Connected to Humanity: Olivia Nelson’s Hollywood Story

In Alumni Profiles, Featured, Industry Insights by

— By Hannah Dorss–

Olivia Nelson graduated from John Paul the Great Catholic University with a Communications Media degree in 2015. After working in Hollywood for a year, she is now living and working in Georgia, where she is currently co-writing a children’s film.

Olivia Nelson loves working in the film industry not because it’s a glamorous lifestyle, but because she’s creating art that she believes can change people’s lives. In fact, the hardships she’s faced in the industry have changed her own life, giving her a deeper trust in God and connection with those around her.

After moving to Hollywood, the beautiful apartment, awesome roommates, and cute car she had envisioned were put on hold, as she faced constant changes and uncertainty at work. She says her greatest challenge was learning to accept everything as part of God’s plan, especially when life didn’t follow her desires.

Olivia attended daily mass often while in Hollywood, for it was there that she says she encountered God’s light and comfort. One day at mass when she was out of work and had no place to live, she asked God to show her His plan and to provide for her. It was at this point that Olivia reached out to a fellow graduate who was living in LA and begged to sleep on his couch until she figured something out. She says that reaching out for help was incredibly humbling, but it was by experiencing lows like these that her trust in God’s love and providence grew exponentially. She learned that God will provide but perhaps in a different way than she had expected.

Despite these challenges, Olivia says she’s been incredibly blessed to work on many projects in a variety of roles since entering the industry. Her first official job was as a production assistant on Yard Crashers and House Crashers for HDTV. While there, she discovered that she loved being a PA despite the hard work involved. She was responsible for feeding the crew, acquiring consents, setting up and tearing down the set, and running errands for fifteen to eighteen hours daily. Next she worked as a production office coordinator for Dean Rivers Productions, a Christian production company that worked on The Ultimate Gift, a well-known Christmas film. Her main duty was to coordinate the details of the company’s new documentary with the help of the line producer. She then worked to help cast the main roles of a new Erwin Brothers’ film, which will soon be in the production phase.

Through her film experiences, Olivia says she’s learned to consecrate everything in her day— joy, fear, sorrow, success, and failure—to God. She believes that whatever she gives to God will not go to waste, and through it all, she strives to serve her neighbor and share the Gospel in little ways. For example, during her work as a PA when she was in charge of setting up all of the meals, she would privately bless the entire table, asking God that the food would nourish the crew’s bodies to do His will. She also prays to St. Anthony, the patron of lost things, whenever people lose tools or props on set. She says that every time, the owners inevitably find their lost item in a strange place, while she just looks up to heaven and winks.

Reflecting on her journey thus far, Olivia says that all the sleepless nights and fifteen to eighteen-hour work days are worth it in the end because it’s all part of God’s plan. She concludes, “I’m proud of being very open to God’s plan and of all the tears that I shed about it. It makes the success that much sweeter.”