Madison Kaufman, Brenau Scholar

Brenau Scholar Madison Kaufman

Whoever says monsters aren’t real hasn’t met Madison “Maddie” Kaufman – or Mad Dog, as she is affectionately called by her theater friends. She brings monsters from the deepest fantasies of the mind to life, such as the large, wearable dragon creation she made for the Game of Thrones season premiere at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Who would have known that magnificent creation of tooth and scale was built from some tire rubber, foam and recycled materials?

“I love ‘weird,’” says Kaufman. “I love being able to create creatures, be it animals, zombies or monsters. I like building things with lots of teeth.”

She has already begun a film career in Atlanta, working on movies and TV shows, including projects for Cartoon Network and the Fox Theatre. Her resume includes commercials for CN’s Adult Swim, the live-action show Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell, a pitch trailer for the film Tether, and the 2017 horror movie Penance Lane. She credits her start in the business to her mentor Shane Morton, who owns Silver Scream FX Lab in Conley, Georgia. He hired her to help work on industry-standard movie special effects, including makeup, costuming and prop-making.

But Kaufman had plenty of inspiration and help at home, too. Her father produces videos for Cricket Wireless, for which she has helped with makeup and costumes. “I’ve learned a lot about video editing and how to make good movies from my dad,” she says. Her mother, a banking software designer who loves horror and sci-fi movies, exposed Kaufman to an array of films that ignited her imagination.

Both parents have been supportive of Kaufman’s film work from the beginning. “They used to take me to puppet shows when I was little, and they made sure I watched all the classic horror monsters. They really set up the foundation for me to get into the work I love doing.”

Growing up in Norcross, Georgia, Kaufman lived between wealthy and rough neighborhoods, so she made friends from all walks of life. She attended Norcross High School, which gave her “a bigger worldview out of Norcross, which is what I liked about high school,” says Kaufman.

Her drama teacher was Brenau alumna Christina Jundt, WC ’13, who is currently the interim producing and education manager at Horizon Theatre in Atlanta, as well as the playwright of the outdoor folk musical Half Mile Down that has been performed annually at the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue in Gainesville. Jundt encouraged Kaufman to look into Brenau, even though Kaufman wasn’t sure about going to a private school. When she learned about Gainesville Theatre Alliance and toured the campus, she knew Brenau was the place for her.

After interviewing to be a Brenau Scholar, Kaufman says she was nervous and unsure about the outcome. “Everyone else was from private schools or homeschooled, and I was from public school, so I thought there was no way I was getting that scholarship,” she says.” I found out I was selected while working on a production of Guys and Dolls at school, and I got the call right before I had to go onstage. As soon as I found out I got it, I was so happy and I told everyone. It seems meaningful that I found out I got to go study theater at Brenau right before going onstage for the show.”

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