This January, a group of Hobart and William Smith students traveled to the Los Angeles area to network with producers, senior-level executives and actors who have created some of entertainment’s most iconic TV shows, characters and media campaigns. For three days, students had access to panels, site tours and networking sessions that took a behind-the-scenes look into the studios and daily lives of LA professionals.
On the first day of the trip, students connected with industry veterans Brad Falchuk ’93, L.H.D. ’14, executive producer of “American Horror Story” and “911,” best-selling novelist Jessica Knoll ’06 and a range of alums who discussed finding careers they are passionate about and breaking into the industry.
“After years of putting this program together, we have found it to be spectacularly successful. We have shown students that it is beyond possible to go from Geneva to Hollywood, and have connected them to internships, employment and our alum network,” says Professor Emeritus of Media and Society Les Friedman, who helped design and has led the program since its inception along with Professor of Comparative Literature Grant Holly and director of the Salisbury Center for Career, Professional and Experiential Education Brandi Ferrara.
“The best part of the trip were the stories alums told about how they made connections that helped them launch their careers,” says Cecilia Foley ’18, a media and society major. “The trip was a great opportunity for me and my peers to begin taking those same steps.”
The day continued with a series of panels covering topics from the music industry and talent management to film production and acting. Featuring speakers such as Chris Adelmann ’77, executive vice president of business development at LiveNation; Kenneth Halsband ’88, president and COO of Relativity Media; Christopher McDonald ’77, L.H.D.’13, actor; and William Peck ’90, producer at Hallmark’s Home, students gained a broader understanding of the range of careers in the industry. Alums who participate in panels and networking sessions also have the opportunity to make new connections in their fields and stay in touch with their alma mater.
In addition, students had the opportunity to take tours of the film production company Funny or Die and the advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi. During a visit to Hallmark studios, students met co-hosts of the show “Home & Family,” Mark Steines and Debbie Matenopoulos and watched them in action interview scheduled guests, basketball player and actor Rick Fox and Logan Shroyer from “This is Us.” They also traveled to CBS studios and took a tour of the set of “Superior Donuts.”
On the final evening of the trip, students and LA-based alumni, alumnae, parents and friends of the Colleges gathered for a reception celebrating the New Year with President Gregory J. Vincent ’83, providing students with an additional opportunity to meet and connect with the Colleges’ network.
Since the spring semester kicked off, participating alums have worked with the Salisbury Center for Career Services and Experiential Education to post internships and set up informational interviews with students.
Alums who participated in this year’s panel discussions included:
Chris Adelmann ‘77, executive vice president of business development, LiveNation
Jillian Collins ’15, junior assistant, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Blair Dector ‘15, assistant, Innovative Artists Talent & Literary Agency
Luke Esselen ‘11, talent producer
Brad Falchuk ’93, L.H.D. ’14 executive producer/creator
Michael Guilbert ‘94, filmmaker, Waterproof Pictures
Kenneth Halsband ‘88, president and COO, Relativity Media
Chris Jacks ’16, business development, APEX
Sasha Jewett ’17, non-scripted TV assistant, William Morris Endeavor
William Keck ’90, producer, Hallmark’s Home & Family
Jessica Knoll ‘06, author & screenwriter
JP Lavin ’95, screenwriter
Mitchell Levine ‘81, president, The Film Festival Group
Andrew Mason ’14, Music Coordinator, Big Picture Entertainment LLC
Christopher McDonald ‘77, L.D.D. ’13, actor
Tyler Niles ’16, Day-to-Day Manager, Indie-Pop
Frances Parsons ’06, actor/model
David Pullano ‘84, showrunner, Machinima
Eric Salat ’92, producer, Leftfield Pictures; freelance
Kyle Sherwood ‘12, actor/grad student
Connor Widenmeyer ’14, screenwriter