Nick Poyner graduated from Philadelphia's University of the Arts in 2009, and he was on course to become a starving artist from the moment the dean put a diploma in his hand. "I was making money doing medical studies," he told CNBC.com. "I paid my rent by using that money." But Nick dreamed of becoming more than a mere human guinea pig. He wanted to create special effects for horror movies. "Ever since elementary school, I was messing around with video cameras and blood," he said.
After moving to New York and taking a job canvassing for politician Anthony Weiner for $12 an hour, he began working for free on movie sets to get a foot in the door. The gambit worked, and a makeup artist he met on set arranged for him to interview with The Specialists Ltd., a fabrication service that creates props for movies and television shows. Poyner now receives a steady paycheck and medical insurance, and his work can be seen in such blockbuster films as "Men in Black III" and "The Bourne Legacy."