From Netflix to the CBS Evening News, HWS students glimpsed the range of career opportunities in media and entertainment in and around Los Angeles. During this year’s “Behind the Scenes” excursion, 17 students spent three days of their winter break attending panel discussions, visiting studios and offices, and meeting alums, parents and friends of the Colleges who have found success in Hollywood as producers, writers, executives, actors, technicians and entrepreneurs.
Students learned about the development of a television series from Warren Littlefield ’74 and Ann Johnson ’83 of The Littlefield Company, which created the award-winning series The Handmaid’s Tale and Fargo. (While serving as President of NBC, Littlefield was also responsible for developing the “Must See TV” shows that defined ’90’s television, including Seinfeld, Friends, Cheers, ER and Will and Grace.)
Students visited the set of the new Fox show 9-1-1: Lone Star (from co-creator and executive producer Brad Falchuk ’93 L.H.D. ’14). At Netflix, Zana Lawrence ’07, who works in original documentary and comedy programming, shared the process of producing docu-series like Salt Fat Acid Heat. The group visited the offices of the new streaming service Quibi, set to launch in April, where Luke Esselen ’11 is an executive on the content team.
Behind the Scenes of Netflix, Quibi and The Academy.
“Getting to see what it is like in these work environments, and actually seeing people do their jobs, like directing scenes of a television show or making a brand-new streaming service, was so exciting,” says Jackson Harris ’22, a media and society major.
“We met alums involved in a plethora of jobs in the media industry,” says Gianna Gonzalez ’20, an English and media and society double major. “It inspired excitement in my future career with the expansive HWS alum network to support me along the way.”
For more than a decade, Hobart and William Smith students have traveled to Los Angeles for the “Behind the Scenes” experience, which is coordinated with faculty through the Salisbury Center for Career, Professional and Experiential Education.
With almost 50 years between the oldest and youngest panelists, and a range of careers, “students have the opportunity to hear from people with similar job titles, but whose work can look very different from one another,” says Brandi Ferrara, director of the Salisbury Center for Career Services who coordinates the experience. “The panelists are all at various levels in their careers — from recent grads just starting out to extremely successful alums with decades of experience.”
Led by Ferrara, Professor of English Grant Holly and Associate Professor of Media and Society Lisa Patti, this year’s group of students attended multiple panels and presentations, featuring grads such as writer and director Mark Neveldine ’95; Henry Lenz ’72, who shared his experience in news production as the former broadcast technician for CBS Evening News; and Grace Verrill ’12, senior brand manager at the fashion company Carbon38, who highlighted L.A. career opportunities outside the entertainment industry.
“The program affords media and society majors and minors, especially those who have taken relevant courses such as Media Industries, an opportunity to see how the critical skills they have developed in their classes apply to different media careers. Students from all fields discover the value of a liberal arts education for careers across the media industries,” says Patti.
“It was a pleasure meeting the alums who were diverse in their stories and careers,” says Shayna Riggins ’22, a media and society major. “I felt very privileged to be among a community of alums who are living success stories of Hobart and William Smith’s education.”
As Louis Newman ’21, a media and society major, notes, “each alum’s highly differing career path allowed me to understand the many options available to HWS graduates.”
Before returning to Geneva, students visited the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with film publicity coordinator Will Samayoa ’19 and attended a holiday reception hosted by Eric Lax ’66, L.H.D. ’93 and Karen Sulzberger, which offered a chance to meet with other LA-based members of the HWS community.