she said of her job. “We never sleep. We make magic happen.”
It’s been a little over a year since she started at FuseFX. Stratford said her work ethic, her desire and her people skills will lead to more success. He hopes other students and other alumni will take her example.
“More than all the awards she’ll win, which is a lot, she’s a good representative of what people should be like,” he said, “and I had the opportunity to teach her a little bit and also know her.”