The camera crew filmed a scene in "The Fault in Our Stars" where Hazel (Shailene Woodley) makes herself a cup of tea while talking to her mom. The tea-making part got cut in the editing process, creating a challenge for Libertyville native Greg Borkman.
Editors noticed that Woodley suddenly appeared holding the tea cup, and Borkman -- the movie's first assistant editor, who helped with visual effects -- needed to come up with a way to make that cup disappear on-screen.
"I had to remove her arm that had a cup, and put her arm down straight, so it was out of the shot. It was a complicated shot, but it needed to be done for continuity purposes," Borkman said.
Borkman, 26, a Libertyville High School alumnus, learned all sorts of new film tricks while working on the blockbuster movie, and the experience is opening doors for him to do other visual and creative work in Hollywood. He's also started a separate photography career on the side.
"I don't think it's even set in yet. It's very surreal," said Borkman, who walked the red carpet at the film's premiere. "Everyone I worked with on this movie was a wonderful, wonderful person. I'm sure this movie has changed my life for the better."
He changed his own life for the better in college. Borkman had been studying physical therapy at Augustana College, figuring he'd follow in his parents' footsteps with a science career. His dad, Tom, is an Abbott Laboratories microbiologist, and his mom, Nancy, teaches speech pathology at Daniel Wright Junior High School in Lincolnshire.
But Borkman's heart just wasn't in science. He wanted to do something creative. So three days before returning to school for his junior year, Borkman confessed to his dad, "I don't want to go back."
His dad asked him what his passion was, and Borkman thought back to a broadcast news class he'd taken at Augustana where he learned about cameras and editing. He loved the creative aspect of it, and wanted to give film a try.
"I was afraid what (my dad) would think of me doing film. I always thought it was the slackers who went into film," he said, laughing. "He was very accepting and my mom was very accepting, too. It was incredible to have that kind of support."
That fall, Borkman enrolled at College of Lake County and took a film class -- which he still ranks as his favorite film class ever -- where they "dissected movies."
"It was at this point where I was, like, yes, this is what I want to do," he said.
Eventually transferring to an experimental film program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Borkman heard "American Idol" would be in town for local auditions and needed production assistants. He got a dull crowd-control job, but struck up a conversation with the production assistant manager. While talking about their career ambitions, the manager encouraged Borkman to move to Los Angeles. He even offered to help him find a job.
That was all the encouragement Borkman needed. He moved out to L.A., and as part of a deal with his parents, finished his education at Columbia College Hollywood (not affiliated with Chicago's Columbia College). He started working small film jobs, and as his resume was being passed around, he got an out-of-the-blue call from film editor Robb Sullivan to work as an unpaid intern on the 2012 film, "Stuck in Love," starring Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connelly.
Opportunity had knocked.
"Stuck in Love" was director Josh Boone's first film -- before he went on to direct "The Fault in Our Stars." He was so happy with Borkman's work on "Stuck in Love," Boone hired Borkman (and Sullivan) to work on "Fault." He plans to hire them again to edit his next movie, an adaptation of Stephen King's "The Stand," Borkman said.
"(Boone) is a very loyal guy," he said. "I worked hard (on Boone's films) ... but it's about proving yourself to other people as well as yourself. If you're going to get a shot at something, you're going to need to put your time in first. I was more than willing."
-- Jamie Sotonoff
• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking for people from the suburbs who are now working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make an interesting feature, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.