By all accounts, Geno McDermott ’04 is crazy about film.
He has spent his entire career in the film and television industry, and is the founder and executive producer of the successful production company Blackfin. To kick off Alumni Weekend 2019, Geno will speak at assembly on Friday, May 3 from 10:25 to 11:10 a.m. about the trajectory of his career.
However, if you had told Geno while he was a George School student that he would grow up to be a filmmaker, he might not have believed you. In fact, Geno did not aspire to have a career in film and television until his last few weeks of college when he began making videos for fun.
One aspiration that Geno did have as a child, however, was to attend George School.
The nephew of English teacher Melaina Young ’93, Geno first visited campus while Melaina was a student. “I went to Harvest Weekend, and I remember seeing all the students hanging around a big pot of apple butter and playing live music together,” said Geno. “There were people from all around the world creating lifelong friendships. My dream was always to follow in my aunt’s footsteps.”
Geno fulfilled that dream, and his brother Jason McDermott ’05 also attended George School, as well as several cousins.
After graduating from George School, Geno studied English and psychology at Gettysburg College. But once he was bitten by the filmmaking bug in the final days of his college career, Geno realized he had to pivot.
Geno snagged an internship at a film production company in New York City, and he knew he had landed in the right field. “I became addicted to the craft of producing, purely because I love what I do and it doesn’t seem like work,” said Geno.
After several years of working in the film and television industry, Geno decided to take on his next challenge in 2014. He started his production company, Blackfin, with nothing but a single camera, a computer for editing, and a month of office space. Blackfin took off quickly: Geno sold the company’s first project to Animal Planet within the first month, and sold many more projects that year to various cable networks.
Blackfin has seen prolific growth within the last five years, and is now one of New York City’s largest indie, non-scripted film and television production companies. Specializing in premium nonfiction, including series, specials, and feature documentaries, Blackfin produces for Netflix, Discovery, National Geographic, History, Investigation Discovery, and AMC. The company’s slate of past and current projects include Finding Escobar’s Millions, Legendary Catch, Missouri Mountain Family, and My Perfect World: The Aaron Hernandez Story.
Although his ambitions to work in the film and television industry did not crystalize during high school, Geno reflected that he gained many of the qualities needed for career success at George School. “My teachers and coaches pushed me to do things I never thought possible, which I think back on every time I am intimidated by an obstacle or hurdle in my career,” said Geno.
Above all, Geno wants to reassure students that they need not feel pressured to choose a path. “Try not to rush into any decisions on ‘what you want to be when you grow up’ until you have found something you absolutely love,” said Geno. “You can decide at any point in your life to pivot into anything you want. As long as you fully dedicate yourself and invest the time, you will undoubtedly achieve.”
To learn more about Geno’s productions, visit Blackfin’s website.