AU’s LA intensive program connects participants to entertainment industry
SOC took 20 students and recent alumni to Los Angeles in May
This past May, AU offered 20 students and recent alumni an opportunity that they may not have anticipated when they moved to the nation’s capital: a chance to travel to Los Angeles to learn from and connect with AU alumni.
The AU LA intensive program, led by School of Communication professor Sarah Menke-Fish, exposed participants to the entertainment industry through panels, interviews, visits and receptions.
Menke-Fish said the LA intensive is the first AU program in the last ten years to be centered around the entertainment industry in LA. To Menke-Fish, there wasn’t a downside to participating in the program.
“You may go out there and think you want to live in LA and get out there for a week and determine ‘hey, this isn’t for me,’” she said. “Well, that’s not a failure. That’s a huge success. If you find out that this isn’t the right match—this isn’t where you could see yourself or want to be living—it’s good to find that out rather than just settling to move out there or spend your life thinking ‘oh, I wish I were in LA.’”
Barry Worthington, a 2018 graduate with an MFA in Film and Electronic Media, said the program taught him that the professionals weren’t much different than college students.
“A lot of folks that we met are pretty high caliber professionals in the industry: studio executives, directors, filmmakers, producers,” Worthington said. “Talking with them and [hearing] how down to earth they were and how much they wanted to connect with us and cared about the same issues and cared about the same values we did, that really meant a lot.”
Stops on the trip included Universal Studios, CBS Studio, Sony Pictures Studio and the Warner Brothers Studio. The group met Charlie Wachtel, the producer of the film “BlacKkKlansman”, Craig Shapiro, writer for the CBS show “Salvation,” and Eddie Leavy, an actor on the NBC comedy “A.P. Bio.”
Additionally, the AU Entertainment Media Alumni Alliance Network sponsored a reception at the mansion where the students stayed during the week. The reception had notable speakers who graduated from AU, including James Middleton, the executive producer of the Netflix show “Altered Carbon,” and Danielle Gelber, the owner and founder of the NBC-based production company Acoustics Productions.
Michael Henry, a 2017 graduate with an MFA in Film and Electronic Media, planned to move to LA before attending the program. After completing the program, he felt he had become accustomed to the area and was confident he had a chance to break into the industry.
“I think it was important to learn that it is difficult but it is possible to get a start out here,” Henry said.
Amanda Ziegler, a 2017 AU graduate with a degree in Public Relations and Strategic Communication, said she was nervous about getting a job after graduation but feels more comfortable since her involvement with the program.
“I remember someone said ‘You have to be eager, but not overly ambitious in this industry’ because if you're overly ambitious, then they're not going to want you,’” Ziegler said. “That piece of advice really helped me because as I was applying for jobs I didn’t want to sound desperate or anything like that. I had to find that balance.”
Menke-Fish said she enjoyed her time with the group and watching them grow.
“I think the students and alumni were able to better define what they liked to pursue and how to do it collectively,” Menke-Fish said. “The recognition that the students were not in competition with one another but that they could actually be supportive colleagues of one another was particularly gratifying.”