Elon alumni share wisdom with students in Los Angeles
Elon students wrapping up their summer studies in California enjoyed advice from 11 alumni working in the entertainment industry.
Elon University alumni recently gathered with 37 undergraduates and nine students in the Bridges program to talk about things they’ve learned in launching their careers.
Some alumni got their start in the Elon in LA summer program, which is now in its fifth year under the leadership of director J. McMerty. The alumni wisdom session capped off the nine-week program, which involves students from the School of Communications along with students in Elon’s performing art program.
Several alumni advised students to spend a great deal of time learning their craft and developing skills while they’re still in school, since it’s much more difficult to do that while earning a living. They also urged the students to create their own original content and develop a portfolio of work, whether they want to work in cinema, acting or the business of entertainment.
“Find out what you really want to do and are passionate about, regardless of the pay, and get really good at it,” advised Nathan Moore ’02, who is pursuing a career as an actor.
Andrea Bernick ’11, executive assistant to the president of Kids and Family Entertainment at Freemantle Media, is working in her dream job. She said she has always loved kids programming and watching cartoons. “If you know what you love, try to do it,” Bernick said.
Tim Johnson '09 said building a career in the entertainment industry "is like playing a very long game.” Sean Hennen ’06, who is a staff writer for the CBS show “Person of Interest” agreed. “It’s patience – it’s a marathon,” Hennen said. “You’ll be rejected and you’ll work for bosses you hate. It’s not going to happen overnight. Just hang in there.”
Several alumni emphasized the critical importance of internships in preparing for a career. Patrick McCabe ’10, an executive assistant at Ellen Rakieten Entertainment, said it’s essential for interns to pay attention to every detail.
“Try to predict what your boss needs before they need it,” McCabe said. “It helps get you more responsibility. If you show you can take on more, you’ll be rewarded.”
Students were also advised to pay a great deal of attention to marketing themselves in the competitive Los Angeles marketplace.
“Familiarize yourself with WordPress,” advised Mike Heil ’11, a production coordinator for Saatchi & Saatchi, an advertising agency. “You can add demo reels to WordPress and buy a cheap Flash template and it will look professional.
Kelly Murtagh ’09, who is building a career as an actress, said she has worked with agents from time-to-time, but a demo reel is essential. “People won’t even look at actors without a demo reel,” said Murtagh.
Most of the students in the Elon in LA program are rising seniors. Alumni suggested the students enjoy their final year of college, but to stay organized, set aside structured time for networking and job searching, and to begin that process early, developing the contacts that will be essential to success in achieving a career in the nation’s entertainment capital.
Elon alumni who took part in the wisdom session included the following: