When “Glee” won a Golden Globe Award last week, nearly 20 current students, recent graduates and faculty were able to look at their television sets and say, “I met him,” or “I shook her hand!” Many even have photographic evidence to prove it. The group returned from L.A. just a few days before the award ceremony, having met a number of HWS alums in the film and television industry, including Brad Falchuk ’93, creator, co-producer and director for “Glee.” Falchuk gave the group a chance to watch some of the show’s taping and meet with cast members.
The Los Angeles experience program was offered over winter break by the Salisbury Center for Career Services and the Media and Society Program and included a group of 12 current students, three recent graduates, and faculty Grant Holly, professor of English; Liz Lyon, associate professor of English; and Les Friedman, professor of media and society. They met with HWS alums and some of the media industry’s most important figures, including Executive Producer Warren Littlefield ’74 and H. Read Jackson ’66, senior vice president for production for Fox Sports Net. Students spent two weeks prior to winter break researching the companies and executives with whom they’d meet.
“I was tremendously impressed with the students’ preparation and participation,” says Lyon. “They consistently interacted with alums in informed, articulate and thoughtful discussions. For their part, the alums were incredibly generous with their time and in their willingness to share their work and experience with us. Every moment was memorable; even during the numerous van trips from one part of L.A. to another there was always an interesting conversation.” Lyon particularly enjoyed visiting the set of “Glee,” as Falchuk is a former student.
“The experience of students who went on the trip was invaluable, even if they eventually choose a career outside the entertainment field,” says Friedman. “Given this spectrum of media talent, the students learned how they need to be passionate about their career, work hard to fulfill their dreams, and network through a notoriously competitive industry. Hopefully, this trip both inspired them and brought home the realities of working in the entertainment industry.”
This was the case for Christine Yankelunas ’10, who says she benefitted from every meeting. “Each person shared their struggles and triumphs and encouraged us to do our best and, despite rejection or defeat, to keep trying. Warren Littlefield’s words were especially inspiring, ‘First be the best, then be first.’ I definitely will take these words into account as I pursue my dreams.”
Littlefield is former senior and executive vice president of entertainment for NBC, credited with being an architect of the station’s winning Thursday lineup penned “Must See TV.” Littlefield was developer of award-winning shows, “Cheers,” “The Cosby Show,” and “The Golden Girls.” He is working on the pilot of a one-hour series and shared insights into the show development process.
The L.A. winter break program took place from Jan. 11 through 13. During dinner on the first evening, students had the chance to meet with Dave Pullano ’84, a writer who has worked on shows such as “Blind Date,” and Chris Adelmann ’77, executive vice president of business development for LiveNation, the live events company and concert promoter. Both men were part of a panel discussion later in the week as well. The dinner was held at Church and State Bistro, where William Smith alum Yassmin Sarmadi ’91 is owner and general manager.
In other sessions, the students learned the inside scoop about working in the interactive and gaming industry, first at Disney Interactive Media in a visit arranged by Eric Mokover ’73. Later in the trip, they met with the producers of the Guitar Hero and DJ Hero games at Activision Blizzard, thanks to a visit facilitated by Dan Rosensweig ’83, CEO and president of the Guitar Hero division. At Moxie Pictures, they met with executive producer Lizzie Schwartz ’86 and heard about making commercials. At Fox Sports, Jackson took students on a tour and talked about the intricacies of sports television production. Another highlight of the trip was attending the HWS Club of Los Angeles’ New Year’s Gathering hosted by Jackson and his wife Nancy Alspaugh Jackson at their home in Hidden Hills.
At the end of the trip, after three days of individual presentations and tours, students heard from a panel of experts from diverse positions within the industry: Christopher McDonald ’77, actor, who has appeared in 85 films and numerous television and theater productions including “Thelma & Louise,” “Quiz Show” and “Happy Gilmore;” Eren Celeboglu ’99, a writer and director with a “Scrubs” episode under his belt; Nick Holly, writer and creator and an executive producer of “Sons & Daughters” and son of Professor Grant Holly; Writer John (J.P.) Lavin ’95 who has worked with Ryan Seacrest; and Pullano ‘84 and Adelmann ’77 who they’d met at dinner at the beginning of the trip.
“The trip completely surpassed all expectations. The alumni that were gracious enough to meet with us provided invaluable information and stories of their experiences within the entertainment business, which will undoubtedly help with any future endeavors- whether within the entertainment industry or not,” says participant Michael Erickson ’10.