Students Travel West for INHOLLYWOOD Program
Providence, R.I. -- Eleven Providence College students were introduced to the world of show business during an intense three-day program over winter break organized by Todd Slater ’97 (pictured below with Rev. Kenneth R. Gumbert, O.P.).
The PC INHOLLYWOOD program was based on a longer five-day program, which helps people network with film and television executives, offered by Slater and his film production company, Slater Brothers Entertainment.
But Slater, working with Stephen Duryea ’82, major gifts officer in the Office of Institutional Advancement, created a shorter version of the program that featured a number of College alumni.
“I’m always looking at ways to potentially expand the reach of the school both from a student involvement perspective and an alumni perspective,” Slater said.
The students met with professionals representing many facets of the film and television business, including directors, producers and talent agents. They got advice about how to break into the industry as well as different paths to success. Presenters included Peter Farrelly ’79, producer and director of There’s Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber, as well as Kary McHoul, president of Nigel Lythgoe Productions and wife of Terry Gatens ’88.
“What this trip did is open students’ eyes to the real possibility of getting great jobs working in film and television,” said Rev. Kenneth R. Gumbert, O.P., professor of film studies in theatre arts, who accompanied the group along with Patti Goff, interim director and associate director of the Office of Career Services.
Slater said the program exposed students to entertainment careers beyond those mentioned on the list of credits of their favorite films, noting Hollywood needs people with public relations, marketing, management, and business development skills, too.
Several colleges and universities in the Northeast offer similar programs to introduce their future graduates to show business opportunities, Slater said. In the future, he hopes PC INHOLLYWOOD can grow from the three-day event to a full week.
“It’s about giving students from our school the best chance at success,” Slater said.
Several of the speakers recommended that students start their entertainment careers working at a talent agency, so they can learn all facets of the industry. “You get to see everything, and if you work hard, that’s when doors will open for you,” Goff said.
“If this happens every year this could be a selling point to students for prospective students interested in entertainment careers,” she said.
The students raved about the experience. “It wasn’t just a fun weekend. It was like a career jumpstart,” said Jorge Lucas ’12 (River Vale, N.J.) who will graduate with an English major with a film studies minor.
“I’m just so grateful to them for seeing the potential in us,” Lucas said.
The senior said he learned during the trip how important it is to share one’s scripts with people --- not to fear that someone will “steal” them.
He also appreciated advice from Farrelly, who told the group that he doesn’t believe in writer’s block. Writer’s block means giving up, the PC graduate said. Instead, writers should keep writing, even if it’s bad --- and eventually they will develop something good. “I realized I need to stop being shy or embarrassed by bad ideas,” Lucas said.
Since he’s returned to campus, Lucas said he’s been waking up earlier to put in some writing time before class as well as during other moments of the day. “Whenever I’m free I’m on my laptop,” he said. “I’m still working on that discipline.”
John Smith ’13 (Providence, R.I.), a social science major and film minor, said the trip affirmed his goals of working in documentary television.
“There was no time wasted. We went right from one event to the next,” he said.
Smith said he understands how difficult it can be to break into the industry --- and how easy it is to get discouraged.
“It’s very hard. You have to be very determined,” he added. “You have to be able to get back up and dust yourself off.”
But having the opportunity to talk to these business leaders made him feel more comfortable.
“The people we talked to were just so down-to-earth,” he said. “It was educational but at the same time so much fun.”
In addition to those who donated their time, 15 PC alumni made financial contributions to get the program going, Duryea said.
Only half of that group worked in entertainment professions, Duryea said. The others “thought it was a great idea, and wanted to give them exposure to something that they would never get on their own.”
One graduate went out of his way to make the students feel welcome. Edward Cimini Jr. ’76 hosted a dinner at his home for the group, ending the evening with a card tournament complete with gift card prizes for student winners.
Lucas said students kept turning to each other in amazement, wondering how they could ever thank the speakers and the alumni for this opportunity.
“I’ve gotten a lot from the school, more than tuition can pay for,” Lucas said. “I do feel I owe a debt.”
“We were grateful from the start,” Smith said. “We knew it wouldn’t be possible without support from alumni.”
See more photos from the PC INHOLLYWOOD trip.
--- Liz F. Kay