FMA alumna discusses career and work at Paramount Pictures

Since graduating in 1986, Andrea Kalas has worked at several companies including Dreamworks Animation and Discovery Inc.

Andrea Kalas was almost a theater major. She planned on taking all the theater classes she could after finishing two required film classes.

But after taking those two classes, her passion moved to film.

“I never looked back,” said Kalas, a 1986 film and media arts alumna.

In 1985, Kalas enrolled in the University of California, Los Angeles to earn a master’s degree in film. Kalas worked at the UCLA Film & Television Archive, where she connected with filmmakers who exposed her to new films and taught her how to preserve and archive them.

Film preservationists prevent deterioration by making a copy of the original film and then reproducing the film copy into a digital format like a DVD, according to the National Film Preservation Foundation.

After leaving UCLA in 1995, Kalas held various positions throughout the years as head of archive at Dreamworks Animation, virtual studio director at Discovery Inc. and president of the California-based Association of Moving Image Archivists.

Kalas has worked at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood, California since 2009. As the senior vice president of archives, Kalas oversees film preservation, restoration and archiving film and digital copies.

“It’s important to save the greatest art form that ever existed, film, for people to see it for as long as they possibly can,” Kalas said.

Preservation is a critical part of restoring films to make them look and sound as great as possible, she added.

At Paramount, Kalas has restored thousands of well-known movies, including 1961’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and 1977’s “Saturday Night Fever,” which was shown during a screening at the AMC Broadstreet 7 at Broad and Oxford streets on Feb. 13.

Chris Cagle, a film and media arts professor, invited Kalas to speak to his film study course about late 1940s Hollywood on Feb. 13. Kalas’s restoration of “Wings,” a 1927 silent film by William Wellman, stood out to him. It probably took a lot of work and the result was gorgeous, Cagle said.

One of Cagle’s students, Andrew Pettis, a senior film and media arts major, finds Kalas’s career inspiring because of the time she takes to preserve and restore all types of film, he said.

“Her drive for preserving films that people normally wouldn’t be super interested in, you can tell it’s for her love of film and not for monetary gain,” Pettis said.

From 2003 to 2009, Kalas oversaw preservation at the British Film Institute, a film and charitable organization in the United Kingdom. One of Kalas’s favorite experiences at the institute was restoring silent films about factory workers from Northern England in 1912.

“They would go to the gate where people were leaving work, film them, and put signs up, ‘Come see yourself on the screen later tonight,’” Kalas said. “What they captured was just amazing, a snapshot of what people really looked like.”

Being able to restore historic pieces and learn about how English people lived at the time of the film was incredibly moving, she added.

Kalas returned to the United States for her job at Paramount Studios.  

The Studios at Paramount often hosts screenings of the films in the company’s archive. One of the perks of working at Paramount Pictures is when movie stars like Billy Dee Williams, known for his role as Lando Calrissian in the original Star Wars trilogy, and Nancy Olson, who starred as Betty Schaefer in “Sunset Boulevard,” visit to present a screening of their own films, Kalas said.

“Film is the greatest art form that is on the planet, it incorporates image and sound and music and so many different kinds of crafts,” Kalas said. “There’s always much more to know about it. It’s a cultural touchstone that people really connect with.”

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