Trey Leonard is a storyteller. As a student, he’s already been a producer, director, writer and actor, and he’s studied and interned from Los Angeles to China. But some of his most memorable times have been right here volunteering with UGA Miracle.
Lake Park, Georgia
Lowndes High School
Family ties to UGA:
While my aunt and uncle were the only two members of my family to actually attend the University of Georgia, my family’s history of loving the Dawgs is a long one. Generations of my family have proudly cheered on the red and black.
Entertainment & Media Studies and International Affairs
Minors in Film Studies and Theatre
University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
I am a member of the UGA Honors Program and have been the recipient of scholarships including the Billy and Shirley Weir Scholarship, PGA of America Scholarship, Colquitt EMC Scholarship, Virginia Prince Memorial Scholarship, Stories from the Line Scholarship, and I have maintained the Zell Miller Scholarship for all four years of college. I have also been inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, the International Honors Society and the Order of the Omega.
During my time as an Entertainment and Media Studies major, I have produced three student documentaries, one of which was the only student film to be nominated for a Southeastern Student Emmy from UGA. As a junior, I wrote and directed a documentary exploring gentrification in Atlanta called “Over The Line,” which is currently beginning its own festival run. I have also acted in lead roles in several short films as well. Several productions I have worked on have been submitted for festival consideration, and a screenplay I wrote is currently in the final round of a few screenwriting competitions. I am currently producing a podcast now available on all streaming platforms, and I hope to shoot another short narrative this semester from a script written in one of my Grady classes last year.
My ultimate goal is to become a producer of my own content after college, hoping to bring to life my own scripts and films while elevating the voices of other extremely talented creatives who inspire me. I applied for the Grady LA program during my sophomore year and was fortunate enough to be accepted and spend two consecutive summers interning at different film production companies in the West Hollywood area. I was also fortunate enough to meet and connect with other aspiring entertainment professionals during an externship at United Talent Agency last January. I have also worked as a production assistant in Atlanta throughout my time at the University of Georgia on a variety of projects shooting in the area from “The Fast and Furious” franchise to “MacGyver,” currently airing on CBS.
I’ve also been afforded the tremendous opportunity to see the world during my time at UGA. I participated in Grady College’s Choose China Maymester in 2017, where I learned about one of the fastest growing media markets in the world alongside an incredible group of students and esteemed Grady faculty member Juan Meng. Related to my International Affairs major, I just returned from a winter study abroad trip in Australia to discover more about international sustainability, relevant not only to my personal life in Athens, Georgia, but also to my future career endeavors, hoping to bring sustainable measures to each corporate environment I enter.
While learning more about the entertainment industry in Los Angeles last summer, I realized the need for a student writer’s room at Grady College. I wanted to create a collaborative space where students could work together to improve their storytelling abilities as well as build skills in production and development. Once returning to Athens, I spearheaded the creation of this group alongside three other talented students. Now, The Industry is an official campus organization and the first ever Entertainment and Media Studies club through the UGA Student Involvement Network. With more than 150 students signed up, it’s clear that the organization is serving a strong subgroup of the University of Georgia community who are the next great culture creators.
I held prominent leadership roles in two other campus organizations. As a freshman in 2016, I served on the Rush Committee for my fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega, in addition to serving as a Freshman Greek Leader under the Interfraternity Council. I was also a member of the Executive Board for my fraternity as historian in 2017. For the last four years, I have been an active member of ATO, also spending time mentoring younger members as they navigate their educational and service-oriented goals. The Greek system has provided me with some of the most memorable experiences of my life, with some of the best friends that I will carry with me through my adult years.
Further, I joined the Family Relations committee of UGA Miracle as a freshman, where I was captivated by the organization’s mission to champion families of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta through strong relationships and fundraising. As a sophomore, I joined the leadership team of Family Relations as the public relations assistant chair. The following year, I became a member of the Executive Board, serving in the role of media co-chair where my knowledge from Grady and love of content creation melded with his passion “For the Kids.” In this role, I played a part in the rebranding the entire UGA Miracle organization alongside an incomparable team of leaders and lead a committee in creating high-quality promotional content. Now, in my final year of involvement with UGA Miracle, I have returned to the Family Relations Leadership Team, this time as the inspiration assistant chair. My time in Miracle has truly shown me the meaning of being bigger than yourself. I think of the children treated at CHOA each and every day as well as fellow miracle makers working alongside me at UGA, and I remain committed and hopeful to the path that I have chosen. No matter my specific role, however, I have built meaningful relationships with families from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta that will last beyond my four years of college.
My other campus involvement includes UGA HEROs as a freshman and participation in the UGAgency now as a senior.
I chose to attend UGA because …
The University of Georgia has left a deep mark on my family’s identity. For as long as I can remember, I have donned the red and black, and as I moved through high school, applying to UGA became an obvious choice due to its clout in the Southeast as well as Grady College’s prestigious programs. I did end up applying to a variety of other schools across the country but never seemed to take them very seriously as four years in Athens kept lingering in the back of my mind. I truly believe I would have become a different person had I gone anywhere else, without a true appreciation of my home state or the incredible community of people I am lucky to call my friends.
My favorite things to do on campus are …
One of my favorite aspects of UGA is that our campus is never lacking things to do. I love a good stroll through North Campus on a nice day, rooting for the Dawgs in Sanford and Stegeman, attending advanced movie screenings at Tate Theatre and grabbing Tate-fil-a with a friend.
When I have free time, I like …
Odds are if I have free time, you’ll find me going to the movies, grabbing a drink with friends at Blue Sky or Southern Brewing, or driving to Columbus to visit my 6-month-old nephew, Luke. I also like staying active by playing golf or swimming.
The craziest thing I’ve done is …
The craziest things I’ve ever done all took place while I was studying abroad. The first was hiking the Great Wall of China on my trip with Grady College. This experience was life-changing, and I still look back at photos from that rainy day, awe-struck that I was privileged enough to be there. I’ve also had the opportunity to Discover Abroad in Australia and New Zealand, which at times would consist of bungee jumping in Queenstown and sky diving in Noosa. Both elevated my study abroad adventure to new heights, allowing me to live as freely and as consciously as I ever have before.
My favorite place to study is …
It’s a toss-up. When I’m on campus, you can find me at the Jittery Joe’s in the MLC, or if I’m at my house downtown, I’ll head over to Hendershot’s.
My favorite professor is …
Grady assistant professor Kate Fortmueller has become one of my most trusted academic mentors, and I am beyond grateful for all of the wisdom she has shared with me over the years, in addition to her personal belief in me. I have had the pleasure of taking three classes with Dr. Fortmueller, and I truly feel like I walked onto this campus at the right time to experience an entire year of media study under her teaching. I was with Dr. Fortmueller when I had my first ever internship experience in Los Angeles, helping me and my peers fall in love with The City of Angels.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with …
I’m going to restrict my answer to those persons living, not deceased. Hands-down the two most influential creators in my life would be Robert Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, and Megan Ellison, CEO and founder of Annapurna Pictures. Bob Iger has propelled the Disney company into the global phenomenon it is. Most people are unaware of the far-reaching grip Disney has on media consumption habits, and his acquisition of Fox’s entertainment sector is changing the game for media makers and directly influencing how and where content is viewed. A Disney streaming service is inevitable to rival Netflix’s stronghold on streaming video on demand with its now-majority stake of Hulu.
Megan Ellison probably could not be more different from Iger as a business person, but she remains a juggernaut among high-profile producers creating in Hollywood. Daughter of Oracle founder Larry Ellison, Megan and her brother David crash-landed into Hollywood with their production companies Annapurna and Skydance, respectively. I admire what Ellison has created with Annapurna purely from her business model. She has created a company championing creative storytellers regardless of industry or artistic norms currently existing in our culture. Every production company is different based on distinct creative tastes, but Ellison’s business mind has forced more artistic and edgier storytelling into the mainstream.
It is also important for me to note that both of these figures have been criticized for various reasons. The Walt Disney Company is notorious for underpaying workers, and Annapurna is currently shaving off projects in order to earn back money lost on riskier projects. With this in mind, I would love nothing more than to connect with them and understand their perspectives on the industry I have decided to commit my working life to.
If I knew I could not fail, I would …
… commit myself to allowing others to share their own stories and truths freely and openly on large platforms. I would seek to build a culture of empathy and respect for the human condition, similar to the aims of artists and entertainers I admire. Their work is dependent on deep cultural perception and understanding. In a time where much of this is under threat across the globe, I believe it is imperative to spread knowledge and truth without fear of judgement.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to …
I would without a doubt choose to travel the world. There are so many places I’ve only dreamed of visiting and so many cultures that I desire to experience and learn about. From my study abroad experiences in China and Australia, I have been challenged and learned more about myself than any other time in my life. It’s such a privilege to be able to travel and experience new kinds of people, and each new experience helps me grow in understanding and empathy, which I hope to use as fuel throughout my career.
What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?
My ultimate passion in life is storytelling. From the very first time I cracked open a Harry Potter book, I knew that I would never stop being captivated by the magic of imagination. A fire was lit within me, and I began to explore the art of telling stories through different mediums. I fell in love with film specifically, and I am committed to pursuing this passion by continuing to learn as much as I can from others who have gone before me in the industry and giving 110 percent to my craft every day.
It’s important to mention here that I am fortunate enough to have strong and supportive parents who have always encouraged me to keep reading and stay focused on whatever goal I have set for myself. Whether it was the golf team in high school, fundraising for Miracle at UGA, or moving on to pursue even loftier goals for my work, my support system is the reason why I have held onto this passion for so long.
After graduation, I plan to …
… move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. My greatest desire is to spend the rest of my life telling stories that matter and resonate truthfully with others. I hope to ultimately be successful enough to produce content that I have written myself. I also hope to continue performing, whether in my own work or in other meaningful stories.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be …
No UGA experience can match the Total Reveal for UGA Miracle my junior year. I had been involved with the university’s largest student-run organization and philanthropy since my freshman year, and I was fortunate enough to serve on the leadership team my sophomore year and on the executive board my junior year. My third year in Miracle was so special because I got to combine two things I love so much: content creation and the kids being treated at CHOA. I had never poured myself so much into something that did not directly benefit me. All the hours spent at the Greek Life Office, weeks hosting meetings, and long nights spent editing in front of a computer screen transformed into adrenaline-fueled emotion during the final moments of Miracle’s signature Dance Marathon event. Once the tears started flowing, they did not stop until at least an entire day following the final number revealed for our fundraising efforts. To complement the moment, the realization that my peers and I had accomplished so much with literal blood (blisters), sweat (dancing), and tears without having a numerical goal for the first time in the philanthropy’s history made an indelible mark on my spirit.