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Former Mythbuster Speaks As Part Of SPA Series

Former Mythbuster Grant Imahara spoke in the HUB’s Alumni Hall Tuesday night as part of the Student Programming Association’s distinguished speakers series, addressing his career and all the quirky experiences he’s had along the way.

Imahara graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in electrical engineering, not exactly the degree you’d expect for a man who’s worked on a number of Hollywood blockbusters.

How does a man with an electrical engineering degree wind up working in Hollywood? Well, according to Imahara, it was by accident.

“I left engineering in my junior year. I was hating all of my classes, so I decided that I wanted to try something different,” Imahara said. “I decided that I wanted to study screenwriting.”

An advisor from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts then put him in touch with Tomlinson Holman, the inventor of the THX Sound System. Holman mentored Imahara over the next year and helped him secure an internship with Lucasfilm.

“After about a year of working with Tom, I went back to engineering and finished all my classes and did the summer internship with Lucasfilm,” Imahara said. “That’s what started me down the path to entertainment.”

Imahara used his combined skills as an engineer and movie lover while working with Lucasfilm’s THX division for three years following his graduation. He then moved over to the company’s visual effects department, where he worked with the industrial light and magic division on projects like the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Jurassic Park, and The Matrix.

After nine years working with ILM, Imahara once again made a drastic career change. “I had no idea I would be on television,” he said. “That wasn’t some overall goal that I had.”

While Imahara had worked in the entertainment business for 12 years, moving from behind the scenes to an on-camera role was an eye-opening experience for him.

“On reality television, which is essentially what we were, they want to see you make mistakes,” Imahara said. “At ILM we had a table, and the table had a bottom drawer. The bottom drawer was where you put everything that you messed up. All of your mistakes got put in the bottom drawer, nobody had to know, you could make it perfect and everything was great.”

On the set of Mythbusters, Imahara wasn’t able to hide his mistakes away.

“At Mythbusters we had a camera following us all day long, everyday,” Imahara said. “Inevitably you’re going to make a mistake, and they love it when you make a mistake.”

Unlike in the production world, where everything has to be absolutely perfect, the Mythbusters producers loved using the cast’s mistakes as comedy and as a way of establishing their cast as real people. If the camera crew happened to miss a mistake, they might even ask the cast to redo their error so they could get it on camera.

“Everybody in life makes mistakes at some time or another,” Imahara said. “Personally I didn’t want the world to see my mistakes, but I knew instinctively that they needed to show them.”

While Imahara spoke at length to the crowd about his journey in Hollywood, he had one main message he wanted to get across to the crowd:

“Failure, and that’s the one greatest thing I think I learned on Mythbusters,” Imahara said. “Failure is something that should not be feared.”

While the stories of his time on the Star Wars set were interesting and lighthearted, Imahara’s key point was that failure is a normal. Without failure, it’s impossible to learn and improve in any career, or any normal part of life.

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About the Author

Matthew Fox

Matt is a Senior from Lansdale Pennsylvania majoring in Broadcast Journalism. He loves sports, and is still patiently waiting for the Philadelphia Flyers to win a Stanley Cup. If you would ever like to reach out to Matt you can email him at [email protected]

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