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Life After LEAD: Brian Collins, ’14, MM’17

One of our former LEAD Scholars sends an update.
Read time: 2 minutes

A FEW YEARS AGO, IF YOU TOLD ME THAT TODAY I’D HAVE filmed a dozen celebrities, managed millions of dollars in production budgets, and produced films and commercials that have screened at top film festivals, the Oscars, and even a Super Bowl—I’m not sure I would have believed you. And yet, I feel so fortunate to say that’s exactly what my life is today.

After graduating with a dual degree in English and film, the truth is that I felt a little lost trying to make a career in film production. After a couple years of taking any film gigs I could, I returned to U-M to get my master of management from the Ross School of Business. I was really hoping the program was going to whip me into shape and help me learn the skills to produce any film in any circumstance. And, thankfully, it seems to have worked. Not long after finishing the program, I received a surprise call from McCann, one of the top ad agencies in America (as seen in the TV show “Mad Men”), and a few weeks later moved to New York City for a job in its production department.

At McCann, my first big break was a project in Boston for Mastercard to film Mike Shinoda, co-founder of the band Linkin Park. Given only a day’s notice, I had to capture him recording an original variation of the new Mastercard song, interview him, then shoot more content during his concert at House of Blues that night. The finished film served as the intro for Mastercard’s chief marketing officer for a SXSW seminar. After the success of this project, I became a dedicated member to our work for Verizon—the biggest account at the company. I recently got to work on Verizon’s iPhone 13 launch; the annual iPhone release is one of Verizon’s biggest initiatives every year.

In February 2021, I produced my first-ever Super Bowl commercial. It was the biggest, most challenging project I’ve ever worked on, starring Samuel L. Jackson and JuJu Smith- Schuster, completely animated, and all produced remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ad Age magazine reviewed the spot: “The adgamers who pulled this off are among the best in the Big Game.” It’s so cool to be recognized in the big leagues!

Throughout these experiences, I’ve never forgotten where it all started. After growing up in Ann Arbor, then attending U-M, I feel so lucky to now be making it in the film production industry. The LEAD scholarship helped me in my time at U-M, and today the LEAD network and greater Alumni Association organization continues to help me in my future endeavors. But for now, I’m enjoying life in New York!

The LEAD Scholars program provides scholarships to Black, Latinx, and Native American students who have been accepted into U-M. Visit to learn how you can support the program and, thus, help create a more diverse campus.

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