Communication professor Gerald Peary knows cinema. He has spent the last few decades solidifying his reputation as an insightful film critic and gifted instructor. He’s the author of nine books on the subject, and even went behind the camera to make his own documentary, For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism. But he’d never graced the screen himself – until now.

He recently spoke with the WBUR news program Here and Now about his big screen debut in Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess. Read/listen.

So, what advice does Peary have for Suffolk students after this experience?

Make connections, and stay in touch

You never know where – or from whom – opportunities might arise, so cultivate a strong network of people whose work you respect.

When Andrew Bujalski was a fledgling filmmaker at Harvard University, it was Peary who found a venue to screen his first film, Funny Ha Ha. They maintained communication as Bujalski’s career took off. Then, one day, Peary received an email “out of nowhere” asking him to audition for a role in Computer Chess.

Jump right in

Despite lacking experience – and knowing full well how tough critics can be – Peary immediately embraced the new challenge. He quickly put an audition tape together and sent it to Bujalski. It was a gamble that paid off. He describes his experience making the movie as “total fun” and critical reaction to the film has been incredibly positive.

The takeaway? Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone to learn a new skill or go after an interesting opportunity.

Say ‘yes’

Peary’s greatest advice to students comes from observing the entertainment industry for years, and from first-hand experience: when you’re starting out, say ‘yes’ to everything.

“When you begin your career in film, there will be 18-hour days filled with mundane tasks,” he explains. “But if this is your dream stay positive. People in charge notice who has a good attitude and who works hard. If you pay your dues the doors will start to open.”

Watch the trailer for Computer Chess: