Hollywood 101: Students Visit L.A. for a Lesson in Show Business
Eleven Providence College students recently spent several days in Los Angeles getting a behind-the-scenes look at the entertainment business from eight PC alumni who have succeeded in Hollywood.
The second PC INHOLLYWOOD program featured three jam-packed days of workshops, studio tours, presentations, dinners, networking, and mentorship opportunities for students interested in breaking into the film and television industry.
PC INHOLLYWOOD was originated by film producer and media executive Todd Slater ’97 as a means for students to gain insight and network with alumni working in the film and television industry.
Slater, a partner at Slater Brothers Entertainment and CEO of Cinipix, hosted the students at his Cosmic Toast and Cinipix Studios and conveyed how the values and skills he acquired at the College have helped him prosper in Hollywood.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Providence College,” said Slater. “My experiences in and out of the classroom prepared me well. I’m glad to assist the students so they will have an advantage when starting their careers.”
The alumni — actors, directors, producers, and talent agents — delivered advice to the students on how to break into the business and shared how they created their paths to success. Several encouraged the students to pursue classes in public relations, marketing, management, and business development, reiterating that these fields are as essential in Hollywood as directors and actors.
Alumni presenters included John Bowab ’55, retired theatre and television producer and director of episodes of The Cosby Show, Who’s the Boss, and Full House; actor, business entrepreneur, and PC trustee John O’Hurley ’76 & ’06Hon. of Seinfeld fame; Charles Jennings ’04, assistant agent for Creative Artists Agency; Betsy Green ’85, executive producer at Double Bueno; Kary McHoul, president of Nigel Lythgoe Productions and the wife of Terry Gatens ’88; and Bridget McMeel ’96, owner of Andrews McMeel Universal, who sponsored the students’ tour of Sony Studios and presented a private screening of her company’s upcoming film, Small Apartments.
Just as they did last year, Edward Cimini Jr. ’76, retired senior vice president and actuary at Unitrin Specialty, and his wife, Mary, hosted a dinner at their home for the delegation.
The students were accompanied on the trip by Rev. Kenneth R. Gumbert, O.P., professor of film studies in theatre arts, and Patti Goff, director of the Career Education Center. Stephen Duryea ’82, major gifts officer in the Office of Institutional Advancement, who is stationed in California, also joined the group.
Lights, camera, education
The students embraced the opportunity to meet with the alumni and learn how PC prepared them for their careers.
“To say that I loved this trip would be a giant understatement,” said Caroline M. Young ’14 (Exeter, N.H.), a mathematics major with a theatre minor.
“I cannot describe how valuable and useful the advice we received from the alumni was. They were so welcoming and made working in Hollywood seem like a plausible idea. It made my dreams seem more reachable,” said Young.
Steve R. Gumbrecht ’13 (Mendham, N.J.), a creative writing major and film minor, was encouraged to hear the alumni credit their alma mater for giving them the training needed to succeed in the City of Angels.
“There are certainly outlets for the budding film student at PC, but I always thought that if I wanted to make a serious go at this industry, I’d have to do it independently,” he said.
But, having the opportunity to talk to the professionals directly altered his viewpoint.
“After visiting L.A. and seeing how many talented, influential alumni have ‘made it’ and are now helping fellow Friars, my perception has definitely changed,” Gumbrecht said.
Gumbrecht was heartened to learn that these individuals were also once uncertain students facing the same future he is.
“It is humbling to recognize that these successful people may have been wondering how they were going to start a film career based on the information they learned in a Western Civilization class,” he said.
“As it turns out, they did, and the uniting evidence suggests I can as well,” added Gumbrecht.
Alumni donate resources, too
In addition to those who donated their time, 11 PC alumni made financial contributions to help defray the costs of the students’ tours, hotel accommodations, and meals, said Duryea. “Only four of the donors worked in entertainment professions. The others thought this was too good of an idea not to support it financially,” he said.
The opportunity afforded by the PC INHOLLYWOOD program is something that Tara R. McLaughlin ’13 (Bedford, N.H) and her fellow students did not take for granted.
“The caliber of the people we met was astounding, and I learned more than I imagined,” said McLaughlin, a creative writing major with a film minor.
“I’m hoping to work in film or television production, and this trip was a huge step forward in that direction. Thanks to the support of the alumni, my vague idea of working in the industry has turned into a tangible future,” added McLaughlin.
— John Larson
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