Where Are They Now? - Tonja Greenfield

A 1999 graduate of Grapevine High School has played a significant role behind the scenes in the making of some of today’s most popular films. Tonja Greenfield serves as a camera assistant for several movies including "Jason Bourne", "Captain Phillips", "Pitch Perfect 2" and "22 Jump Street". Greenfield credits GCISD’s wide variety of extracurricular activities to the development of her passion of film today. GCISD’s Where Are They Now asked Greenfield about her memories of GCISD and its impact on her life after graduation.
 
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Camera Assistant & 1999 GHS graduate, Tonja Greenfield
Tell me a little bit about your life after high school graduation. Did you go off to college (if so where) or did you go straight into the working world? What are you doing currently?

“I went to the University of North Texas and graduated in spring 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television and Film. Upon graduation, I started working at a TV station in Louisville, Kentucky. In August 2004, I got my first job in the film industry and moved to New Orleans to finish working on that film. I have been working on films since then. I am a camera assistant so I handle all the camera equipment and film or media for the shoot. I have had the pleasure of working on some great films, with amazing cinematographers, and experience things I’d never get to otherwise. I’ve had the honor of working with the president of the British Society of Cinematographers, Barry Ackroyd, on several films including Jason Bourne, The Big Short and Captain Phillips. On Captain Phillips we got to shoot in the middle of the ocean on real US navy ships and see areas that civilians don’t usually go. I’ve also shot on Churchill Downs, the Port of Panama City and Old Town Porto Rico.”

 
What was your favorite high school memory and why?

“I loved going to the football games. It was a great time with friends and the energy at the stadium is something I will always remember. I also enjoyed the pep rallies with the themes and loved how everyone really got in the school spirit.”

 
Who was your favorite high school teacher and why?

“Julia Copeland, the journalism teacher. I was in her advanced photography class as a senior and she really taught me how to tell a story through a lens. She was always super encouraging and helped me realize my potential and passion for photography. I also enjoyed Glenda Prices’ math class. While I always loved math, it was her enthusiasm and school sprite that I will always remember!”

 
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Greenfield (right) and GHS friend (left)
In high school, did you know what kind of career you wanted or what you wanted to study? Did you change your mind along the way or did you stick to those plans?

“I knew since about the age of 10 that I wanted to do something with filmmaking. It varied with exactly what aspect I wanted to do, from animation to directing to editing to cinematography, but I always knew I wanted to work on films.”

 
If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give your high school self?

“I would tell my high school self or high school student that you really can do or become anything you want. You have to have grit, passion, a determination to make it. If you really want it, you can achieve it. It will be hard and you might have to fight through adversity but keep your head up, stay positive, and give all you can and it is possible. You have to make it happen. Camera is a male dominated department and when I started out I heard from male camera assistants that I would never make it because I was a female. Even union reps said it would be harder for me because most crews are just a “boy’s club”. But I was persistent, passionate and had a strong work ethic. I’ve had a great career so far and cannot wait to see what is in my future. And I’m so proud to be a part of the film industry right now with the rise of female cinematographers and more female assistants than ever. We really have a great diversity program and it’s amazing to be a part of the change.”

 
What advice would you give to a student preparing for college or the working world?

“Believe in yourself, be kind to others and have goals.”

 
What role did GCISD play in your success in the real world?

“GCISD provided not just a top-notch education but also a well-rounded experience. By having a wide variety of extracurricular activities, I was able to explore my interests and develop passions. It provided a strong foundation for the person I am today.”

 
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Greenfield (right) & husband, Will Greenfield (left)
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Greenfield & classmates at 1999 GHS graduation