Tag Archive for: teacher


Trai Cartwright is a 25-year industry veteran and a creative writing and business development specialist. She teaches, produces and writes screenplays and novels. While in Los Angeles, she was a screenwriter, independent film producer and story consultant, and development executive for HBO, Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios, and New Line Cinema.

She was the assistant director for Leonardo DiCaprio‘s online endeavors, and the manager for 20th Century Fox‘s Mobile Studios. Trai currently teaches creative writing, screenwriting, and producing for Western State Colorado University, Denver University, and CU Denver. Conferences, cons, and one-on-one as a development and story editor. She's the screenwriter of Secret Ellington, and the producer of a docu-webseries called Hidden Tigers, and a short film called Sundown Road.

Show Notes

[1:20] Trai’s background

[2:36] Growing up as a child writer and storyteller

[3:09] Trai's introduction to screenwriting, film, theatre, and community at NYU

[4:52] The discovery that crew work was not her calling

[6:17] Trai's first studio job at Orion Pictures, Sharon Bidal, and Wordperfect

[7:50] Lessons obtained (in hindsight) about education

[9:59] The film industry and the adventurous spirit

[11:50] Figuring out how you want to work

[12:48] The value of being a PA

[13:22] How Trai earned her money

[16:29] Decompressing in Fort Collins

[18:02] Doing time in Chicago, and a fortuitous encounter in a pool hall

[19:50] Gary Marshall, Northwestern University, and Avid editing systems

[21:38] The Honeymoon Period, and learning when to call the fire department

[25:43] Heading to LA with Dawn Wildsmith, Surf Nazis Must Die, and being a PA in LA

[32:19] How temping changed Trai's life

[33:54] Working in the industry, and The Irv Scheckter Company

[36:12] Adventures with Prelude Pictures

[38:24] Lost in Space in Marilyn Monroe's old dressing room at Paramount Pictures

[39:33] VP of Creative Services and Peter Saphier

[41:11] Side work with writers

[42:47] Working remotely as a viable option in the film industry

[44:25] Amassing skills as a crew person in Colorado

[45:24] The need to go where the opportunities are

[48:00] Filmmaking as a career vs. a hobby/project

[49:30] 10,000 hours to expertise, 5,000 hours to competence

[50:30] Ambition vs. heart – for writers, directors and producers

[51:47] Having the persistence and be willing to truly commit in the film industry

[53:15] Savoring the brilliant moments and learning to fall

[55:21] Living in Colorado while working in the industry

[56:55] Building businesses in Colorado vs. California

[59:40] Working in Colorado

[1:01:22] The coup at Creative Artists Agency

[1:04:57] Teaching the business of show business

[1:06:37] The value of education

[1:08:00] Never stop learning

[1:09:45] Vet your educators in order to build yourself a community

[1:12:27] Leaving LA

[1:17:36] Creativity defined

[1:18:37] Marriage and creative people

[1:20:20] Shifting perspectives in order to succeed and be happy

[1:23:03] Pulling back in order to move forward, and lift other people up

[1:27:20] Creating a Master's Program with Denver Media Professionals

[1:28:28] Women in Film and Media in Colorado (WIFMCO)

[1:32:00] Find an organization that resonates with you, and become a part of it

[1:34:25] All the cool things that WIFMCO does

[1:37:05] Giving back and investing within the Colorado film and media industry

[1:40:16] The lesson learned over the last year

[1:42:11] The biggest life lesson

[1:44:40] Advice for aspiring screenwriters

Links and resources


Be sure to check out podcasts with other great guests in the film and media industry on our DMP Podcast Page!


Todd is a working makeup effects artist and designer. He began his career in entertainment with PBS while a graduate student in Television Production at the University of Tennessee. Before starting his own small effects shop (BaPoFX) in Denver, Colorado, Todd worked as a production manager, writer, and producer for cable pioneer Ted Turner at TBS in Atlanta. He was also a writer/producer with 20th Century Fox Television in Los Angeles, and a visual effects animator for Warner Brothers, Walt Disney Pictures, and Walt Disney Television Animation. Among his feature film credits are Die Hard 2, Contact, Batman and Robin, Incoming Freshman, Cannon Fodder, The Enemy God, Decay, Apartment 212 (Gnaw), Hoax, and Ink, just to name a very few. Todd has sculpted and molded wounds used in the 2013 Tom Hanks film, Captain Phillips. Some of his television credits include Jag, and an uncredited contribution to one of his favorite TV programs, Dr. Who.

Show Notes

[00:12] Introduction

[2:31] Todd's Background

  • Grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and Boston, Massachusetts, and Atlanta, Georgia
  • Lived in Pennsylvania and California until the Northridge earthquake
  • Todd has resided in Colorado since 1994
  • Originally was interested in medicine, after an adventurous childhood, and was a surgical assistant in his teens
  • Credits Ghoulardi with his initial interest in monster makeup
  • Introduced to Curt by Cory Taylor Bryant

[8:25] Thoughts on retirement, and still being able to do the things you love

[10:25] Of art in the family and aptitude testing

[11:52] Todd's ‘LA Story

[16:44] Running an Equity Waiver theatre

[18:25] ‘I knew them way back when..' and how Todd met Gregory Peck

[20:13] The move to Colorado

[22:08] Trying to shape the future of film in Colorado

[24:16] Can you guess who all got their start in Colorado? (hint: some of them kill Kenny on a regular basis!)

[27:04] Back Porch FX (BaPoFX) and Pro*Am Prosthetics, and Shrek the Musical

[29:58] Pre-visualization on Contact, Gnaw (Apartment 212), and Hoax

[33:24] The cost of doing business with FX

[34:45] Training; Dick Smith‘s advanced course, books, and Stuart Bray, navigating the dangerous waters of online resources

[37:21] Recommendations on how to start in the makeup business, and how Todd's book came to be

[45:09] The most powerful mentors

[47:11] Todd and Stuart's podcast and Prosthetics Magazine tutorials

[48:43] How technology has changed the makeup business, and the talented Landon Meier

[50:33] Of molds and sculpting

[52:30] The many ways and places where special effects makeup and makeup special effects are used


[56:03] Retaining the services of a makeup effects artist and setting a budget; of Rick Baker and haemophobia

[60:07] Avoiding the makeup malfunctions during filming; “don't be a dick” and “be excellent to each other”

[1:02:24] What to look for in a great makeup artist

[1:05:54] Defining different styles of makeup

[1:06:58] IATSE and the union experience

[1:09:21] How to build a solid business in makeup, even if you barely survived college

[1:13:24] The value of asking for assistance, recognizing opportunity, and showing initiative

[1:17:34] Asking directly versus paying it forward

[1:19:03] Advice for aspiring makeup artists in Colorado

[1:20:17] Creatively digging for local work and learning how to wear different hats (i.e. “be a useful non-dick”)

[1:23:03] The Monsterpalooza Experience

[1:25:15] The brilliance of Shane Hurlbut

[1:27:49] SIGGRAPH and the NAB Show

[1:29:06] Todd's dream projects (wink, wink, nudge, nudge: drop Stephen Schwartz a line here)

[1:29:52] The best pieces of advice Todd has ever received

[1:32:08] The life cost of making money, or “the worst day in hell beats the best day in advertising”

[1:33:53] Common mistakes in makeup

[1:36:47] The biggest lesson of 2019

[1:37:34] The biggest life lesson

[1:39:07] Dealing with fame as an outgoing introvert

Links and Resources


Be sure to check out podcasts with other great guests in the film and media industry on our DMP Podcast Page!